Does Marriage Mean Free Labour from Women as They Become the Seat of a Grinding Stone in A Typical Indian Village Household
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Compliance with labour and employment laws have become one of the most important issues that many establishments in India have to deal with. Many of the employment disputes result in litigation. Karma Global is an Indian HR, Payroll and Compliance firm advising clients worldwide on local, regional and global regulatory compliances in relation to their business goals, business strategies and resolving disputes.
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For the sake of good reading, let us approach this subject in a sequential manner before touching upon women’s domestic labour, post marriage!!
Does Marriage Mean Free Labour from Women – What is the sanctity of marriage and family!
Marriage and family are key structures in most societies. While the two institutions have historically been closely linked, it seems their connection is becoming more complex. The relationship between marriage and family is often taken for granted in the popular imagination but with the increasing diversity of family forms in the 21st century their relationship needs to be re-examined.
What is Marriage? Different people define it in different ways. For our purposes, we will define marriage as a legally recognized social contract between two people, traditionally based on a sexual relationship, and implying a permanence of the union.
Historically, marriages are what create a family, and families are the most basic social unit upon which society is built. Both marriage and family create status roles that are sanctioned by society.
What is a Family? A husband, a wife, and two children — maybe even a pet — served as the model for the traditional we can also analyse the family as a social form that comes into existence around five different contents or interests: sexual activity, economic cooperation, reproduction, socialization of children, and emotional support.
Does Marriage Mean Free Labour from Women – Protection of the human rights of women under international law
Since the founding of the United Nations, equality between men and women has been among the most fundamental guarantees of human rights. Adopted in 1945, the Charter of the United Nations sets out as one of its goals “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and in the equal rights of men and women”.
Furthermore, Article 1 of the Charter stipulates that one of the purposes of the United Nations is to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms “without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion”. This prohibition of discrimination based on sex is repeated in its Articles 13 (mandate of the General Assembly) and 55 (promotion of universal human rights).
In 1967, United Nations Member States adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which states that discrimination against women is an offence against human dignity and calls on States to “abolish existing laws, customs, regulations and practices which are discriminatory against women, and to establish adequate legal protection for equal rights of men and women”.
Does Marriage Mean Free Labour from Women – Marital Inequality – “Tradition” And The Subjugation of Women
In terms of lifetime value, a son is an investment for the future whereas a daughter is deemed a hefty cost to the family.
The harsh reality is that marriage in the context of Indian culture and society, is NOT a celebration of two people pledging their lives and welfare to each other on equal grounds. Just watch a Bollywood movie, any movie, that has a wedding woven into its plot and you will see clichés rife with gender inequality. The bride’s father laying his turban at the feet of the groom’s family symbolizing his supposed inferior status, the bride’s family borrowing and/or going broke with the wedding/dowry expenses, the bride wailing her heart out during the send-off ceremony, the bride requiring the “permission” of her in-laws and her husband to visit her own parents after the wedding.
This system of matrimonial inequality is inherently unfair to both partners. A man should not have to carry the full financial burden of a household just like a woman should not have to throw away her career and become the most qualified house-maid/cook/laundress on her block or street.
Does Marriage Mean Free Labour from Women – Bombay HC’s domestic labour remark on women opens can of worms;
“If she had no wish to do her household activities, then she ought to have told it either prior to the marriage so that the bride-groom can rethink about the marriage itself or if it is after marriage, then such problem ought to have been sorted out earlier,” the court observed!
A married woman being requested to help out around the house does not entail that she is being treated like a maid servant, the Bombay High Court recently noted.
The court further stated that it was impossible to assess if the husband and in-laws were harsh to the wife without a description of the alleged actions.
The FIR obliquely claims that she was treated like a maidservant. The court further stated that she had not provided specifics regarding the alleged verbal and physical abuse she had endured.
This case has reignited the conversation over married women’s expectations of domestic work.
Observations from the court judgement show the gender-based preconceptions that still exist in the Indian courts, despite the fact that the circumstances of this case may be called unique.
Does Marriage Mean Free Labour from Women – What data has to say about this?
In India, the average woman works in the home for 335 minutes every day, or 5.5 hours, as opposed to 40 minutes for men. This gendered disparity is far more than the global average of 3x, at 8x.
For women, approximately 85% of domestic work time is devoted on cooking, cleaning, and child care. Women devote 29 times more time to food preparation and management, 12 times as much time to cleaning, 3 times as much time to childcare, and 2 times as much time to caring for the elderly or dependent adults.
It is also appalling how little men participate in household work. Compared to little under a third of men, nearly 92% of working-age women (15-59 years) perform daily domestic tasks for family members.
Compared to women who have never been married, are divorced, or are widowed, married women spend a significantly higher percentage of their time on unpaid household chores.
Compared to women who have never been married, married women devote 52% of their waking hours to household duties. On the other side, men who are married spend 6% of their waking hours on domestic duties, whereas men who have never been married spend 3% of their time awake.
The main cause of “time poverty,” which leaves married women with little time to pursue paid employment, is frequently the gender gap in unpaid, domestic work.
A lack of partner and family support, together with inadequate care infrastructure and services, worsens this problem and frequently cause married women to leave the profession.
Given the continuation of this unfair and skewed burden, the Bombay High Court remarks that domestic work is a woman’s responsibility—even going so far as to imply that a guy should reconsider getting married if the woman refuses to handle the housework—were bound to cause a stir.
Does Marriage Mean Free Labour from Women – The main question arises – who is the keeper of woman’s labour
With the joyful news of a marriage pouring in, a woman gets naturally into the mood of being happy with the thought coming in, of how her life is now going to change.
Different set of ideas come to the mind and dreams start flowing in, of having more freedom than you had as an unmarried girl.
At the same time, the horns of a dilemma lurk in the shadows of what the future will foretell like the lifetime of drudgery and housework as there is always an inkling of the unwritten words of being drowned in the household work.
In a 2018 study in West Bengal by scholars Samita Sen, Anindita Ghosh and their team at Jadavpur University, women who were interviewed in the South 24 Parganas area had only one criterion for who they wanted as brides for their sons: “Someone who can work”. One heard of girls who were sent back to natal homes for not being strong enough for the grind of household work and farm labour. Poor families and rural economies survive on women’s labour inside and outside the home. The study found that early marriages of adolescent girls were actually a response to the demand for female labour at home and in the fields. It validated a long-standing feminist claim: That marriage is the “mode of recruitment” for women’s domestic labour.
It is well knowing that eligible females are socialised to work in their natal homes too, but the study reveals that the burden of work rises disproportionately in marital homes.
In Rajasthan, for instance, a 2019 study by community-based organisation “Vikalp” and the “Tata Institute of Social Sciences” found that amongst girls married before the age of 18 years, more chores and harder tasks were added to their list of duties in the marital home. What was striking was that the marital family felt entitled to the labour of the girl as soon as the engagement took place, immediately staking claims over her labouring capacity.
The harder truth is that the interviewers were told that they could not stop working even when they were unwell and that they received little help from family members in the marital home.” There are no sick leaves in this job.
There are enough rumblings made to distinguish and to label women as a good wife or a bad wife. A hard working female is considered to be a good wife and a “bad wife” is invariably the one who sleeps late or takes afternoon naps, does not do housework, and is “lazy”.
There are many social rewards for being a good wife and as many punishments for being a bad wife. A participant in a 2016 study (on young women’s mental health) by Delhi-based feminist health organization Sama said, “If we sit idle even for two minutes, our mothers-in-law will ask us to work. We have to work here because we are the daughters-in-law of the house.” And “bahus” or daughters-in-law were, by definition, expected to be working non-stop. Any slacking off was attributed to their poor upbringing and became an issue of loss of honour in their natal home. A participant who had refused to pick up dung soon after her marriage said, “My father-in-law complained to my father. My father apologized to my father-in-law and told me that I had brought disgrace to the family.” She cried with the humiliation and realized she could never refuse to do anything asked of her again. The study found that such humiliation deeply affected women’s self-esteem and had serious impacts on their mental health.
Does Marriage Mean Free Labour from Women – Conclusion
The recent judgment by a Bombay High court bench has upheld this kind of disgracing of women for refusing to carry out the household work and up keep or wanting to take charge of their own labour.
Justice Vibha V Kankanwadi and Justice Rajesh S Patil quashed a domestic violence complaint from a woman who alleged (among other complaints) that she had been treated like a maid by her husband and in-laws one month into her marriage.
The bench observed, “If a married lady is asked to do household work definitely for the purpose of the family, it cannot be said that it is like a maid servant.” They added, “If she had no wish to do her household activities, then she ought to have told it either prior to the marriage so that the bridegroom can rethink about the marriage itself or if it is after marriage, then such a problem ought to have been sorted out earlier”.
Even in the eyes of the law, domestic labour is a part and parcel of the matrimonial stay and carrying out the household work as a part of the marriage.
Secondly, the hidden truth is that once you consent to marriage, you give blanket permission to a lifetime of housework — a little bit like being a bonded labourer.
As a matter of fact, marital families feel entitled to a women’s labour, and apparently the courts also feel the same way.
In America, long-standing gender disparities in the household division of labour – which have been documented – have persisted during the pandemic. The survey finds that, across a range of activities, married or cohabiting men and women in opposite-sex relationships have different perspectives on who shoulders more of the burden. A majority of women (59%) say they do more household chores than their spouse or partner, while 6% say their spouse or partner does more. Among men, a plurality (46%) say these responsibilities are shared about equally, while 20% say they do more and 34% say their spouse or partner does more.
Americans are making major strides toward gender equality. Women have surpassed men in obtaining college degrees. Women have flocked to many formerly male-dominated occupations such as law and medicine. In 2018, a record number of women candidates were elected to Congress. And high-school seniors today are more likely than their counterparts 40 years ago to say they strongly believe that women should have the same opportunities as men to succeed in school and at work. But gender equality for women still lags in another realm: their own home.
That women should take on the bulk of domestic responsibilities is still a widespread belief. Married American mothers spend almost twice as much time on housework and child care than do married fathers. Although American mothers—including those with young children—are far more likely to be working now than in past decades, they spend more time on child care today than did moms in the 1960s.
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