Modern Women stuck in Dangerously Outdated Marriages

Is ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ enough?

Photo by Andrej Nihil on Unsplash

The last few decades in India have witnessed a major evolution in the way women engage themselves at work and household responsibilities. Women are breaking stereotypes and experimenting in every field of work. There are larger numbers of girls who have access to basic education. Girls are also taking up graduate and postgraduate degrees with grades, career, and salary much better than boys.

Though our families and society as a whole are now accepting the girl child (I wonder how anyone can have an issue accepting their own child), there is a lot of acceptance yet to come.

In the urban set-up, an average girl and a boy meet in college/work, find each other suitable and decide to get married. The concept of ‘equality’ and ‘partnership’ fits in well here. Probably before the marriage everyone around in the family feels they are very progressive, or maybe it seems fashionable to appear so. The discussion involves sweet promises from the boy to learn to cook and participate in household functions. (Mind you, this boy will not move an inch at home, because of the simple reason, “Mummy kar degi naa!”) Well, and then the love marriage happens, followed by, as they say, the honeymoon period.

Gradually, as the duo starts with their normal lives and goes back to their usual selves, the reality sets in. The girl (now turned wife, daughter-in-law, cook, maid, sweeper, morning alarm, dhobi, etc. depending on how regressive guy she is married to), is depressed. This is not what she dreamt a marriage to be. She expected partnership. She keeps overworking, trying hard to be a good wife and daughter-in-law and basically all of the above she has been turned into. The ‘love’ in the love marriage suddenly seems flying away. And God save her from his mother who cannot bear to see her son cut veggies in the kitchen! It seems as if we are forcing men not to participate and push the wife to work like a Superwoman until she drops dead.

These words may seem very harsh to you, but unfortunately, this is true in most of our families.

A statistic according to a 2011 Nielsen survey — Women of Tomorrow — of 6500 women across 21 different nations, suggests that Indian women are the most stressed in the world. A whopping 87% of Indian women said they felt stressed most of the time, and 82% reported that had no time to relax.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Ripa Rashid, in their HBR article, “Why are India’s Women So Stressed Out?” state the following reason for the increasing stress among working women in India.

Traditional family structures have a disproportionate effect on Indian women, even those who are urban, college-educated professionals, and especially for those who are the first generation in their families to have a career. Indian women are pulled by demands from relatives as they attempt to conform to the paradigm of “ideal daughter,” “ideal wife,” and “ideal daughter-in-law.” Among the many interviews conducted in researching the book, it wasn’t at all rare to hear of successful professionals who woke up at 4:30 a.m. to make breakfast and lunch for children and parents-in-law, put in a full day at work, then returned home to clean up after the extended family and prepare dinner.

Women have evolved a lot, and quite quickly too, but our marriage structures have not. With the outdated mind-set, women are refused the right to have the household load to be shared. Still in many families, the working women, even at prestigious designations with exorbitant salaries, do not have the freedom to take any financial decision. I have known colleagues whose head of their family (usually father-in-law or husband’s elder brother or husband) expect her to hand over the entire salary and for her minor daily expenses, she has to ‘ask’ back her own hard-earned money! Post maternity, there are husbands who, against her aspirations, casually suggest quitting the job to take care of the infant. Is this marriage, or some sort of trick we are playing with our womenfolk?

We still have a long, long way to go. There are so many acceptances yet to come. Acceptance to allow the daughter (whom they educated) or the daughter-in-law (chosen for marriage to probably match their educated son) to work. Acceptance that it is okay for the husband to cook and clean and babysit, while their wives take time off to catch up with some she-time. In this ever fast-paced world of evolving technology, our marriage structures are dangerously outdated. That day is not too far when marriages will go extinct!

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Shobhana Jha

Shobhana Jha

Reader | Seeker | Thinker | Writer | Language Enthusiast | A Yogi for Life | I write about life 🌿, in and around me.