By Manasi Nene
A collaboration between the Indian Law Society’s (ILS) Law College, Pune and the Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM) might just be a way to creating sustainable change in rural India.
About 27 people, mostly women, attended a workshop organised by these two organisations in Tuljapur, earlier this week. The main aim of the workshop was to educate women about land and succession laws, which many are often ignorant about. SOPPECOM focused more on the social and political aspects of this inequality, while ILS focused on the legal education.
This collaboration also found a link between domestic violence and land ownership. Often, when a land-owning man dies, his widow is forced into signing a pramaan patra, a document, that transfers land to someone else. Abuse is frequently part of how the men in her family and community get the woman to transfer land. The workshop aimed to make rural women aware of inequalities in situations like this, and to figure out the best legal recourse. Other activists from the group are focusing on encouraging joint ownership of land and property between a husband and wife, to ensure the wife has something to fall back upon in case later she is in trouble.
When a women has land in her name, her powers of bargaining increase, says Seema Kulkarni, a senior member of SOPPECOM. In a paper co-authored by her, it is explained that land acquisition isn’t simply about land alone, but the emancipation comes from land, water, credit and skills, things that women in India’s smaller towns and villages are often excluded from. A more political and legal approach is needed, in order to minimize the exclusion that comes through gender, caste and class. Hopefully, dissemination of more legal information, in other endeavours such as the workshop, will prove to be successful.