The Gendered Nature of NRC+CAA Biggest Threat to Women

By Mansi Sharma in Happenings 24/12/2019

The Indian government often falters from crafting policies and programmes that are gender-sensitive and inclusive. Be it the national water policies, or the integrated rural development programmes, the policies fail to see women as direct beneficiaries and hence create a wider socio-cultural and economic void for them.


Another policy to join the list of the gender-neutral and hence biased set of programmes within the country is going to be the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which is already being called out for its anti-secular nature.


Its alleged association with a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is still in the planning stage and hasn’t yet been announced as a bill, will leave millions of women who do not have access to land and lineage stateless.

Why women are at the greatest risk of losing citizenship


The 12 documents, listed in the Assam Accord for getting names registered in the NRC included 1951 NRC, Electoral Roll(s) up to 24th March 1971 (midnight), Land & Tenancy Records, Citizenship Certificate, Permanent Residential Certificate, Refugee Registration Certificate, Passport, LIC, Any Govt. issued License/Certificate, Govt. Service/ Employment Certificate, Bank/Post Office Accounts, Birth Certificate, Board/University Educational Certificate, or Court Records/Processes. To prove their citizenship, people had to present at least one of the aforementioned documents. However, a number of women couldn’t find their names in the Assam NRC.


It is because of the highly gendered nature of the NRC.

As the cut-off year for the Assam NRC was1971 and is expected that it will be same for nationwide enactment, it was important to take into consideration that the majority of women born before that and, in fact, decades after that as well, faced exclusion due to patriarchal norms and do not hold any entitlements to land or lineage.



If we look at India at large, it is reported that only 12.8% of women own agricultural land, and around 21 million women were not on voter rolls in 2019. There is no substantial data on women’s land ownership in urban India, but very few women get a share in their father’s property, despite strong inheritance laws.


Only 62.7% of women in India are literate (censorship data), thus making close to 40% of women devoid of any educational certificates. And it is highly doubtful if an uneducated woman would have any LIC in her name, any bank account, passport, government service, or any other government issues license.

The cultural ramifications make it more complicated for women to have access to land and property, especially if they are married outside their community. A woman, Indian by parent’s lineage, married to a foreigner might end up losing her citizenship if not listed in her parent’s documents.


A story published in The Citizen shares the story of a woman who was told by her parents that she is dead to them for getting married outside the community and hence they will not give her any proof to prove her ancestry.


Apart from these factors, natural calamities have left many women without any family or documents to prove their citizenship. For example, the horrific floods of Kerala last year left many houses washed out and documents were lost. A woman who has lost her whole family, money, and documents in those floods will struggle to find any document to prove her nationality and will be proved stateless by implication.


The minorities of the minority, women have been let down by many policies of the Indian government and NRC+CAA, if implemented, can prove out to be the most lethal one. It is therefore important for the policymakers to delve deeper into this and sieve through a gendered prism for making it inclusive for women.



    Currently living in a world ruled by feminist ideas, with background scores from 90’s pop-Punjabi albums deciding my mood for the day. Allegedly writing to follow my passion & always giving out free advice because I can. Psst… Bollywood and pizza are my favourite bias!


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