The Rights of Daughters-in-Law in India
by Sakshi Manhas | Wed May 01 2019
Matrimony or marriage is considered as a holy institution between two individuals as well as their families in India. Regardless of this fact, the crimes against married women are on a rise. Cases of violence against married women such as marital rape, dowry-related abuse and deaths, coerced pregnancy, and domestic violence at the hand of her husband and in-laws are rising at an alarming rate.
Though there are several laws in place to ensure the safety and protection of women before and after marriage, most of these laws go unnoticed. The main reason for this is the ignorance of these laws. The Constitution of India under article 15(3) empowers the States to constitutespecial provisions for women and children under any law. Article 14 of the Constitutionof India provides for equality beforethelaw and equal protection of the lawacting as an aid to provide equality to the women in the society.
Rights of a married woman are subject to various personal laws as applicable to them along with the civil and criminal law governing the nation. Following are the rights available to every married woman:
Rights of Daughter-in-Law regardless of her religion:
Maintenance: As per section 125 of the criminal procedure code a person with sufficient means should provide his wife, children and parents in case of them being unable to maintain themselves. This provides a blanket of security for the wife in case of her relationship going sour with her husband or in-laws, and where she is unable to maintain herself in such a situation.
Right to live with dignity: The Constitution of India empowers the women to lead her life with dignity and self-respect. She has the right to the same lifestyle as enjoyed by her husband and her in-laws. The Supreme Court in a judgement stated that a daughter-in-law is to be treated as a member of the family with warmth and affection and not as a stranger. She should not be treated as a housemaid or be given the impression that she could be thrown out of her matrimonial home.
Adultery: The husband should respect her and the bond shared with her which dissuades him to have any relationship with another woman outside of his marriage unless he obtains an order for divorce or dissolution of the marriage. Adultery can be a ground for seeking divorce by the woman.
Domestic Violence Act: The Act allows women to obtain a divorce from their husbands on the ground of domestic violence. The Act also provides a married woman with the option to make her spouse execute a “bond to keep the peace” or a “bond of good behaviour” through the Executive Magistrate. The Magistrate can also order the husband to deposit securities in the form of money or property that shall be forfeited if he continues to act violently.
Rights of Daughter-in-Law under Hindu Law
Right to Streedhan: Streendhan, as per the Hindu laws, means the gifts received by a woman before and after her marriage. These gifts would include cash, jewellery, property, both movable and immovable, or any other gifts received by a woman before or after her marriage. Streedhan received by the woman is protected under the Domestic Violence Act (Section 3) as well as the Hindu Succession Act (Section 14). The Supreme Court of India has stated that Streedhan is an inalienable right of every married woman and is not lost after separation from her husband. This means that even after separating from her husband, a woman has complete ownership of her Streedhan. Denial of Streedhan by the husband and the in-laws is considered as an act of domestic violence and makes them liable for criminal charges.
Right to Maintenance: The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 provides under section 18 that a Hindu wife shall be entitled to maintenance by her husband during her lifetime whether living together or separately. In case of death of the husband, as per Section 19, the widowed woman shall be maintained by her father-in-law.
Right to Property: Keeping up with the changing times the laws relating to rights to property have also changed.
Coparceners: According to the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005(Section 6) in a Joint Hindu family governed by the Mitakshara law, the daughter of a coparcener shall-
by birth become a coparcener in her own right the same manner as the son;
have the same rights in the coparcenaryproperty as she would have had if she had been a son;
be subject to the same liabilities in respect of the said coparcenaryproperty as that of a son,
any reference to a Hindu Mitakshara coparcener shall be deemed to include a reference to a daughter of a coparcener.
Inheritance: As per the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, a daughter has equal right on the parental property as the male heir whether the daughter is married or unmarried.
Rights of Daughter-in-Law under Muslim Law
Right to Mahr or Dower: Mahr or Dower is money or property given to the wife by the husband or her in-laws after marriage. Mahr, as per the Muslim Law, has to be given to the wife and cannot be taken from her post separation. The wife has the right to retain the dower received by her even after the death of her husband. Mahr can also be claimed under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 at the time of divorce.
In the event of the death of her husband, a Muslim woman receives 1/8thof the husband’s property if they have children. If they do not have any children then she is entitledto 1/4thof her husband’s property.
In case of inheritance of the father’s property, a son takes double the share of a daughter. Where there is no male heir, the daughter gets 1/2 share of her father’s property.
Right to Maintenance: Section 3 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 provides that a husband has the responsibility to make fair and reasonable provisions for maintenance to his wife after divorce, mahr or dower agreed to be paid to her at the time of marriage and any property given to her before and after marriage. According to Section 4 of the said Act, where a Magistrate is satisfied that a divorced woman has not re-married and is not able to maintain herself after the iddat period, he may make an order directing such of her relatives as would be entitled to inherit her property on her death according to Muslim law to pay such reasonable and fair maintenance to her as he may determine fit and proper.