Gender Justice | VOL. 16, ISSUE 95, March-April 2016

Vulnerabilities in Women’s Work and Land Rights

Land and its control are of fundamental importance in sustaining livelihoods in rural India. The relationship between land ownership and poverty has been well established in the past (January, 2001). There are at least four major ways in which owning land has a more direct bearing on rural livelihoods than in urban areas:  land quality is of crucial significance to agricultural production, while it is of no or little consequence to production in secondary and tertiary sectors that urban India specialises in;  land ownership is intrinsically linked to the social status and local identity of an individual in rural India;  it is a resource that is frequently mortgaged out in times of distress to avail credit in rural India;  agricultural land is an indestructible resource that is passed on through generations; hence its perceived value is typically much more than its market price. Agricultural livelihood dependent on land range from working on it as a labourer, as a tenant farmer, as an unpaid family worker on family-owned land, without or with some involvement in the process of decision making, and as an owner of the land with full managerial control. Women’s rights over agricultural land is poor across the globe, and even among countries that have a substantial proportion of people dependent on agriculture, India fares abysmally on this count (Agarwal 1995, Deere et al.,...

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