This paper examines the importance of property rights in women’s empowerment in rural India. Arguments justifying the need for granting property rights to women are presented and the distinction is made between legal (formal) and customary (informal) rights. The ineffectiveness of legal right in absence of customary rights has been discussed. Customary rights also become ineffective due to other institutional impediments. These impediments have been discussed. The results of extensive field work in rural West Bengal and Orissa have been presented to illustrate the pattern of development process that poor rural women want and in which the property right is only one component, not the only component.


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