As an aftermath of the recent Supreme Court judgment which was the subject of much debate, a petition on Change.org asks for equal rights to women to take care of their parents; that they get equal chances as men to carry out their duties as daughters.
The petition is addressed to the Prime Minister asking for certain changes in the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens, 2007 and its proper implementation. As the name suggests, the Act was put in place for the welfare and care of parents and the elderly. This Act was a necessity in the age of nuclear families and increased instances of children moving out, which made the elderly more liable to neglect.
It mentions clearly that it is the duty of the children or other such relatives to look after their parents and grandparents. The parents and grandparents are liable to receive a monthly maintenance under this Act. Protection to their life and property is also extended under it.
One should consider its provisions to see if they are really being put to practice. The Act doesn’t isolate either men or women to do the above. This is because both are and would probably want to be equally responsible when it comes to the upkeep of parents. However, we can clearly see why women would be at a disadvantage in this case.
Conventionally, women in India have moved to their husbands’ homes to look after their spouse’s family. And quite often, women become homemakers with no independent source of income. Wouldn’t that be a financial helplessness of sorts? The inability to support parents in spite of the wish to fulfil their duties as daughters? This problem becomes worse if the family has no son and the parents grow old and are without any income source or sufficient savings.
Rationally, there could be two ways out of this. First, the husband bears a portion of the responsibility and contributes to take care of his spouse’s family. This would not be really unfair because if a wife is expected to stay at home and tend to the man’s family, the man could make attempts to try and do the return the favour in some way. We are not really trying to establish some kind of a quid pro quo here but it is not hard to imagine the weight on the conscience of a daughter who cannot contribute to her family’s well-being.
Secondly, the woman could be paid for the work she does at home. This would lead to a host of new problems like ascertaining how much to pay, or how to put a price tag on the intangible goods she adds to the work like love, concern etc. Unless this happens, a daughter will always be considered a bane in our society and her work will always remain under-appreciated.
This petition also asks that women have the right to ask for divorce if the well-being of her parents is not looked after just in case she is not earning. There should be greater awareness about this Act – very few parents/grandparents would know of this legal recourse to get some kind of an allowance or know their own rights and obligations of their children. The most beneficial amendment however would have to be that of making old age homes by the state mandatory (it is optional in the current act). This will ensure that those with no heirs do not find themselves helpless either financially or physically.
This petition is a positive sign of awareness in our society. Finally, we are ready to challenge the conventions and remedy the shortcomings.
Top image via Pixabay