While Indian parents have come around to raising educated and financially independent daughters, why do they still struggle, when it comes to trusting their wards with their own decisions? Be it higher education, marriage, love or economic decisions, a lot of parents feel the need to supervise these aspects of their adult daughters’ lives. Which only makes women doubt their capabilities and thus second guess their choices for a lifetime.
Why can’t Indian parents let their daughters be accountable for themselves, financially and emotionally, and trust their judgement?
Last night, I was watching the highly recommended sitcom Kim’s Convenience on Netflix. In a particular episode in season two, Mr and Mrs Kim find some condoms under their daughter’s bed. Since their daughter, who is twenty, has moved out, and they are entertaining a house guest, they are conflicted over whether the stash of condoms belongs to their houseguest or their daughter. After going back and forth with their speculation theories, Mr and Mrs Kim finally concludes that it is better if they don’t know whether the condoms belongs to their daughter or not, and respect the privacy of both individuals under their scrutiny. It felt like a coming of age moment for the couple as parents of a grown-up daughter. And as a South Asian daughter, the denial of the parents to accept that they had an adult daughter who would be doing grown-up things and not seek their permission felt very relatable.
Policing of grown-up daughters is very common in our society. Often the act is legitimised by saying that this is in the best interest of the women themselves. From who you love, what you wear, to whether or not you should work or opt for higher studies, our parents get to have a say in all these life-altering decisions. In more conservative households these decisions are taken for women by their family members and they don’t even get to have a say. Women cannot even draw a line when it comes to their personal lives. An Indian daughter cannot even think of expressing her agency to date or have pre-marital sex as a grown woman of any age in most homes. She would rather go behind her parents’ back and do what she wants than openly date a person.
What keeps Indian parents from trusting their daughters with taking their personal decisions? Do they not realise that all the hard work that they put in educating and building up the confidence of their daughters comes undone when they refuse to show respect to their autonomy? Is a woman even independent, if she still cannot make her own decisions, and has to live on the basis of terms decided by others?
Parents need to understand that developing agency and assertiveness is a big part of a person’s growth, as an independent human being. Their inhibitions about pre-marital sex, inter-caste marriages and the cultural perception of a modern woman’s lifestyle, only further reinforce the regressive stereotype that women are weak and incapable of fending for themselves. There comes a point in every parent’s life when they must accept their daughter as an adult and promise to offer support rather than remote-control their lives. When parents truly chose to let go, that is the moment that they give their daughters a final push to attain complete independence.
The views expressed are the author’s own.