Labour and land rights of women in rural India : with particular reference to Western Orissa
Hindu women's right to independent ownership of property has been established in India since 1956. Given that legal rights have not brought about a significant increase in women's ownership of land, this thesis explores the factors that affect women's effective claim to land ownership. Taking the particular case of Hindu peasant women in small farming households in Western Orissa, it analyses their ability to claim land ownership as the outcome of bargaining. The bargaining approach, as developed by economists, and by Amartya Sen and Bina Agarwal in particular, is adopted to analyse women's access to land as an effect of women's perceptions of self-interest and perceptions of women's contribution. The thesis evaluates the legal framework as it incorporates and reflects these perceptions. It argues that law constructs women's claim to land as a right addressed to 'Hindu' women, located within the family (through succession) and informed by religious ideology. It further argues that recognising women's interests as a basis of their claim to land ownership, as 'peasant' women, located within the household and affected by their work and role within agricultural production, would widen the scope of legal analysis. This would be a starting point towards a deeper understanding of the ways in which law impacts upon women's access to land.