Daughters-in-law

Good To Know: Rights Of Daughters-In-Law In India

From our friends at
Law Rato

August 27th, 2018

SHARES

Though the laws in India may not be specific to address the issues of daughters-in-laws, there are many laws that empower daughters-in-laws, from the right to residence to the right to maintenance, but these generally go unnoticed.

The Indian Constitution, being far-sighted, introduced an Article in our Constitution that supports women. Article 15(3) of the Constitution empowers the States to make any special provision for women and children. For many generations women have been subjected to discrimination at all levels, however, this Article saves the day as it was introduced to correct the historical wrong caused by the structural inequality between the sexes, making the Constitution of India, one of the very few documents which regard daughters-in-law to be at par in the race.

 

PART 1

Important rights every daughter-in-law or a married woman should know, irrespective of her religion

  • Right to live with dignity and self-respect

It is a right of a daughter-in-law to live with dignity and have the same lifestyle as her husband and in-laws. It is also her right to be free of mental and physical torture.

Very few know that apart from using domestic violence as the ground for divorce, the Domestic Violence Act allows a married woman to make the husband execute a “bond to keep the peace”, or a “bond of good behaviour” through the Executive, Magistrate who can order the husband and the in-laws to put a stop to domestic violence. The husband can also be asked to deposit money or property as securities which will be surrendered if he acts violently again.

  • Right to maintenance

Decent living standards and basic comforts of life are the primary rights that a wife is entitled to by her husband. Even if the relationship between husband and wife get sour, the husband is not stripped off his duty of providing basic maintenance including food, clothing, residence, education and medical attendance/treatment to his wife and children as guarded by Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

Apart from the abovementioned provisions that secure every daughter-in-law, irrespective of her religion, there are some laws that are specific to Hindus (including Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs), and Muslims.

PART 2

If you’re a Hindu woman, here’s what you need to know before stepping into matrimony

1.Right to Streedhan

Streedhan refers to the gifts that a woman receives during pre-marriage or marriage ceremonies and during childbirth. It includes any movable, immovable property, gifts, money etc.

The basic idea behind gifting Streedhan to the married woman is to give her financial protection post marriage. Inalienable rights have been granted to a married woman over Streedhan and this right is not lost even after separation from her husband.

  • How is Streedhan protected by Statute?
    • Domestic Violence:
      Denial of Streedhan to a married woman amounts to economic abuse under section 3 of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and in such a case the husband and in-laws are liable to be punished.
    • Criminal Breach of Trust:When the wife entrusts her Streedhan property to her husband or any other member of the family and the husband or such other member of the family dishonestly misappropriates it, he/she commits criminal breach of trust under Section 405 of Indian Penal Code,1860.
    • Hindu Succession: A Hindu woman’s right to Streedhan is protected under section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 making her an absolute owner of such property. Even if it is placed in the custody of her husband or her in-laws, they are bound to return the same if and when demanded by her as they are deemed trustees of the Streedhan.

2.Right to a committed relationship

A marriage cannot last long and strong without commitment from both the partners equally. Unless a legal divorce is finalised, a married woman has the right to have a committed relationship which means that her husband cannot have illicit relationship or an extra-marital affair with another woman. However, if there is a relationship apart from the marriage that the husband beholds with any another woman, the wife can charge her husband of adultery, which is also a ground for divorce under section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

3.Right to marital home

There is a cliché saying “once married, a woman should only leave her in-laws’ house when she is taken for her final rites”.

The household that a woman shares with her husband is called matrimonial home or marital house. It could be owned by the husband or his parents, a rented property or officially provided to him. Irrespective of whether the marital home is an ancestral one or a joint family house, a daughter-in-law is entitled to reside in it whether she owns it or not.

The Supreme Court, in a judgment involving abetment of suicide of a married woman by her husband, has quoted that “Daughter-in-law should be treated as a family member and not a housemaid, and she cannot be thrown out of her matrimonial home at any time”.

4.Right to parental property

With the change in time, the laws have also changed and now the daughters are equal with their male siblings even after marriage.

  • Inheritance: The recent amendments introduced in the Hindu Succession Act in 2005, allow every daughter, whether married or unmarried, to inherit the property of her father after his death. Not only this, the daughters also have a share in the mother’s property.

Further, in case the father does not leave a will before his death, the daughters have the right to equally inherit the father’s property as the sons. That means if your father is alive or died after 2005, you can knock the doors of the court and seek legal help to have your share of the father’s property.

  • Daughters as Coparceners

Daughters had always been excluded from being a coparcener until the amendments to the succession laws in 2005. Now women of the family are also coparceners and have the right to equally inherit a share in the undivided property since birth. They have the same rights and liabilities as a son.

PART 3

If you’re a Muslim woman, here are the rights that empower you

1.Right to Mehr or Dower

Similar to the concept of Streedhan that a Hindu woman receives at the time of her wedding, is the concept of Mehr which is mandatory in Muslim law. Every Muslim woman receives mehr, a gift promised by the husband to the wife at the time of contracting her marriage. It can be cash, jewellery, a house or any other property of value which becomes a Muslim woman’s absolute property, to use and dispose of as she wishes.

  • What to do if Mehr is not paid?
    • Refusal of conjugal rights: Before consummation of marriage, until Mehr is paid, the wife has a right to resist cohabitation with the husband.
    • Enforcement of dower as debt: The wife can recover her unpaid dower by maintaining an action in a court of law. Even after the death of the wife, her heirs can demand it.
    • Right of retention:If a wife has taken possession of her husband’s properties with his free consent in lieu of unpaid dower, then she is entitled to retain the same even after the death of her husband until dower is paid out of the properties retained by her.
    • Maintenance: Mehr is also considered as the part of maintenance under Section 125 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. The courts can decide the amount of dower by taking financial status of the husband, age of wife, cost of living, property of wife, into consideration.

Further, Mehr can also be claimed under section 3 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 at the time of divorce.

2. Right to property

For non-testamentary succession, Muslim Personal (Shariat) Application Act,1937 is applicable. According to the Muslim personal laws, both men and women have equal rights to become the legal heirs of the inheritable property.

  • Right to inherit

The daughter is entitled to get half the share of her brother from the inheritable property. In case, there is no brother, then the daughter is entitled for half of the share of the inheritable property.

  • Right upon the death of the husband

In the event of the death of the Muslim woman’s husband, the widow gets one-eighth of the property if there are children. In case there are no kids, the widow is entitled to one fourth share of the property.

3.Right to maintenance after divorce

If a married woman gets divorced, the maintenance charges are to be fulfilled by the husband till the iddat period ends according to the Muslim Women (Protection of rights on divorce) Act, 1986 subject to menstruation and pregnancy.

After the iddat period, if the woman is not re-married and is unable to sustain herself, then she is entitled to seek maintenance from her parents or District Waqf Board according to section 4 of the Muslim Women (Protection of rights on divorce) Act.

Further, a Muslim married woman can also seek maintenance under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 subject to provisions of Muslim personal laws with the help of a lawyer.

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