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When will we give the homemaker her due – in acknowledgement, in respect, in money, in rights? How long will they be expected to do ‘invisible work’?
Why do salesmen at women’s clothing shops or the jewellery section talk more to men, than the client who is going to use their products?
Why, despite a lower stamp duty, are there hardly any properties registered in women’s names?
Why do even rich women have only a minute fraction of financial freedom, as compared to their husbands?
Why, despite working from morning six to ten in the night, are homemakers penniless and dependent when widowed?
Where does this gender divide of financial deprivation begin? Why is women’s labour dismissed as trivial and free? Where is all the invisible work that keeps the domestic machinery rolling?
I went to meet a friend one day. She wanted to catch up with me, and asked her daughter to make a cup of tea. The girl got up without a complaint and headed to the kitchen. I noticed that she had left behind the book she was studying from. Her brother sat in the adjacent room and continued his studies, unaffected.
Geeta’s husband leaves for work at 8:00 am everyday. She gets up at 5:00 to pack three tiffins. His, their child’s and her own. Her husband reads the paper or catches up on TV programs. It is the same when his relatives tour the city and come to stay with them. She works extra to give them an elaborate breakfast before leaving for work.
Anu’s child wants a grand birthday party. Her husband gives her a shoestring budget. She pitches in her own money and goes to the wholesale market. Buys the supplies herself. Makes the theme cutouts, decorates the house, cooks and organises a grand theme party. An event manager would have charged at least ten thousand rupees.
Neeti is from a small town. She got married to a man living in a metro. Her sister and brother stayed with her during their college education. She cooked cleaned, washed laundry after them.
Satinder has been coaching her kids in Science and Maths for five years. Her son went to class nine. The tuition now costs 2500.
Farzana’s sister-in-law had a difficult delivery in a big hospital. Her brother stayed with them for a month. All their relatives visited her house after the baby came home. For a month she shunted everyday between the hospital and home. Served all those who visited them.
Shormishtha’s in-laws are old. She gave up her job, and cares for them at home.
Above are a few examples of the several instances when Indian women support their relatives at various stages of life.
Women are told that men bear their expenses and that it is their duty to make themselves useful. The housework comes at the cost of their freedom. Men can travel; they, however, need to ask for permission because often there is no back-up. The elders in the family frown upon even a daytime ladies’ outing as blasphemous, but do not bat an eyelid if the men go drinking late at night.
All her life, a woman supports the men around her. As a daughter, she serves the father and brother. As a wife, her in-laws and husband. As a mother, she gives birth, tends, teaches and cares for her children.
Despite all her roles in which she invests her time and labour, she is hardly ever compensated. The men around her go on expecting this as her duty. When it comes to sharing the resources, they are the men’s alone. All income and assets belong to men.
Inheritance rights are passed on from males of one generation to another. There is hardly any financial security to a woman who moves from one family to another. The birth family is happy to let go, and the family by marriage never trusts her enough.
No wonder we have the unhappiest women of the world in our country. The Indian woman asks herself, where is my home? For free work, both homes are hers, for rights – none. When she demands her rights, she is ridiculed as selfish and greedy. Expected to be satisfied with the little peanuts of money given on festive occasions. Leaving the lion’s share to men.
It’s high time we value our women. Give them their due for the time, effort, and loyalty they invest in their families. Not just expect their undying support for peanuts we throw at them.
Published here earlier.
Image source: shutterstock