2. Materials and Methods
3. Women and Land Rights in the Literature—Why Do Laws Fail?
3.1. Indian Scholarship on Gender and Land Rights
In relation to property, women are defined as dependent because they only have access to the most important forms of wealth-producing property via their relations with men. Women are largely disqualified from exercising direct control over the most important form of property (land) by inheritance rules which favor male heirs, and this disqualification is related to their roles as wives and sisters. A good sister does not claim the land which her brother might inherit. A good wife participates in the control which her husband exercises over any land he may own, but does not command rights in land independently of his family.
Land has been and continues to be the most significant form of property in rural South Asia. It is a critical determinant of economic well-being, social status, and political power. However, there is substantial evidence that economic resources in the hands of male household members often do not benefit female members in equal degree. Independent ownership of such resources, especially land, can thus be of crucial importance in promoting the well-being and empowerment of women.
It means gaining control over sources of power like material assets and self-assertion, and ability to take part in the making of decisions that affect their lives. For this, women must have equal opportunities, equal capabilities, and equal access to resources. Such a manifestation would ultimately mean a redistribution of existing power relations and finally a challenge to the patriarchal ideology and male dominance, as the concept of women empowerment is associated with gender equality.
3.2. Dissenting Voices in the Women’s Rights Debate
4. What Do Women Say? Weighing the Pros and Cons of Making a Legal Land Claim
4.1. The Impracticability of Owning Land in the Natal Family
4.2. Having Access to Land in Their Conjugal Family
4.3. The Benefits of Good Relationships with Brothers
4.4. Women’s Empathy with Land as a Living Being
5. What Do Women Do? Caring for Land through Religious Practices
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Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
Swelsen completed her bachelor’s degree at Radboud University in Nijmegen.
For the sake of the argument in this paper, we focus on this point that Agarwal persistently brings to the fore. However, her analysis has multiple dimensions, including addressing factors at the macro level that constrain women when it comes to exercising their legal claims, such as legal pluralism and male dominance in administrative and judicial public services. Generally, to date, feminist scholars in the land rights debate still follow Agarwal’s (1994) main argument that patriarchal values and practices supported by customary law prevent women from claiming their inheritance.
Our intention is not to present this as a sharp duality but to distinguish the information we received in arranged interview settings from the insights we gained from participating in women’s ritual activities. Women’s songs, stories, poetry, and prayers are still part of women’s rituals to celebrate mother soil. These verbal expressions show there is a continuum rather than a rupture between (speech) language and (ritual) action. That said, they mostly praise, discuss, or comment on human kinship rather than the more-than-human kinship we focus on in this section (for women’s songs accompanying the rituals, see Notermans (2019)).
This ritual is done during the festival of Dasha Mata, another goddess symbolizing feminine power and fertility, and equally associated with mother soil and Lakshmi.
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