Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why daughters hesitate to claim their share in ancestral property in India?

I know that this issue is somewhat sensitive in many families and many people don't want to discuss it because the possibility of tension it might create in their families and also possibly spoil relations but I was always curious about this issue, I am discussing this subject exclusively in Indian context because I have seen this problem present there on large scale, may be this issue is present in many other cultures also but I am personally aware of this problem in India. Fight for equal rights for women is going on all over the world and India is no exception for this, like everywhere else property rights of Indian women are unequal and unfair, lot of improvements have been done on paper, some laws are also introduced to protect their rights but they are hardly followed, so even at least on paper situation looks better but in reality nothing has changed much. In India now at least by law daughters are legally eligible for equal share in ancestral property, but as far as I see many of them don't want to exercise this right given to them by constitution, they worry about their family's reaction, society's reaction and also about spoiling relationships, all these things make them very reluctant even to think about this fundamental right given to them by law, implementation of this law on large scale is still very far fetched dream.

Why they don't want their share? Why they hesitate to claim it? What is stopping them? As far as son's are concerned thy all think that it's their birth right to inherit ancestral property and they fight for it if they feel any injustice has been done to them but daughters hardly react if their share is not offered to them. They don't bother to ask for it even if they are in financial difficulty and really need that share, they just think it's not their right or even if this right is offered to them by law of land it's not appropriate to exercise it, this is effect of years of female suppression and brain washing, no matter what right law of land is offering to them they are still hesitant to use most of those rights. Actually there is lot of confusion about this law and many people don't even know about this law in detail. As Shruti Pandey (see the link 3) said in her article there is no single body of property rights of Indian women, they get determined by which religion she follows, is she is married or unmarried, which part of country she comes from, whether she is tribal or non-tribal, etc. All these factors along with lack of awareness and desire results in many daughters not getting their share in ancestral property. This issue may sound very trivial but as far as women independence and equality is concerned I think this is very important matter.

I think dowry system must have started to tackle this problem of offering share to daughters in their parent's ancestral property to some extend, but this system itself became a big problem rather than solving the problem of daughter's share in ancestral property. The problem of dowry became so big that government has to introduce a separate law to stop it, it's another issue that it's still practiced in some form or other. Any girl asking for her share in ancestral property is considered as greedy and often face wrath of other family members (like brother and sister-in-law) who feel that she is unfairly trying to grab their share of property. The feeling of guilt is also very strong in many girls minds, most of them feel that as their father paid enough dowry during their marriage so now it's not fair to ask for more share in ancestral property. But as I said dowry system is not an answer to this problem, this system itself has created many evils in society. Current system of dowry many times creates lot of troubles for brides whenever her in-laws feel that they didn't get enough dowry and then demand for more and torture that girl for that. Offering legal and proportional share to daughters in ancestral property might be better solution as this practice might help to remove greed factor, because often dowry is demanded out of greed, so there is no limit how much other party (groom's side) can demand, where as share in property is calculated as per law so there is no scope for unreasonable demands and greed. It will be highly unreasonable to expect that practice of this law will stop all atrocities against brides but at least it will help slowly to remove evil of demand of dowry from their lives. But this needs lot of courage and determination from all daughters who normally hesitate to ask for their right, they need to prepare themselves for all the criticism and badmouthing, they need to make sure that they exerciser this right without breaking their relationships or families, this will be test of their patience, diplomatic skills and courage, but at the end this is their choice, after all this is question of their rights and no one can force them to do this they have to take initiative on their own, choice is entirely theirs. 

Thanks for reading and please share your views about this topic. 

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing] 

Links:
1. Daughter's rights in new amendment
2. Daughter’s rights in ancestral property in India
3. Property rights of Indian women By Shruti Pandey

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