Gender and Land Rights Revisited: Exploring New Prospectus via the State, Family and Market
Abstract: The question of women's land rights has a relatively young history in India. This paper briefly traces that history before examining why gendering the land question remains critical, and what the new possibilities are for enhancing women's land access. Potentially, women can obtain land through the State, the family and the market. The paper explores the prospects and constraints linked to each, arguing that access through the family and the market deserve particular attention, since most arable land in India is privatized. On market access, the paper makes several departures from existing discussions by focusing on the advantages, especially for poor women, of working in groups to lease in or purchase land; using government credit for land rather than merely for micro–enterprises; and collectively managing purchased or leased in land, the collectivity being constituted with other women, rather than with family members. Such group functioning is shown to have several advantages over individual or family–based farming. This approach could also help revive land reform, community cooperation and joint farming in a radically new form, one centred on poor women.