This online discussion aims to facilitate inclusive exchange of opinion and information on the state of land rights of women in India, the legal, institutional framework and socio-cultural factors affecting women’s equitable land tenure rights, good practices/innovations around women’s land tenure rights by Government/NGO and challenges and opportunities towards realization of gender equitable land tenure by 2030. It will analyze the status of data availability and accessibility around women land rights in India with available information from different sources along with an assessment of such sources by the participants with an aim to see if a suggestive framework for open data can be developed and made accessible to help SDG monitoring.
Secure and equitable land rights of women form some of the key indicators of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including 5.a.1 on the proportion of total agricultural population with ownership or secure rights over agricultural land. This indicators is considered to have a potentially transformational role in the achievement of four of the 17 SDGs, including ending poverty (Goal 1), ensuring food security (Goal 2), achieving gender equality and empowering women (Goal 5), and making cities and human settlements inclusive (Goal 11). Gender equality is one of the ten core principles for implementation listed in FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (the “Guidelines”; FAO, 2012).
Secure land rights of women have demonstrated enhanced agricultural productivity and building resilience among the small and marginal farmers, who constitute 75 percent of the farming community.
The Constitution of India provides equal rights to both men and women. Women’s access to land is largely through inheritance and inheritance is governed by customs, which varies across regions and States. There are various property rights regimes prevailing and the succession Acts of various religious laws, which determines women right to property and inheritance. Hindu Succession Act (Amendment), 2005, which applies to a majority of the country’s area and population, has expanded the space for enhanced women’s land rights. The fifth and sixth Scheduled areas have different customary tribal laws on women property rights and inheritance, which also varies, with specific indigenous community laws.
Over the last few years, both central and state governments have made many progressive reforms to realize the goal of secure and equitable land tenure for all. Among them, the 2005 amendment to Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (making daughters as coparceners) and implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 (provisions of mandatory joint titling) are making significant contribution. A 1985 policy directed states to give joint titles to husband and wife in transfer of assets like land and house sites through Government programmes. Of late, prioritized allocation of rights to land distributed under the land grant programs, whether jointly or in the name of women, has begun to reflect an increasing share of land for women, at least in the form of joint ownership of homestead lands. Reduction of stamp duty, for the lands registered in the name of women, has encouraged women’s property ownership rights in some states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi.
In India, almost a third of cultivators are woman, but they own less than 10.34 percent of land, operating 12.8 percent of holdings, as per Agriculture Census, 2010-11, while 75 percent of female workforce, largely marginal or landless, depends on agriculture for survival. The average size of women’s land holding is 0.93 ha, in comparison to 1.18 ha for male and 1.15 ha for all. The regional disparity with regards to women’s land rights was evident with the states in the southern region showing comparatively more number and area of land holdings operated by women while the situation in Northern and Eastern region states are demonstrating a poorer picture. In the last decade (2001-11), number (36.12 percentage) and area (23.45 percentage) of women’s holdings have increased, at a pace, higher than their population growth. (Choudhury et al , 2017)
Under Target 5a of SDGs, which addresses the rights of women to economic resources and access to ownership of land, indicators are 1(a) Proportion of total agricultural population with ownership or secure rights over agricultural land, by sex; and 1 (b) share of women among owners or rights-bearers of agricultural land, type of tenure (UNSTAT, 2016) . This monitoring require availability of periodic and reliable gender disaggregated data across administrative layers on ‘agricultural land’ (includes land used for farming, livestock and forestry activities) and ‘agricultural population’ (people living out of farming, livestock and forestry, with land rights or without).
SDG indicator development and tracking has so far been limited to international agencies and country level practical actions are yet to begin. The availability of such potential data sources provides India, a strategic advantage to advance the monitoring around the SDG indicator on women’s land rights. The situation can also be leveraged to monitor and report women land rights indicators at state and sub-state level, providing opportunities for comparative appreciation and competition among land-administration units and departments, leading to better governance.
Participants are asked to respond to the following questions:
- How important are women's land rights and equitable land tenure for combating hunger, nutrition and alleviating poverty and for furthering sustainable development in India?
- What is the evidence in India around contributions of gender-equitable land tenure to development indicators around food security, income and education, etc.?
- Is there any evidence of negative impacts of gender-inequitable land tenure on agricultural production and food security?
- Does gender-equitable tenure matter to Indian women in rural and urban India? What have been their perceptions of tenure security?
- What kind of legal and institutional reforms or challenges are expediting or hindering equitable land tenure in India and in its states?
- Are there examples of good practices or innovations around women’s equitable land tenure rights, which can be replicated across the country?
- What are the specific challenges and bottlenecks for the realization of gender equitable land tenure by 2030? What policy and institutional reforms would be required to create an enabling environment? Whether policy level incentives (viz. lesser stamp duty for women) help enhancing women’s land rights?
- What is the present status of women’s land rights in India? How is it reported? Are there administrative or other open datasets that could be used to monitor women’s land rights in India and in its states?
- How can India address its commitment towards reporting of SDG indicators related to women's land rights? How can the country and states progress in reporting and monitoring gender equitable land tenure governance in the context of the SDGs?
- Are existing datasets adequate? What kind of data is more appropriate and how it can be collected?
- What should be the institutional mechanism for such monitoring? Who should be involved? What should be the level and frequencies of such monitoring? Will it be adequate to just report per SDG or link the information to decision making? What could be the mechanism?
- What are the good practices? What kind of policy learning do they provide?
How are gender differences in investment processes, participation and decision making, and benefit sharing being addressed, and to what effect?
How to join the dialogue
The dialogue is open to anyone with an interest in land issues. To make a contribution to the discussion, first register here.
Please feel free to answer as many questions as you like and then upload your contributions to the dialogue. You are welcome to make more than one contribution. Your contributions should be brief –not more than 500 words, and may be shorter. You may also query other participants and comment on their contributions.
If you have any questions on content or if you want to discuss your contribution before the dialogue start, please feel free to contact the dialogue moderator Pranab Choudhury at email@example.com.
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 In southern states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra have comparatively better situation of women land rights, which may be due to their earlier amending of Hindu Succession Act 1956, which made daughters as coparceners. In these States women are allowed to inherit agricultural land, whether owned or under tenancy.
 An analysis of the beneficiaries of the homestead land grant schemes in Odisha by Center for land Governance, NRMC in a study in 2015, indicates a higher percentage (86 percent) of titles issued in the name of women (women only 12 percent and jointly 74 percent). Similarly, 93 percent of homestead and farmland titles distributed through the CRP program were jointly titled, and 2.5 percent were women-headed households (Choudhury et al , 2016)
 A study by Landesa (2013) in three states reported that women have benefited significantly (one out of four women interviewed had benefited) from this incentive in Madhya Pradesh, where the state provides a 2 percent incentive for properties registered in the name of women.