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«Working Paper No. 2010/56 Women and Landed Property in Urban India Negotiating Closed Doors and Windows of Opportunity Bipasha Baruah* May 2010 ...»

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This study emphasizes the importance of granting full legal tenure to residents of upgraded slums. While it is generally assumed that unequal land access is an outcome of unequal gender relations, our findings suggest that marginalization of low-income urban women in the ownership of landed assets may also be the result of rivalry between different groups of men, or the inability of certain male groups to acquire control over landed property. If full legal land tenure continues to remain out of reach for slum populations, it will increase their reliance on informal processes, such as political alliances and bribes to government officials, to ensure tenure security. This will further undermine women’s access to and control over landed property, as it increases their dependence on men’s networks of informal power. While slum communities have relied upon these methods out of necessity to ensure tenure security, this study asserts that these strategies are, at best, perceived as phases on the continuum towards full legal tenure, not long-term solutions. This is especially true for women’s needs and priorities.

Enhancing women’s ability to secure independent titles to urban land and housing is a long-term goal for organizations like SEWA. Joint titles are a step in the right direction, although the obstacles, as detailed in this paper, are quite significant. Overall, policy initiatives in women’s education, reform of the judiciary and governance, public awareness campaigns, equality in resettlement schemes and land allocation processes as well as equal access to credit and technological inputs are valuable in ensuring that land rights have the potential to transcend gender relations.

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Banerjee, B. (2002). ‘Security of Tenure in Indian Cities’. In A. Durand-Lasserve and L. Royston (eds), Holding Their Ground: Secure Tenure for the Urban Poor in Developing Countries. London: Earthscan Publications Limited, 37-58.

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