Gender and Command over Property: A Critical Gap in Economic Analysis and Policy in South Asia
Abstract: This paper focuses on a much neglected issue: the links between gender inequities and command over property. It outlines why in rural South Asia, where arable land is the most important form of property, any significant improvement in women's economic and social situation is crucially tied to their having independent land rights. Better employment opportunities can complement but not substitute for land. But despite progressive legislation few South Asian women own land; even fewer effectively control any. Why? A complex range of factors — social, administrative, and ideological — are found to underlie the persistent gap between women's legal rights and their actual ownership of land, and between ownership and control. The necessity of collective action by women for overcoming these obstacles and the aspects needing a specific focus for policy and action are also discussed.