Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Battle Of The Sexes

A number of people have accused me of being a feminist after reading some of the stuff I write here. Well, all those people are going to say that again.

I just don't understand why, even in a day and age when women are doing just as well as men are doing in every field, the institution of marriage still does not comprise of equal rights and equal duties for both partners. Why is it that, even if a guy marries a girl who is just as well qualified as he is and earning a comparable sum of money, he'll still expect a large sum of money and gifts as part of the dowry? I mean, here is a girl whose parents have put in just as much time, money and effort in giving her a good education as your parents put into your education. An earning member is being added to your family. Why do you need her and/or her parents to push themselves beyond the limits that they can comfortably afford?

And that's just the beginning. When it comes to household duties, they're all hers. Does it matter to you that she leaves the house at the same time in the morning and comes back at the same time in the evening as you do? And contributes equally to the household finances? Well, why should it? She's the woman of the house. She should cook, clean, take care of your parents, supervise the domestic help. If you have young kids and one of you needs to take care of them, she's expected to sacrifice her career. If you have deadlines to meet and stay late in the office, that's supposed to be normal. If she does the same thing, she's told stuff about acceptable behaviour for bahus from respectable families. If you get an opportunity to go abroad for a long term, that's welcomed with a great deal of joy in the family. In her case, she's questioned on who will take care of the household duties during that time.

We've come a long way since the days of Sati. But we're still unable to come out of the mindset that it's absolutely essential to have a son. That his education and upbringing are more important than a daughter's. That if you cannot afford to educate both your children, your son gets priority over your daughter. That when a wedding is being planned, the girl's parents should spend all the money and the guy's parents should always have the upper hand in making all the decisions. Even in well educated, urban families, this is the attitude. And what totally eludes me is that, even women who are well educated and have a career of their own, have this sort of attitude. I mean, if we don't stand up for ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to ever do that?

We need a major change of attitude here. And we need to be more vocal about it. More clear on what we expect, need and want from our prospective in-laws and from society at large. Even one girl who does something like what Mahima Choudhary does in Lajja can make a difference, albeit small, to the way we think and act.

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