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Property Rights Campaign for Women Takes Aim at Patriarchy in South Asia


FILE - Indian women farmers gather near the Indian parliament in New Delhi, India, July 24, 2015. In a campaign launched this week, activists in South Asia are appealing to men to stand up for the property rights of their daughters, wives and sisters.

Activists have launched a campaign in South Asia to appeal to men to stand up for the property rights of their daughters, wives and sisters and ask women to demand their share as a way to curb violence against women in the region.

Property for Her was launched on social media this week, with messages on Twitter and Facebook, as well as a petition on change.org.

The petition asks parents to promise to leave their daughter an equal share of property, and brothers to stand with their sisters in ensuring her rights.

"A lot of violence against women is related to property," said activist Kamla Bhasin, who helped launch the campaign.

"We have a lot of legislation guaranteeing equal rights, but it is not implemented because the lawmakers, the police, the judges, the citizens are not gender just. With this campaign, we want to change people's mindsets about property for women."

Across India, only 13 percent of farmland is owned by women, according to census data.

With their names missing from property titles, women are in danger of being thrown out when the husband dies, with the property going to the sons or the husband's brothers.

Despite a 2005 national law that gave women equal inheritance rights, customary law often prevails and women are forced by their brothers or fathers to give up their claim on ancestral property.

Among Muslims, who are governed by their personal law in matters on inheritance, women are only entitled to half the man's share of property,

"Despite the laws, our rights are not guaranteed and women are made to feel bad when they demand their share of property," said Arti Pandey, co-founder of women's rights group Bitiya, who launched the petition on change.org.

"We have to depend on the charity of our brothers and our husbands. Property rights can give us economic independence so we don't have to depend on anyone," she told Reuters.

The #PropertyforHer campaign is being promoted with slogans such as: "Beti dill mein, beti will mein" (Your daughter in your heart and in your will).

Several states offer lower-rate mortgages and cheaper registration charges when a property is registered in the name of a woman to encourage this practice. Land and property that is distributed by the state also have joint ownership titles.

"This campaign is not going to guarantee property rights for women right away, but it can be a spark to bring about a change in the patriarchal mindset that prevents its adoption," said Sandeep Chachra, executive director of right group ActionAid India, which is backing the campaign.

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