Women’s Inequitable Land Right in Bangladesh

Image via The New York Times

By Raisul Islam Sourav

Bangladesh being a developing country, there has been severe competition for ownership, control, management and use of the inadequate land resources. There have been many efforts in the recent few years to bring women into mainstream development, but they are declining far behind and there have been discrepancy between male and female in the family and society as well in many respects.

The existing systems, laws, administration etc. are not suitable for women to enjoy exclusive rights over immoveable property. Hence, they require a separate land policy where equal right should clearly mention as per the Constitution and CEDAW convention, which is ratified by Bangladesh on 6 November 1984. Pertinent implementation of existing land laws, women friendly land administration and a women responsive environment and system can ensure women’s right of access to land.

Nevertheless, there has been no reveal of women’s enhanced admittance to land, not even in the form of govt. allocation of land for the underprivileged women. UNFPA reports that women’s labor constitutes 65% of the world’s effort, but they receive only one-tenth of the world’s profits and own less than one percent of world’s territory. In rural south Asia particularly in Bangladesh, the most significant form of property is arable land, which is critical determination of well-being, social status and empowerment.

Normally, after matrimony females are leave their father’s house and subsist with husbands. In most of the cases, brothers conceal the fact about their married sisters and thus women are dropped from their ancestral land and other properties. It is more thorny for the sisters to file a litigation against brother and so face administrative and official hazards. Brothers often transfer the share of land that belongs to the sister without informing them and thus women enduring oblivious about their inherited immoveable property. Maximum time, women do not know about the parental and husband’s property. They do not maintain information and particulars of the property. In addition, most of them are not aware about any land related laws, their right to inheritance and have no documents as a claimant. Usually, women and poor are dropped from the survey record and the succession of the inheritance. Cultural barrier also plays negative role to be a claimant of parental property.

Claim to the familial landed property will spawn divergence and rupture relation with relatives. Our civilization does not persuade women to take inherited property and frequently consider that as peccadillo. If they claim that property, relation between them will scratch. They also consider about their underprivileged brothers. If they take that asset, their relatives will more susceptible. Furthermore, the existing structure, culture, tradition, morality, values, rules are against women and that should be altered.

Yet Bangladesh is a state party of CEDAW convention and committed to give the rights of equal ownership over all kinds of property to women as of men as per chapter XI of this convention. Rule of law means equal rights and protection in each and every sphere of life of the citizens irrespective of their race, sex, religion, caste or place of birth. This is guaranteed in Art. 27 as a fundamental right by the Constitution. Moreover, Art. 10, 19 and 28(4) of the supreme charter of the land direct the state to encourage and ensure equal rights of women in every sort of life. Various socio-economic, religious and cultural factors synergistically results in deprivation of women from effective right and access to land.

The loss right of the land of women is also a cultural phenomenon. Cultural norms utter that female will forfeit her share of parental property. In case where, women do not voluntarily forgo their claims, male relative with stake, file suit, counterfeit wills and use coercion and even physical violence to discourage women from pursuing the claims. However, beside the social norms and unlawful activities of other shareholders, the govt. functionaries often amalgam those troubles and often frustrate the execution of laws in women’s favor. Conversely, inter-family inequalities of women are increasing in relation to economic and social activities, which have already received some attentions. The legal rights of women in resources strengthen their position in family and society that is the process of empowerment.

The link between equality and empowerment is very imperative for toughen women’s position. Entitling women with land could be way to authorize them economically and strengthen their ability to challenges gender inequalities on social and political both within and outside the home. Because, women with land have greater bargaining power, which would assist them to negotiate more gender equal allocation of rights in the family. The relationship with rural poverty and access to land has strong linkage. Nonetheless, the women without sovereign resources are extremely vulnerable to paucity and destitution in the case of desertion, divorce and dead of husband. Understanding the dynamics and position of women may help to design affective programs for reducing gender equalities and poverty reduction.

Raisul Islam Sourav is a Senior Lecturer & Coordinator, Department of Law, Dhaka International University (DIU); an Advocate; Legal Researcher; Law & Justice Analyst; Essayist; Rights Activist; Freelance Journalist & Blogger.