Himachal tribal women don’t come under inheritance law

Shimla, April 2 (IANS) Tribal women in Himachal Pradesh do not come under inheritance law if there is a male member in the family, Revenue Minister Kaul Singh said Tuesday.

“Daughters, wives and mothers in the tribal district of Lahaul and Spiti have the right to own property and inherit ancestral property, but they can only inherit property when a male descendent is not available,” Singh said in a written reply in the assembly.

Women’s rights groups told IANS that the patriarchal law bars even widows from inheriting their husband’s property, which is transferred to the sons.

This male-centric local law is also applicable in another tribal district of Kinnaur, which permits only men to inherit ancestral property, if it is not bequeathed.

“We are going to knock on the doors of the high court to get justice,” 60-year-old social activist Rattan Manjari, chairperson of the Mahila Kalyan Parishad, a rights group based in Kinnaur district, said.

She told IANS that in the past three years, campaigns on educating tribal women about their rights to ancestral property have failed to evoke any response.

“We initially launched a drive to educate women about their rights to inherit ancestral property. Then a signature campaign was carried out. We got over 20,000 signatures, mainly from women,” she said.

“A memorandum was sent to President Pranab Mukherjee on January 26 to get rid of the social evil,” said Manjari, one of the rare women in the district who inherited ancestral property.

A prominent apple grower from the picturesque Ribba village, some 250 km from state capital Shimla, Manjari was bequeathed the entire agricultural land by her mother who opted for her over her brother.

Another activist, Kanta Negi, said the condition of deserted women, widows and spinsters is deplorable. “They have to literally depend on the mercy of other members of the family. If they have the right to inherit property, they can live with dignity,” she said.

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