As property prices rise, more Indian women claim inheritance

A 2005 law gave Hindu women across India equal inheritance rights but few have made claims because they are unaware of the law. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 March 2019
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As property prices rise, more Indian women claim inheritance

  • An increase in property prices near New Delhi has pushed more women in to claim their share
  • Only 13 percent of farmland is owned by women, according to the latest census data from 2011

NEW DELHI: Rising property prices in parts of India have helped achieve what women’s rights groups have tried and failed to do for decades — get more women to claim their inheritance.
A 2005 law gave Hindu women across India equal inheritance rights but few have made claims because they are unaware of the law, or have been forced to give up their claims by male family members, according to analysts.
But an increase in property prices near the Indian capital, New Delhi, has pushed more women in Haryana state to claim their share, gender and land rights experts said on Wednesday.
“Despite laws that give rights of inheritance to women, low levels of education and a strong patriarchal tradition can rob women of these rights,” said Prem Chowdhry, a gender expert who has researched women’s inheritance in Haryana.
“But because prices of land have sky-rocketed in these areas, women are being pushed by their husbands or fathers-in-law to claim their share of the family property, or at least be compensated in some way for it,” she said on the sidelines of a land conference in New Delhi.
Property prices in the three Haryana cities that are closest to Delhi have risen by more than half in the past decade as more migrants flocked to the capital and transport links improved, according to Anarock, an Indian property consultant.
Amendments in 2005 to the Hindu Succession Act, which governs matters of inheritance among Hindus — who make up about 80 percent of India’s population — made women’s inheritance rights equal to those of men.
Yet in several states in northern and western India, the custom of “haq tyag,” or sacrifice of right, is practiced, where a woman relinquishes her claim on ancestral property.
The tradition is justified on the grounds that the father pays for his daughter’s wedding and often also gives a dowry, and therefore only the sons are entitled to the family property.
While haq tyag is voluntary, women come under enormous pressure to comply to maintain their relations with their families, Chowdhry told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Although there is no official data on inheritance claims made by women in India, only 13 percent of farmland is owned by women, according to the latest census data from 2011.
In a bid to address the imbalance, several states including Haryana — which has among the worst gender imbalances in the country — have lowered registration charges and taxes when a property is in the name of a woman.
These changes have done little to improve women’s property ownership rates, said Govind Kelkar, a senior adviser to the global land rights advocacy group Landesa.
While agreeing that rising property prices could push more women to claim their inheritance, Kelkar said women still had little control over the property they inherited.
“There can also be an increase in violence against women,” she said. “The patriarchal tradition is so strong that women, who themselves own property, when asked if they will leave it to their daughter, still say no.”


Global exchange funds eye Saudi Arabian equities

Updated 18 min 14 sec ago
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Global exchange funds eye Saudi Arabian equities

  • It comes as the country joins the FTSE Russell emerging markets index
  • Index provider MSCI is also adding Saudi stocks to its own emerging markets index

LONDON: Global exchange-traded funds are building cash piles to place in Saudi Arabian equities, according to a ranking compiled by Bloomberg.
It comes as the country joins the FTSE Russell emerging markets index, which is expected to attract billions of dollars in foreign fund inflows.
“We believe Saudi’s inclusion in the FTSE Russell EM Index will have a significantly positive impact on stock markets, Salah Shamma, the regional head of investment at Franklin Templeton Emerging Markets Equity, told Arab News.
“With an estimated $115 billion benchmarked against the FTSE Russell EM Index, the Kingdom could constitute approximately 2.5 percent of the gauge, resulting in passive fund flows of about $3 billion,” he said.
A London-based exchange- traded fund (ETF) and another fund that trades in New York have together attracted around $327 million in new money since the beginning of January, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.
The net flow as a percentage of assets for Saudi Arabia funds increased by about 48 percent this year.
FTSE Russell started to include Saudi stocks this week — the first of a five-stage process that will be fully implemented by March 2020.
Index provider MSCI is also adding Saudi stocks to its own emerging markets index.
Positions on the Saudi market through funds based abroad have delivered a return of about
12 percent each since the start of the year, compared with a gain of 10 percent for the Tadawul All Share Index, according to Bloomberg data.
Franklin Templeton’s Shamma believes the inclusion of Saudi equities in the two gauges will help to bring the wider region into the mainstream of emerging market investment.
“The fundamentals of the Saudi economy are strong, and we remain encouraged by the country’s progress in reducing its reliance on hydrocarbon revenues as well as the ambitious reform agenda that is underway there,” he said.
Listed companies in the Kingdom could see holdings by foreign investors rise to 10 percent when their shares are included in index providers MSCI and FTSE’s emerging-market indices, the chief executive of Tadawul told Reuters on Monday.
Saudi Arabia this week joined the FTSE Emerging All Cap Index with a weighting of 2.9 percent.
Khalid Al-Hussan told Reuters that he expected equities on Tadawul to attract $5 billion of passive fund inflows after the FTSE Russell inclusion. Foreign investors currently hold about 5.9 percent of Saudi shares.