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Published in the 1-15 Jan 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Union Cabinet approves Bill giving equal rights to women

New Delhi: The Union cabinet cleared a legislative proposal on December 15 to amend the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 to give equal rights to Hindu women. The Bill was drafted four yeas ago by the Law Commission.

The proposed Bill gives women coparcenary rights, which meant that they would be entitled to seek partition and equal shares in the ancestral property. The Bill says that in a joint Hindu family, the daughter of a coparcener shall "by birth become coparcener" and have "the same rights in the coparcenary property as she would have had if she had been a son."

The Bill is also in favour of empowering women as ‘karta’ (head) of the family. The coparcenary rights apply only to ancestral property, the Bill does not affect one’s discretion to will one’s acquired property.

Southern states Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka have already given coparcenary rights to Hindu women.

The proposed Bill will not apply to women married before the enactment of the amendment, it meant that a woman who is already married cannot become a coparcener in her father’s family.

Women groups have welcomed the move of the Union cabinet. And now they are asking for similar right for women of other religions. Nirmal Seetharaman, member National Commission for Women said, "it was a big battle won. If the government could include the same provision in personal laws of other religions, or implement it forcefully it would change the whole scenario." 
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