The  impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls is disproportionate and devastating. The familiar patterns of gender inequality embedded in the world’s political, social and economic systems have only become more pronounced during this crisis.

As the global community strives for a more gender-equal world, closing the gender gap in land ownership holds great promise. Secure and clear rights to land create pathways to empowerment and economic opportunity, and often have the ability to shift long-standing social and power dynamics.

Around the world, women own less land than men. The UN estimates that less than 20 percent of world’s landholders are women, and reports by the World Bank show that in 40 percent of the world’s economies, women face legal barriers to their land and property rights.

This gap is high in South Asia, where land is usually a private asset owned and acquired mainly through inheritance and passed along by males in patrilineal families.

Most of the South Asian countries follow a plural legal system where inheritance is governed by a web of personal, tenurial and customary laws. Let us take India, which offers a classic example of the maze of laws that determine inheritance provisions for women and girls.

There is a set of personal laws that primarily determine the inheritance rights of women and girls belonging to different religions: the Hindu Succession Act for Hindus (including Sikh, Buddhist and Jain), Sharia Law for Muslims and the India Succession Act for Christians and Parsis. There are also customary laws that determine the rights of tribal communities and their women members.

What is nearly universal among these laws? Women and girls have inferior rights to men and boys, or no rights at all.

Read the full article about land rights for women in Asia by Shipra Deo at AVPN.