Indian Court Rules Widows Should Receive Land Rights

An Indian court just ruled widows of farmers who committed suicide can now receive their late husband’s land titles. They will also receive welfare benefits, job assistance and assistance with their children’s education.

Before the ruling, widows rarely received their husband's land titles and when they do fight for their inheritance, one study from the Housing and Land Rights Network found they are faced with discrimination, eviction, and neglect from their spouse’s family, as they are considered a financial burden. Legally, widows are the heirs to their husband’s land but the law is seldom enforced.

Executive Director of the Housing and Land Rights Network Shivani Chaudhry said of the ruling, “The Maharashtra government’s move is a positive step towards ensuring greater equality, and the physical and economic security for these widows.” She also noted the government needs to spread awareness about this law to ensure its implemented and that policy changes will help to get women recognized as farmers so they can access credit and other resources.

Only 13% of India’s rural women own land with three quarters relying on that land for their livelihoods. In the last 20 years, more than 300,000 farmers have killed themselves over debt to failed crops. India has the highest number of widows in the world, with more than 46 million.

The Realist Woman’s take:

A lack of land or homeownership among women in the world is a sad reality. There are more laws than ever in favor of women and women’s rights, but the problem is implementing or the enforcement of those laws. The women in this story, the widows of farmers, were within their rights to receive their husband’s land. But that land was rarely given to them.

It blows my mind that there are more than 46 million widows in India. At least with this new ruling, women in these rural areas will now not only have the land that is rightfully theirs, but they will also receive support for their children’s education. I’m sure this law is long overdue. But what are the widows of non-farmers going to do? Is there any help for them? And where is the help for the farmers? Their last resort is to commit suicide. In the last two decades, more than 300,000 have killed themselves. That’s pretty alarming and disturbing.

Expect a follow-up to this story. I want these questions answered.

To learn more about India’s Housing and Land Right Network, an local and regional NGO, click here