Women still unprepared to claim share in parental property
KATHMANDU, July 16: While sociologists and gender experts believe that women in our country are ill-treated and subjected to violence due to their economic dependence, it is notable that no more than a woman has so far waged a legal battle for inheritance of parental property.
Devi Maya Dahal of Khedang-4 in Taplejung district filed a case against her father and two brothers on March 20 this year for equal share in parental property.
But barely three-and-a-half months after she withdrew the case after an out-of-court settlement on July 10. She received Rs 100,000 as her share in her parental property.
The transfer of property Act was amended in 2006 grating right to equal share in ancestral property for all children, irrespective of sex. But women hardly claim their rights.
Noticeably, only 10.3 percent of the land is owned by women in the country placing them in the 110th position among 138 countries in the gender inequality index of UNDP.
As per the existing law, both son and daughter have equal rights to ancestral property and the daughter does not have to return the share after marriage unlike in the past.
“But the law is not known to many people, while others fear to challenge the existing practice,” comments Meera Dhungana, an advocate and human rights activist. “For daughters, demanding share in parental property is more of a moral battle than a legal one.”
This is very much true for Ganga KC, 21, a bachelor level student at Janamaitri College in Kathmandu. After being told that she is entitled to equal share in her parental property, KC thought for a while and said she would rather leave the inheritance for her brothers.
“Education is the biggest asset and they have spent for my education,” said KC. But she agrees that economic security would help plan her future differently as “it makes you feel independent and secured.”
She feels that she is not morally prepared to demand equal share in her parental property. But, said KC, “We indeed should have share in parental property. It is very much unfair to give inheritance only to sons and make daughter rely on somebody else.”
According to KC, her parents own more than 25 ropanis of land in Makwanpur district and they have now decided to give her two ropanis and the rest to her brothers.
“Depriving the girls of inheritance rights means forcing them to depend on their husbands,” said Gyanu Chhetri, a gender expert. “That is the reason why women cannot raise voice against domestic violence meted out to them.”
Shashi Sharma, a housewife in Kalimati, said that as and when their relationship gets into trouble, the husband is quick enough to threaten her to kick out of home. “Would a man threaten his wife if she owned property? The husband knows that his wife has nowhere go,” she said. Sharma states that she cannot feel the ownership of the property of her husband as that was not “earned by her”.
When women rights activists demand equal inheritance rights, it had triggered countrywide debate.
Though the society was still not ready to embrace the change, the government could not prevent the amended provision of the law. However, the law is still largely discriminatory.
“In fact, this is cheating,” Dhungana remarked. “An unmarried daughter can claim property rights. But she has no rights over her parental property after marriage. This makes her dependent on her husband.” What daughters need is equal rights to inheritance of parental property irrespective of their marital status, according to Dhungana.
Many daughters have looked after their parents even without receiving anything from their parents whereas many sons have ignored their parents even after inheriting the property, she said. “But ensuring equal property rights to both sons and daughters would morally oblige them to look after their parents.”
(With inputs from Khagendra Adhikari in Taplejung)