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Women and Land Rights: Religion and Politics

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Political Science
POLI 322
Narendra Subramanian

POLI 322 March 11, 2011 Women and Land Rights: Religion and Politics Gendered Nature of Land Rights • Legal Land Rights and Effective Land Control • Regional Variations in Land Rights • region matters more than religion • Hindu Majority • women have more access to land in S. and E. India and have less access to land in other Hindu majority regions • Muslim Majority Regions • Women have less access to land in Pakistan and more access to land in Bangladesh and the Maldives • Determinants of Women’s Land Rights • the ways of acting out kinship make a difference to land rights • Inheritance Laws • Patrilineal • favors men • Matrilineal • favors women’s most • Marriage Alliances • are marriage alliances allowed village exogamy or only village endogamy • if they’re not too far away from their native family then their power is greater • Post-Marital Residence (patrilocal/matrilocal/nuclear) • living with the wife’s family or nuclearized family means more status and power and access to land • all of these customs vary across regions • Constructions of Gender also make a difference • feminine version may be tied to forms of seclusion -- may be expected to live in certain settings • the ‘feminine vision’ may be seen with upper-class or certain religions • other gender rules about who should use what instrument in agriculture Constraints to Women’s Mobilization for Land Rights • with the constraints, women have difficulty getting mobilized to gain access to land even if they feel they should be given land • Alternatives • individual covert resistance • act to undermine male authority -- joking about impotence, making demands when ‘possessed by spirits’ • Agarwal makes the assumption that people are unhappy about the way things are structured • group-covert resistance • forms of individual-covert resistance Instances of Women’s Mobilization for Land (Agarwal) • she discusses three cases - women participated but were not at the forefront POLI 322 March 11, 2011 • Telengana • Tebhaga • Bodhgaya • women gained greater voice in the movement • Unsuccessful Cases (Telengana and Tebhaga) • communist led-movement of 1940s • they believed that class mattered more than gender, • said that raising demands specific to women would undermine the peasantry -- they lobbied for land to be redistributed from land lords to peasant families • they were not sympathetic to women playing important roles in the organization • the used women as figureheads but that’s all • Successful Case (Bodhgaya) • local movement (not party-led) starting in the 1970s • a Gandhian socialist leader (who also led the movement against Indira Gandhi) • was a movement with lower-class peasants • they didn’t form armies as in the first two cases -- not seen as a much of a threat as the first two movements • women gained more leadership positions, more attention to women’s demands for land • local women from the lower-caste peasantry were integrated • opposition to domestic violence as well as demands for women to have independent access to land • men rejected land titles that were given out so that individuals (even women) would get land titles Reasons for Different Outcomes • Agarwal argues that the crucial reason for success was: • greater group consciousness and organization of women as women rather than peasants as peasants • makes a difference that there were more gender progressive middle class activists -- greater equality • also historical context made a difference • women were mobilized by the indian and pakistan nationalist movements in the first two -- gender wasn’t a big issue and they didn’t have a lot of autonomy • by the thi
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