Women’s Inheritance Rights to Land and Property in South Asia
Women’s Inheritance Rights to Landand Property in South Asia:
A Study of Afghanistan, Bangladesh,India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka
A report by Elisa ScaliseRural Development Institute (RDI)
Women in developing countries rarely hold secure rights to land, which can provide physicalsafety and psychological security. Land can be a source of food and a base for income-generating activities. Land rights elevate the status of the rights holder in the eyes of family members and the community. Land rights create a sense of self-worth and give peopleoptions. Ensuring that women have equitable rights to land acknowledges their worth, helpsbreak down perceptions of inequality within households and communities, and reduces theirdependence on men for their survival. The South Asian countries in this study have different histories, politics, terrain, and culture,however, in each, land is a highly valued asset. Women generally acquire land rights throughinheritance, if at all. Inheritance laws fall within the class of personal laws, which can vary within the country, depending on religion or ethnic group.But an assessment of personal laws tells only part of the story. Women’s inheritance rightsare also impacted by other factors; mostly these are other laws and customs which governfamily and social relations. Based on the case studies provided in the annex of this study,the following factors may have an impact on women’s inheritance rights.
Formal laws discriminate by deferring to customary or religious law
Female inheritance may be restricted to certain categories of land
Polygamy/marriage practices may impact inheritance