The objective of this study is to explore the relationship between women’s ownership of land and a reduction in gender-based violence; specifically, it focuses on whether land ownership enables women to exercise economic agency, enhances their ability to make decisions about their own lives, empowers them to individually or collectively act to achieve a desired outcome and thereby ensures a life free of violence in the home and outside. While women’s land ownership by itself does not result in decreasing gender-based violence, it is likely to work through the following processes: 1) economic empowerment of women through the ownership of land and related productive assets; 2) increase in women’s knowledge and selfesteem alongside freedom of mobility and market access; and 3) enhanced social position of women with recognition of their agency and claims-making to rights and freedoms. These three factors make women stronger against patriarchal norms in the household and society and act as deterrents to violence against women.
Research was conducted in six villages across three Indian states in order to reflect the diversity of gender relations and women’s rights to land ownership in both patriarchal (Karnataka and Telangana) and matrilineal (Meghalaya) societies. We organised our enquiries around four conceptual considerations: gender-based violence and its redressal by landowning women in patriarchal institutions; the character of violence perpetrated against landless women in patriarchal states; forms of violence (physical, verbal and sexual) and their redressal by landowning women in Meghalaya; and the character of gender- based violence and its redressal by landless women in a matrilineal state. The findings suggest that women’s vulnerability to violence is related to their general vulnerability in socio-economic systems. Gender relations are not only embedded in people’s cultures but they also influence economic domains of formal and informal institutions.
The study concludes that women’s ownership of land results in significantly reducing genderbased violence (physical, sexual and verbal abuse) in the home and public spaces. However, further support of development partners is needed for both research and social practice to strengthen the exercise of women’s right to land ownership and related assets, which results in substantially decreasing violence both in the domestic and public spheres.