Women's Economic Rights and Entitlement on Separation and Divorce (India)

Indian women, regardless of their community, have extremely limited rights on separation or divorce. There is no recognition of women's economic contribution to the household in the form of housework. If a woman is not working (outside the home) it is presumed that all household assets, both movable and immovable, belong to the man. If a woman is working, she may spend the money on day-to-day expenses or allow her spouse or inlaws to dictate how it is spent. Capital assets like houses are often acquired by and in the name of the husband. The courts have yet to recognize the productive nature of housework and acknowledge that this entitles women to a share in the household assets.

The only right that deserted, divorced or separated women have under Indian law is the right to maintenance for themselves and their children - an unpredictable right as it is left to the judgment of the courts, often dispensed by patriarchal-minded judges. The Supreme Court has laid down some principles to guide the lower courts in awarding maintenance, but the principles do not go far enough and the lower courts do not necessarily follow them. The women's movement is also grappling with the issue of women's rights in the marital home and while living outside the marital home in their parents' home.

This grant will support an analysis of women's economic rights after separation and divorce to enable women's rights activists and the legal fraternity to advocate for amendments to existing laws and new gender-just legal provisions. The lead researcher combines the experience from a very active legal practice and engagement with the women's movement.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

End Date

Thursday, June 30, 2011


24 months

IDRC Officer

Singh, Navsharan

Total funding

CA$ 161,600


India, Central Asia, Far East Asia, South Asia


Governance and Justice

Project Leader

Kirti Singh


Economic Research Foundation

Institution Country


Institution Website