“Women being denied forest claims’

Report by non-profits highlights gender disparity in Forest Rights Act implementation

Mita Krusika, a tribal resident of Karlakana village in Rayagada district of Odisha, is disillusioned with the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006. The flagship scheme of the UPA government, enacted in 2007 to recognise the rights of the forest dwellers on forest resources, has done more bad than good to her. After the death of her husband she filed an application for the title over her 0.8 hectare land their family had traditionally occupied. Bur the title was denied to her. The sub-division level committee (SDLC) rather gave the title to her neighbour under the FRA saying she had never occupied the land.

Like Krusika many other women in the country have been denied rights under FRA. While there is no such data on the claims and titles given to women under FRA, the South Asia unit of the global non-profit Welthungerhilfe and Indo Global Social Service Society (IGSSS), a non-profit working on gender and youth, in India have compiled the cases studies of women struggling for their rights under FRA in the states of Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan. The compiled report “Voices for Change” was released on June 29 in New Delhi.
FRA is one of the few laws in the country which has specific provisions for the recognition of women’s rights over land and natural resources. The Act says that land titles given under FRA will be jointly registered in the name of both the spouses in case of married couples and in the name of the head of the households headed by single person, male or female. It also mandates that at least one third members of the village forest rights committee are women and there is representation of women in the SDLC and the district level committee as well. The activists however feel this has not proven enough to bring desired benefits to tribal women. “It has been very difficult for single women to claim and get title of land under FRA due to male dominated process of settlement of rights. Women can play much larger role in community resource management but unfortunately community rights have hardly been recognised,” says Roma of National Forum for Forest People and Forest Workers, a forum of non-profits working on forest rights.

The ministry of tribal affairs, the nodal agency to implement FRA, is currently mulling amendment in the Act to make it more effective. Debjit Sarangi of Odisha based non-profit Live Farms said the ministry should ensure the women get their forests rights by increasing their participation in the rights settlement process. Roma demanded that the ownership and management of minor forest produce (MFP) should go in the hands of the women. “The great income potential of MFP will empower the women substantially. Besides, they can prove to be better managers of MFP which might help in more sustainable harvesting and regeneration of the forest produce,” she adds.


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