When it comes to doing household chores, in the majority of Indian households the task still falls on the womenfolks. Not just the men, but many women, in conservative households, believe that doing household chores is the duty of a daughter-in-law. Such assumptions only lead to marital discord and daily quarrels when wives "fail" to match such expectations. In one such case, the situation pushed a woman to take her own life.
Seventeen years ago, a woman from Sangli, Maharashtra committed suicide after claiming that she was repeatedly scolded by her husband and in-laws for not cooking or looking after the house properly. However, the Bombay High Court has granted relief to the deceased’s husband saying that asking a woman to cook properly or do household work does not amount to ill-treatment. Despite the acquittal, the fact remains that criticism related to household work is something most Indian women have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Will Indian husbands and families ever understand that women aren’t under any obligation or duty to do this unpaid labour?
Household chores are meant to be shared as a responsibility, and not dumped on someone because of their gender.
Of dirty linens and burnt rotis
It’s not as if the burden of household work exclusively falls on women only in rural areas. Most women who live in urban set-ups face it too. Women may have successful careers and even helps at disposal but they still find themselves to be in-charge of good housekeeping. It's not as if men don't help with tasks like washing clothes or dusting the house et al., but their contribution is still smaller and always made into a big deal.
- The Bombay High Court recently provided relief to a husband whose wife committed suicide after claiming that she was repeatedly scolded for not doing household chores properly.
- The court said that asking a woman to cook properly or do household work does not amount to ill-treatment.
- Most traditional Indian households work on an assumption that a new bride comes armed with good housekeeping skills.
You are to kiss the grounds he walks on, if the mister knows where the wastebasket is in the house. Or if he peels his dirty socks and drops them in the laundry pile instead of wherever his hands lose grip over them. On the other hand, a woman who doesn’t bother to fold the washed linen of the household or couldn’t care much about how the in-laws like the tadka on their dal deserve criticism.
She may be earning her own moolah, or be an expert in her field, but what good are those skills to them? Didn’t she know about her unpaid duties when she was welcomed in the house? Which is the root cause of all squabbles around unwashed dishes and unkempt houses in India.
In fact, almost every girl’s parents pitch her to the prospective alliances as someone who knows her way around household chores.
I am yet to meet a mother who will berate her daughter for being untidy in front of a would-be mother-in-law. Which is why most women walk into a marriage burdened with the expectations of being home goddesses. What happens when they fall short? The matrimonial family seldom lends them a helping hand. They must either learn and adapt or bear the taunts and ridicule.
It is sad that in most marriages in our country, the demarcation of duties is very clear. Household chores still remain by and large women’s headache. Men who do contribute seldom understand their wives’ lack of interest. It is as if we are lesser women if it isn’t our hobby to spend Sunday afternoons cleaning the house.
For the outlook to change and for people to stop assuming that a bride always comes armed with housekeeping skills, women need to speak up. Make your position clear before getting into an alliance. Because frankly, you only deserve a guy and a family who are willing to love you irrespective of whether your curry is flavourful, or if you know how clean a dirty collar.
Pic credits: Newswire
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.