Access to Housing Rights and Property Rights for Women: Select Study in Delhi and NCR Regions

Published date01 June 2019
AuthorSavita Sinha,Bijayalaxmi Nanda,Venika Menon
Date01 June 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Access to Housing
Rights and Property
Rights for Women:
Select Study in Delhi
and NCR Regions
Bijayalaxmi Nanda1
Savita Sinha2
Venika Menon3
This article critically evaluates the housing policies and legal provisions regarding
property rights for women in India. It interrogates the inclusion of gender within
the policies, programmes and laws, and exposes its biases and skewed priorities.
Through a desk review of the policies and programmes and an examination
of court judgements, it provides an understanding of the contestations and
challenges that exist therein.
With carefully conducted interviews and focussed group discussions with
women beneficiaries and policy implementers, this article strives to enrich the
analysis. It provides a set of suggestions and recommendations on enhancing
awareness on women’s right to property and providing women greater access
to housing rights.
Although the fieldwork has been conducted in Delhi–NCR region, it has
implications for the country as a whole. Overall this article contextualises
the debates on gender, policy, laws and institutions in a broader framework of
material structure s and a patriarchal society. It highlights the significance of
creating awareness on gender issues for all concerned, including policymakers,
implementers, judiciary and the women beneficiaries themselves.
Indian Journal of Public
65(2) 475–493, 2019
© 2019 IIPA
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0019556119863595
This is a shorter and revised version of a study report prepared by Bijayalaxmi Nanda for the Girls
Count Coalition, supported by the National Foundation of India and UNFPA.
1 Miranda House, University of Delhi, Delhi, India.
2 Member, Delhi High Court Bar Association, New Delhi, India.
3 Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York, USA.
Corresponding author:
Bijayalaxmi Nanda, Miranda House, University of Delhi, Delhi 110007, India.
476 Indian Journal of Public Administration 65(2)
Access to housing rights for women, gender, government policies and programmes
related to housing, judiciary and women’s right to property, Hindu Succession
(Amendment) Act 2005, Hindu Succession Act 1956
Women’s right and access to property, land and housing is essential for ensuring
their economic and social well-being and quality of life. The Beijing Declaration
and Platform for Action, 1995, includes commitments by States to ‘undertake
legislation and administrative reforms to give women equal rights with men to
economic resources, including access to ownership and control over land and
other forms of property, credit, inheritance, natural resources and appropriate new
technology’. The UN Habitat II Conference Declaration in Istanbul in 1996 and
Habitat Agenda provide a plan of action on rights, including rights of women in
human settlement development. It commits governments to assure security of
tenure and equal access to land of all people, including women and people living
in poverty.
Despite women’s right to property being recognised as an important factor
determining women’s well-being and socio-economic status, cultural, legal,
religious and customary practices impact women’s rights related to land, property
and housing. It has been observed that customary practices often influence
interpretation of laws and policies, thus impacting access to these rights. Women
often have no access to participation in decision-making on programmes and
policies related to property, land and housing, which impact them adversely. The
entrenchment of patriarchy in all institutions ranging from the family to the state
act as an obstacle to the recognition of women as equal members of society and
lead to a denial of their constitutional and legal rights. This seems to be a universal
phenomenon, visible even in the case of Hindus who are governed by a more
gender-equitable law, viz., the Hindu Succession Act of 1956, with its amended
provisions in 2005.
The Quranic laws are more gender-equal when it comes to inheritance of
property by Muslim women. An instance of this is that they prescribe that the
daughters have right of inheritance equal to one-half of the son’s share to their
father’s estate, same is the case with sister having half share of her brother and
mother having half share of the father. However, patriarchal customary laws
have overshadowed the Quranic laws in practice, putting women again at a dis-
advantageous position. During the British rule, in 1937, Muslim Personal Law
(Shariat) Application Act was passed with its main aim to subject the Muslim
community to a unified Shariat law and not to the predominant customary laws.
However, in the absence of codification of Muslim personal laws, the enactment
of such Acts has not achieved the intended results. Rasheed and Sharma (2016)
concluded that,
… at the community or societal level, these laws do not help them much in seeking
justice. The laws that are framed exclusively for Muslim women fail to protect their
rights and prove ineffective in helping them enjoy the status as guaranteed to them in

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