First published on CNN
On 25th August 2013, The upper house of Indian parliament (Rajya Sabha) passed Hindu Marriage Law Amendment Act, 2010. This bill grants share in husband’s property including that of inherited and inheritable property to the wife. The proportion of property to be given to the wife is to be decided by the court.
While passing the bill, Minister Kapil Sibal claimed that throughout the world women consist of 50% of the population but have only 2% of the total assets.
However, earlier in 2013 the same government has brought an amendment to Hindu Succession Act, 1956 in the parliament. This bill says (please refer to the Statement of Objects and Reasons section on page 3 of the bill) – “The proposed amendment has been necessitated in view of the vast changes in the social milieu over the past few years. Over the years, women have taken a stride in all spheres of life. The consequence is that women are acquiring property earned by their own skill. These situations do not seem to have been in the contemplation of legislators when the Act was initially enacted.”
Please note the words that the same government has said earlier in 2013 – “….women are acquiring property by their own skill.”
Clearly, the two bills brought by the same government within six months time in the name of women empowerment raises questions why the govt. had to say completely opposite words for two different bills. If women are already acquiring property by their own skills, which is a reality today, then why should they be entitled to husband’s inherited and inheritable property on divorce? Why the woman’s property will not be considered for the division on divorce? Or when bringing in the woman’s ancestral property for marriage is considered as dowry and a crime, then how the giving husband’s ancestral property becomes a right for the wife? How do the husband and NOT the government become responsible to ensure that women earn property?
Amendment to Hindu Succession ACT empowers women to claim an equal share from their parents but while passing the Hindu Marriage Law Amendment the Indian government claimed that women are not claiming property from their parents and hence they need rights to husband’s inherited property. But how does the husband become responsible for sharing his own inherited property if the wife does not claim her own rights from her parents is never explained.
Several Human Rights Groups have already raised questions regarding these biased provisions and opined that if this marriage bill finally passes in the lower house of the parliament (i.e. the Lok Sabha), too and become a law then the crime rate in the society will increase. They have opined that men will now have no option but to kill their wife on simple suspicion of divorce and the same can happen with women too. Some have also opined that as a result not only all marriages will stop but a crime like prostitution (both male and female prostitution) will increase.
The misuse of Dowry laws has already become a concern for many. Statistics show that more women undergo harassment in each dowry case rather than they get relief. Under these circumstances, introduction of one more gender biased provision is only making Indian men more insecure and creating a deeper gender divide in the Indian society.
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