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EvidenceStudy Summaries
World Bank

Does removing gender bias in inheritance law decrease violence against women? A case study from India

This study assessed the impact of equalizing inheritance rights for men and women on levels of violence against women in 16 states in India. The authors used the staggered implementation of amendments to state laws governing inheritance for Hindu women to compare changes in levels of violence in states that liberalized female inheritance earlier versus later. 

The study found that aggregate levels of violence against women (VAW) reported to the police fell by 36% in states where inheritance rights were made equal for males and females over a period of 28 years (1976 – 2004). The decline was consistent across three distinct measures of VAW, lending credibility to the findings. In addition, using household-level data, the study found that women who married after the amendments, were 17% less likely to ever experience in mate partner violence (IPV), a result explained by families increased willingness to invest in securing be er marriage matches for their daughters. 

Key findings

  • The number of crimes against women reported to the police fell by 36% over a period of 28 years (1976 – 2004) in states that equalized inheritance for males and females, thus removing gender-discriminatory aspects of the HSA. Evidence confirms that this decrease was not related to increased rates of reporting or a generalized decrease in crime. 
  • Women newly eligible for inheritance (i.e. affected by the amendments) were 17% less likely than other women to experience IPV.
  • IPV decreased only for women who were beneficiaries of HSA amendments: no effects were seen for women not covered by the law, for example, Muslim women.
  • Accidental deaths due to “unnatural causes” decreased among females a er the amendments, but not among males. This suggests that equalizing inheritance also reduced crimes against women, such as bride burning and homicides, that often show up as deaths by “unnatural causes” in mortality statistics. 
Date published
  • 2018
  • Amaral Sofia
Published by The Prevention Collaborative
Key quote "This paper shows empirically that female inheritance legislation has important implications for women’s well-being. It establishes the relation between inheritance rights of women and violence against them. The results contribute to a growing literature on the effects of women’s economic conditions on violence against them and on the importance of policies targeted specifically to women."