What are birth rights, exactly? These are those indispensable liberties that are conferred upon us by birth. The legal provisions ever made in our constitution have always been, exclusively, for the benefit of man and not mankind, especially property inheritance laws, which are based on the assumption of patriarchy or patriliny, which refers to the practice of tracing descent through the father’s line of origin. This impractical approach emasculates women’s aptitude to claim their property and thus further reinforces her dependency on man.
Our very own constitution makes a clear distinction between the two genders by ruling in laws that give preference to patriarchy over matriarchy. This injustice prevails almost everywhere, except a very few, who have shown the audacity to stand against the tarnished patriarchal system, like some Hindus down South the Nairs’ or the Muslim section called Mappilas or the Khasis of Assam etc.
One of the six fundamental rights recognized by the constitution is equality before law and prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex. But still there was no such bill passed and approved; until 1956 when the Hindu succession act was passed; that prevented this unfairness in property ownership and inheritance.
To think of it from a personal point of view; why shouldn’t I be legally eligible to inherit my fathers’ property just because of my gender; is it fair?
Even the Hindu succession act of 1965 did not prove to be of exemplary sorts; equitable rights of bequest for women were still not in picture until another 40 years. It just provided ownership rights to women of the property they owned. However, it did not provide them with equitable share in the inherited property; in which the male heir had greater share and authority; until the amendment act of 2004, which rendered equal rights to both male and female heirs.
Another fundamental liberty is that mentioned in Article 17 of our constitution. This abolishes the practice of untouchability. But is this birth right availed? Can this liberty actually be exercised in a country that has history of social hierarchy and where the educated and privileged shun the backward classes?
This liberty might not be functional in the elite class but this birth right is practically non-existent for the backward classes.
Another theoretical right that the constitution provides to the citizen is mentioned in Article 23. This birth right is prohibition of human trafficking and forced labor. But none can avail such rights because the government fails to provide a robust system that could tie all the loop holes and also because there have been no effective measures or solutions available.
But Government cannot be held responsible in all cases either. For example, many women that enter the world of human trafficking resists the efforts of the government to retrieve them, for the fear of not being inducted back into the society or to abide by moral obligations.
This is a very dangerous territory to prod into because this will unveil many shadows of the Government and the society, which no one is ready to face. It is very sad to admit that our birth rights are more a myth than reality.