NFHS on women’s land ownership inconclusive

While the Fourth National Family Health Survey in 2015-16 surprised experts with its findings that 38.4% of women surveyed reported owning a house / land alone or jointly, this figure has risen to 43. 3% in NFHS-5. 45.7% of rural women claim such property against 38.3% in urban areas. States like UP, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Punjab reported a huge improvement in female property between the two surveys, while Delhi, Odisha, Puducherry and Chandigarh have surprisingly declined. UP fell from 34.2% to 51.9%, Delhi fell to 22.7% from 34.9%.

Previously, researchers warned policymakers against relying on NFHS-4 land data. Importantly, the NFHS does not reveal female owners as a percentage of total land / house owners. In contrast, a 2020 University of Manchester working paper looked at other Indian surveys and found that ‘barely 16% of women in rural landowning households own land, which is just 14%. of all landowners owning 11% of the land ”.

But perhaps the groundbreaking amendment to the Hindu Succession Law of 2005 granting girls equal co-ownership rights to undivided family property and official homeless / landless programs offering title deeds primarily to the women could work. Many states lower stamp duties for women to reduce gender gaps in property registration. Ironically, Kerala, which implemented the HSA amendments decades before 2005, reported only 27.3% of women claiming ownership in the NFHS compared to 55% in Bihar. Correct data gaps to better reveal gender disparities.


This article was published as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.


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