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It's High Time We Stop Downplaying Married Women As Unfit For Employment

In an era when women are claiming their freedom to make life choices, why are we still stuck at enforcing marriage as an all-consuming factor in a woman's life? Let's make earning money, fame and happiness a part of a woman's duties too. 

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Rudrani Gupta
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Marriage is considered to be the ultimate purpose of a woman's life. It is assumed that a woman is born to get married, take care of her husband's family and take the generation forward. Women are not raised to believe that there is a life before and after marriage. They are never taught that they have the right to retain their individuality even after getting married. Rather, individuality is blurred or hidden by the sacrificial services that women are supposed to perform. But aren't we done with this stereotype? In an era when women are claiming their freedom to make life choices, why are we still stuck enforcing marriage as an all-consuming factor in a woman's life?

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The Supreme Court recently gave its verdict in a case in which a permanent commissioned officer from Military Nursing Services was released from her duties after she got married. Lt Selina John was sacked from her duties just because she got married. After that, for 26 years, she fought a legal battle to oppose the patriarchal convention.

Why Lt John is not alone in her struggle?

Lt John is not alone in her fight. Many women in our society face the same discrimination. Even today, the companies conducting interviews want women who are single or have no marriage plans in the offing. The question about a female candidate's marital status is enough to say that companies do not consider married women fit for employment. They assume that married women have to prioritise household responsibilities and hence won't have the space for work-based responsibilities. 

Moreover, single women are always advised by their families that they should choose a career path that won't affect their marital life. Women are expected to do jobs that are 'comfortable' and less demanding so that they can spend more of their time taking care of the marital family. 

Lt Selina John was fired years ago. But what has changed since then? Have women gained the right to prioritise career over family? Can every woman say without any hesitation that they can spend their day at work without worrying about the family or having any guilt? 

How can the Center have a patriarchal approach?

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Lt John saw a ray of hope when an Armed Forces Tribunal passed an order for her reinstatement. But the hope was short-lived as the Center filed a petition at the Supreme Court opposing the order.

Isn't it heartbreaking that the Center which leads the country has such a discriminatory attitude towards women? If the Center is opposed to women working after getting married, what can we expect from people around us? 

Supreme Court's decision

However, Lt John finally got justice when the Supreme Court supported her cause and ordered the center to pay 60 lakhs to Lt John as a one-time settlement. The court said that any law that makes a woman's marriage or domestic involvement a reason for her disentitlement is unconstitutional.

“Acceptance of such a patriarchal rule undermines human dignity and right to nondiscrimination,” the court said. It also said that terminating a woman's employment after she gets married "is a coarse case of gender discrimination and inequality."  

But isn't it strange that women need the apex court's order to be able to work after marriage? Isn't employment a basic human right? And how many women can go from one court to another to win back their basic rights? Isn't it time that we normalise women having a full-fledged career even after marriage? 

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Marriage is an essential part of life. But it is just a part of life. It is not the life itself. So stop opposing or shaming women who spend time and effort building their careers even after getting married. Let's make earning money, fame and happiness a part of a woman's duties too. 

Views expressed are the author's own. 

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