The Maharashtra government has taken a further step towards equal rights by giving women who live in slums the right of ownership that is equal to that granted to men.

A large percentage of the state’s population lives in slum areas, so it is necessary for women to have rights to their homes.

“We have given land titles in the past to slum dwellers, but this time the titles will have the name of the woman as well,” Shrawan Hardikar, commissioner at the Nagpur Municipal Corporation, told Reuters.

“We wish to empower women with equal rights to property as men. Especially for the poorest of the poor who live in slums, land and property are a means of security,” he added.

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As a pilot project, this rule will be applied to 55 slums in Nagpur that house around 25,000 families. The women of each of these families will be recognised as legal residents. All the families will get a personalised land title that gives joint ownership to both the man and the woman of the house.

Slum dwellers are usually migrants from rural areas who move to big cities in search of better opportunities and to earn more money for their families.

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said last week that if this rule is successful in Nagpur, it will be applied to all of the state.

According to Shivani Chaudhry, executive director of advocacy group Housing and Land Rights Network in India, this move follows the Supreme Court’s order to give equal ownership rights of land and property to women of the family. But awareness of these laws is rare, and even if women do know of them, they are denied access to their rights for various reasons, Chaudhry told Business Insider. “We welcome this move to give joint ownership titles, but while these rights exist on paper, in reality women aren’t allowed to access these rights,” she said.

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She added: “These steps need to be accompanied by ways to increase women’s awareness of their rights and some measure of protection of these rights. Implementation also needs to be monitored to ensure women are really able to access these rights.”

Gender equality is a still a matter of good intentions rather than actual implementation in India, but this move by the Maharashtra government is a step ahead.

Feature image credit: Al Jazeera

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