She Comes to Take Her Rights: Indian Women, Property, and Propriety

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SUNY Press, 1999 - Political Science - 305 pages
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Using the contemporary workings of property law in India through the lives and thoughts of middle-class and poor women, this is a study of the ways in which cultural practices, and particularly notions of gender ideology, guide the workings of law. It urges a close reading of decisions by women that appear to be contrary to material interests and that reinforce patriarchal ideologies.

Hailed as a radical moment for gender equality, the Hindu Succession Act was passed in India in 1956 theoretically giving Hindu women the right to equal inheritance of their parents' self-acquired property. However, in the years since the act's existence, its provisions have scarcely been utilized. Using interview data drawn from middle-class and poor neighborhoods in Delhi, this book explores the complexity of women's decisions with regard to family property in this context. The book shows that it is not passivity, ignorance of the law, naivete about wealth, or unthinking adherence to gender prescriptions that guides women's decisions, but rather an intricate negotiation of kinship and an optimization of socioeconomic and emotional needs. An examination of recent legal cases also reveals that the formal legal realm can be hospitable to women's rights-based claims, but judgments are still coded in terms of customary provisions despite legal criteria to the contrary.


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Basu studied property rights in several neighborhoods in New Delhi in the early 1990s. Although legally men and women are now supposed to inherit equally in India, what Basu found was that the vast ... Read full review


Women Law and Property in India
Women and Property Inheritance Scant and Slippery Footholds
Gifts for Alliance Marriage and the Flow of Goods
Wo Ayee Hak Lene There She Comes to Take Her Rights The Dreadful Specter of the PropertyOwning Woman
Knowing Womens Attitudes toward Wealth and WeilBeing
Protecting Property Gendered Identity in the Indian Higher Courts
Conclusion Property and Propriety
Appendix A
Appendix B

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About the author (1999)

Srimati Basu is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Depauw University.

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