RASHMI OBEROI | 15 OCTOBER, 2018
Reality Check for Husbands Who Think Only Their Families Matter
Patriarchy takes hold everywhere
A recent heated argument on social media brought to light an issue which in my mind didn’t require to be debated upon. In fact, I am surprised that in this day and age people especially men needed clarity on this subject and that age old notions still existed.
Male chauvinists who think that after marriage only their parents and relatives take precedence need a reality check. Gender defined roles of where a daughter must care only for her in-laws and not her parents is a retrograde notion. Children – and gender does not come into play here, are responsible for their parents and must take care of them, especially in their old age. You can be married, single or in a relationship – the onus of looking after parents lies on the individual.
A landmark judgement a few years ago stated that a married woman too is responsible for maintaining her parents. In my mind, if such an issue needed a judgement from a High court, then people have seriously lost a sense of responsibility and righteousness. After all, such an issue is not always about demanding rights but doing our duties too.
I am glad that many reject the pre-conceived notion that a married daughter has obligations only towards her husband’s family and not her own parents. But… I am saddened to see many chauvinists still living in under the false sense of security that their ‘family’ comes first over their partner’s.
We need a stand in society that-if after marriage a girl becomes a part of her husband’s family that does not imply she has left her parents’ family. This is not a barter system going on or an exchange of goods and services. We are talking of responsibilities, feelings, attachments and a sense of duty.
Marriage is like a bond - a bond not just between two individuals but between two families - two souls. Women do worry and are afraid about what might happen after 'marriage'. Given the backdrop of our prevailing social cultures and the way some priorities are forced to change, especially for a girl, this fear is understandable.
I’ve told a lot of my friends that if you are ever questioned about your responsibilities towards your parents… A straight answer to the question should be a natural: “Yes, Hell Yes. Why wouldn't I?” Your immense respect towards your parents itself shows the responsible side of your character. You are smart, independent, educated and responsible and still in love with your parents – they are our first love.
I understand it is easier said than done. Life isn't sunrise and rainbows. But when you comes across such a situation where you are asked to choose or even worse, forced to comply… My advice: have a clear word with him, be absolutely clear about your responsibilities and I am damn sure that the mature ones, who truly deserve to be with you, will understand you. For the rest - never mind, they weren't meant for you anyways. Clarity of thought is of utmost importance.
The time has come for Indian society to shed its patriarchal image. In our society, the girl moves into her husband's house after the marriage and this movement is considered for some reason to signal an end of relationship with her parents. She is now only expected to bear the responsibility of her new family while her parents are left to fend for themselves.
In several cases when the girl is the only child, the parents have nobody to support them emotionally, financially and physically in their old-age causing them grave hardships and pain. Even though the provisions under Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 make the daughter equally liable for her parent’s well-being, the awareness of such a liability is minimal in our society.
And any such attempts made by the married daughter to help her elderly parents by way of financial aid is considered treacherous by her husband and his family. She is made to feel like a traitor for taking up her parent’s responsibility, which both morally as well as legally is her duty and such a treatment results in reluctance on her part, finally leading her to abandon her efforts.
There is a lot of awareness being generated on the rights of the elderly by way of special campaigns, while also bringing in suitable measures to end this patriarchal bias. Men must realise that under no circumstances can they expect their wives to naturally play the role of maid, cleaner, babysitter, a working professional and at the end of the day, be nice only to his parents and relatives while ignoring or discarding her own!!
Men who are looking for a full-time, unpaid maid or caretaker as their life partner, do not understand marriage at all. It is after all, a woman’s prerogative to choose how she lives her life and what roles she wants to play. The privilege cannot be tampered with or taken for granted.
A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.