Women and Landed Property in Urban India
Negotiating Closed Doors and Windows of Opportunity
This paper examines land tenure in informal urban settlements in India from a gender perspective through field research conducted in Ahmedabad in collaboration with the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA). The author describes the formal and informal tenure arrangements that were in place in these settlements and analyses their implications for women. She proceeds to raise key issues that need consideration in developing a gender-equitable vision of urban land rights, tenure and reform. These include more widely established issues such as tenuous inheritance rights of daughters and the challenges of securing joint property titles for married women as well as emerging issues such as the obstacles faced by slum-dwelling rentees, the largely unsubstantiated fears of gentrification and market eviction associated with tenure security, and the legal and practical challenges of translating the 'right of residence' into the 'right of ownership'. In each case, the author also draws out policy recommendations for redressing the discrepancies in women's ownership of urban land and housing in India.