Single Women's Property Rights

Single Women's Property Rights

According to the existing laws, women have some rights to the land and the property of her parents and in-laws, but it is not easy to actually take possession of these rights. In our country, if the husband of a women dies without leaving a will stating otherwise, then the property is eligible to be transferred to his wife and her children’s names. Inspite of this, it is very challenging to claim these rights even when the land records are updated in her name. In-laws try their best to evict the widow from their house by making false allegations of their daughter-in-law being witch or being characterless. The Organisation creates awareness amongst single women and helps them to get their legal rights.

The Organization helps the single women understand procedures for getting the written land records of the government, changed to include the names of herself (the wife), and her children (both boys and girls).
 

Single Women Proerty Rights
Single Women Proerty Rights

Soon after the death of a husband, if the wife contacts the Patwari to come to the village to get the land records revised to replace the name of the husband as the owner of his land, with the names of his wife and children, then the procedure of “untkal kolna” is relatively easy. If however, due to periods and customs of mourning of the death of the deceased, the time passes, then later, the wife will have to go to the Tehsil Office and complete the formalities of “name change” there.

If there is some dispute, or struggle about the ownership/possession of the land of the deceased husband of the widow, then the widow and the Organization together must work out a way to get justice! The Organization advises that the widow should use The Courts and Lawyers as a last resort, because court action is very lengthy, expensive and time consuming. It can be used as a “last resort” or if the land under dispute is very large, or very valuable/expensive (near main road, for example).

 

The Rajasthan Organization has, in past experiences, found an effective way to claim Single Women’s Land Rights. It is:

  • First, send a team of experienced single women leaders to meet the Patwari and/or to see the land ownership papers, to make sure that the widow and her children have legal right to inherit the husband’s property.
  • Put the case before the local single women of the Panchayat, and nearby areas, and get their help and support.
  • Call a meeting at the site of the disputed land, to which the following are invited to attend:
    • The Patwari (of course) with his land records,
    • as many single women associated with the Organization as possible,
    • members of other women’s groups and organizations in the area (SHG groups, NGO women’s groups, etc.),
    • the elected members of the Gram Panchayat (Sarpanch, etc.),
    • the Police (to see that there are no fights on the side), + the local media (“stringers” for vernacular newspapers),
    • the Tehsildar (he/she may not come, but may send the Nayab Tehsildar)
    • and the widow herself and her children, leaders of the Organization of Strong Women Alone.

There, in-front of everyone – women’s movement, government functionaries, media, Gram Panchayat elected representatives, the Police – the Patwari declares that the land ownership now is in the name of the wife and children of the deceased! Usually the brother-in-law, local villagers who have been trying to illegally get possession of the land, don’t even show up! The women associated with the Single Women Organization symbolically put a hoe to the land, and turn over a few feet of soil – symbolizing that the land is now in the name and possession of the widow!

While Widows have land and property rights to their deceased husband’s land and property, according to most personal laws of Succession.
However, Single Women’s Land and Property Rights to Marital Property in India, are not, at this time, available to all Single Women! Single women are advised to get legal advice before beginning a struggle to get possession of land owned by the deceased husband. There are differences due to –

  • If the land is ancestral land or “new” or “newly purchased” land
  • If land rights are detailed in the various Succession Acts (Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Special Marriage Act, etc.)
  • If there is a Registered Will made by the husband, in which there is a section about his land and property after his death
  • If “joint ownership” of land has been divided
  • Etc.

For Divorced Single Women – if there has been no court divorce, in which allotment of some land or property rights to the divorced women have been part of the settlement, then usually, Divorced Single Women have no rights to marital land and property.

This is an area in need of reform, for in all marriages, the woman contributes to the land and property, with her labour directly (as a woman farmer, for example), or indirectly (spending on home and property from her livelihood earnings)

Likewise for Separated Single Women – because it is assumed that the husband is still alive, there are no “inherited land rights” to marital property. If a husband walks off with another woman, or disappears, or becomes a Sadu, or goes to jail for a long period, or just plain leaves his wife and family on their own – the Separated Single Women at present have no legal right to marital property.

Daughters Rights to Parental Property-

Recently, in 2005, when the Hindu Succession Act was amended, and now gives all daughters of the deceased, whether married or unmarried, equal legal rights as sons, to their Parental Land and Property. Upon the death of the property owner in their parental home, both sons and daughters have birthrights in their share of parental property. This is the same for Christian daughters. Muslim women’s property rights for daughters are half of what are the rights for sons. But the amendment of the Hindu Succession Act helps many single women of India

Witch Calling and Property Rights-

Widows land and property rights to their deceased husbands’ land sometimes causes trouble! Male in-laws or greedy village men sometime want to take control of the widow’s land, and deny her possession, and benefit. In our experience, such men too often spread rumours that the widow is a “witch”, she is causing bad things to happen in the family and in the community. In India, maybe particularly in Rajasthan, some simple village people are superstitious and believe these rumours, and start isolating and marginalizing the widow. They call her names, exclude her from social functions, sometimes throw stones or beat her, try to drive her away so that she leaves the land behind, to be taken over and used by the man behind the “witch-calling”! In such situations, the Organization of Strong Women Alone has helped the widows to take possession of their land, and to re-integrate them into their communities.