There is growing recognition of the role of land in achieving key Sustainable Development Goals such as gender equality and reduced inequalities. Yet, little is known about the fundamental question: how much land do women hold and control in India? A key reason for this is the informational gap in popular datasets and the work in India. Current work does not map (i) the de jure rights of women as reflected in land records; (ii) the linkage between de jure rights and de facto variables such as (a) women's control over their land assets or (b) their perceptions of tenure security. These elements together make up a whole, and a lack of understanding of one or the other presents an incomplete picture of the question of women's land ownership.
The primary objective of this study is to undertake an accurate and comprehensive mapping of women's land rights, which converges de jure rights; and de facto control over land and perceptions of tenure security using a novel methodology which is a combination of desk and fieldwork. We first undertake mapping of two land tenures - ownership and lease in rural and urban districts in the sample state using parcel-level information in textual land records. We select Maharashtra as the environment under examination for three reasons: (i) the state has made considerable progress in digitising land records (ii) our previous fieldwork confirms high accordance between the ownership information on the records and ground (iii) the state has also digitised urban land records. We then select a sample set of parcels where women are de jure rights holders. We conducted a field survey to study two de facto variables: (a) their control over their land and (b) their perceptions of tenure security. In doing so, we propose a scalable and nuanced methodology to study the complex question of women's land.
Our findings provide a data-backed foundation for answering questions on women's rights in land, their control over their land and their perceptions of tenure security for better-informed policy interventions.
Women's ownership in land, their agency and tenure security: A case study of Maharashtra; Diya Uday Patkar, Ajay Shah, Teesta Shukla, September 2023