Legal Status of Women
Inheritance rights of women and daughters
The general law relating to inheritance and succession is the Indian Succession Act, 1925. Under this Act, every Indian is entitled to equal shares on inheriting the property on the death of a person. However, the majority of Indians (Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Muslims) are governed under separate laws of succession. The book deals with issues of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, and the role of the ‘joint family’ or the ‘Hindu Undivided Family.’ In an extremely important development, the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, was passed to remove gender discriminatory provisions in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, and to give equal rights to daughters in Hindu Mitakshara coparcenary property as the sons have.
Legal process and access to courts
The book has shown the power of the judicial system working at its best to support the protagonist, Aranya, in her fight for her identity. However, this is not always the case. Legislation cannot be the sole focus for social change, because the advantage of favourable laws can only be appreciated in the context of other socioeconomic empowerment. Equally important is widespread legal literacy. More women need to be empowered to address their feats of coming up against existing power equations and privileges of the feudal structure in India.
‘Facts’ and ‘proof’ are recurring themes in the book. The legal basis for evidence in India is the Indian Evidence Act (Act 1 of 1872). Since it came into force, in 1872, the Act has retained its original essence, although it has been amended from time to time (for instance, to take account of electronic and similar communications and information). Before this Act, the rules of evidence varied for different social groups and communities. Aranya, the protagonist of the book, has to rely on the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, at various stages in her court battle.