On Wednesday, in a move aimed at promoting women’s economic independence, the Indian state of Jharkhand decided to waive charges on property registered under the name of any woman. The Thomson Reuters Foundation has recorded that women in these areas are more vulnerable to violence and eviction from their own land. In Jharkhand especially, tribal laws and customs prevail where women do not have rights over land, preventing them from being self-sufficient and as a result having to rely on their husbands.
“Only Rs 1 will have to be paid in stamp duty for the registration of immovable property in Jharkhand purchased in favour of women,” stated Jharkhand Chief Minister, Raghubar Das. “The stamp fee will be waived only if the property is registered in the name of women. We have taken this decision in order to empower women. We will continue taking decisions that help us realize this goal.”
This is incredibly significant for the women of Jharkhand, an Indian state plagued with child marriage and one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country. At one point, 90 percent of expectant mothers in rural regions of Jharkhand were ignorant of health and nutrition issues, resulting in undernourished pregnant mothers and reduced life expectancy for infants.
Jharkhand officials hope the fee waiver will prove to be a financial benefit for the state’s women, many of whom face a traditional stigma stifling their independence and self-sufficiency. Such confines, both legal and social, preventing property rights for women result in a number of issues, with economic dependence and poverty as the frontrunners and social subjugation, unpaid labor issues, and physical and emotional abuse to follow soon after.
As one of the few states in India to still have laws explicitly forbidding witch hunts against women and other harmful activities, Jharkhand is in need of a change. A large portion of the state is made up of rural tribes headed by generations of patriarchal leadership. Within Jharkhand’s tribal belt, superstitious beliefs even prevent women from working their family’s land, leaving little to no options of individual economic stability or independence.
According to a recent survey conducted by Landesa, a land advocacy group, four percent of housing property and three percent of farmland out of 10 villages was solely or jointly owned by women. In most cases, sons are favored over daughters for property inheritance.
Luckily, with the installment of Jharkhand’s new property registration waiver, more families are handing housing plots and agricultural lands to women, resulting in an important shift in power dynamics. By handing the reigns of control of property over to the women, Jharkhand is likely to see a better balance of control and hierarchy within the family structure, especially within the state’s tribal regions.
Such changes may serve as the backbone of future legislation in favor of gender equality and women’s advancement in Jharkhand’s society.
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