They till the land, sow, harvest and milk the cows to bring food on our tables but a majority of close to 80 per cent women engaged in farm-related activities in India have no land rights.

About 17 crore women work in agriculture and allied activities, producing about 60-80 per cent of our food and 90 per cent of dairy products but only 13 per cent have property rights, says a factsheet brought out by Oxfam India, on the occasion of World Food Day on Wednesday.

Ironically, women work about 3,300 hours in a crop season compared with 1,860 hours logged by men, but the image of a farmer is that of a man, a kisan. This is because a farmer is defined not by the work done but by who owns the land, says Oxfam India, a non-government organisation.

Launching a 60-day campaign on property rights for women, Oxfam India said since rural women do not own land, they do not get farm loans from banks or other social benefits. Also, when a woman farmer commits suicide, her family does not get any compensation, as the land is not in her name.

A land of her own

Oxfam India, which is launching a 60-day campaign on ‘A land of her own’ said creating a favourable social and legal atmosphere for increasing women rights over property was crucial for their real empowerment. This is because in rural India, land plays a dual role – it is an economic asset as well as defines social status, dignity, voice and freedom of a person or family.

Since women are deprived of land rights, they also face the threat of eviction from marital home as well as violence. However, some States have taken steps to ensure rights to women.

“Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal have, at different times, purchased homestead or agricultural land for women and allocated to them,” says the factsheet, citing the example of over 5,000 Chenchu tribal women in Andhra Pradesh who got land in the 1990s, and in Karnataka, about 22,000 rural women got homestead-cum-cultivable land in 2007-08.

No discrimination

Vanita Suneja, lead, economic justice, Oxfam India, said “Irrespective to the amendment made in Hindu Succession Act, 2005, which gave equal rights to women from parental property through succession, the increase of agricultural holding in the name of women in last five years is not more than 1 per cent. Access to credit and Government schemes are automatically screened out as they do not have any proof to show that they are farmers in absence of land in their names.”

The first step, Suneja said, was to recognise women as farmers at par with men.

The campaign said it would also create awareness on attitudinal change by parents, husbands and brothers, who have a major task to ensure that their spouses, daughters and sisters get equal ownership in family property.