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A land of their own

In popular iconography, a farmer is a man with a moustache, wearing a turban and holding a plough on his shoulder. What about women farmers? A few months ago, my eight-year old-nephew asked, “Why do you need to qualify farmer to represent women far mers? Isn’t 'farmer’ a gender-neutral word?” It was a valid question. De ca des ago, sociologist Bina Agarwal asked a similar question on behalf of women farmers, “Are we not peasants too?”

The land reforms and land regulation Acts have severely failed women in India, who own only 11 per cent of the country’s land. The Hindu Succession Act was amended in 2005, giving equal rights to daughters and sons. But there has been little change on the ground. Do women not want to own land? Do they not need land because they have little interaction with it?

Quite the contrary. Today, 75 per cent of India’s rural female workforce is engaged in agriculture against 59 per cent male workforce. A micro-level study in Himachal Pradesh shows that on an average a woman in India works 3,300 hours per year in the field, while a man works for 1,400 hours. But legally the Indian government does not accept a woman as a farmer unless she has a land title.

Oxfam India’s recent study in five blocks of Bihar shows that almost 85 per cent of agriculture extension officers and 75 per cent of agriculture assistant officers believe that household chores are women’s primary job and that they work on the field in their spare time.

For the complete aritcle, please see down to earth.