THIS is in reference to the recently released National Family Health Survey 2019-20 (NFHS-5) fact sheet for Jammu and Kashmir which states that only 57.3% women in the UT own a house and/or land, alone or jointly. Even though these figures might be read as “at least more than half women own property” but given that all women are coparceners in one or the other way, it should raise questions. J and K is a Muslim majority region and Islam entitles a sister to inherit half of what a brother gets as a coparcener. Despite this fact, the number of women owning a property is almost half of that of men.
Women asking for their coparcenary rights is considered taboo and a lot of women seem to have internalized that asking for inheritance rights will break their relationship with other members of the family, especially brothers. As a result, they sign relinquishment deeds without giving a second thought about it. This inheritance of property is mostly seen as a matter of money and wealth, but it goes beyond that, at least for women. Economically speaking, ownership of any kind of property by women is a very important determinant in the quest for women empowerment. In the realist world wherever everyone is responsible for their own survival, women should not expect their male relatives to care for them. Unless women do not attach economical value to their lives, they will have no power. This is especially true for unemployed women who do not have financial independence. Since inheritance of property is a given- however small value it may have, they do not have to get an education or work for getting it. The only thing they need to do is not to sign the relinquishment deed.
Relinquishment of coparcenary rights militates against women empowerment. It is high time that women ask for their inheritance rights that the constitution as well as the religion gives them. The right to inheritance also seems one of its kind means to women empowerment where people peddling religiosity may not find a reason to oppose it. Women should know that signing a relinquishment deed may lose them a lifetime opportunity for leading a respectful life in this patriarchal world.
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