"Ladki ghar ki izzat hoti hai" How often have you heard this line? And how often did you question its deep-seated patriarchy? Are women as frail as the idea of reputation? Do we value women as much as we value family reputation? And lastly, why don’t we let women build their own reputation rather than forcing them to assimilate into the family’s reputation?
The hypocrisy of "ladki ghar ki izzat hoti hai"
The idea of considering women as the representation of family reputation is as old as patriarchy itself. The major problem with the idea is its hypocrisy. Izzat or reputation matters to everyone. Especially when it comes to community or family honour, it is worth taking any risk. But then why don’t we value women as much as we value the family reputation? If women embody family honour, why are they oppressed and deprived of their rights within the family? If women embody the country’s honour, why aren’t they safe and empowered? Why is family honour only understood in terms of a woman’s restriction and oppression and not her empowerment?
It is very basic to think that if women embody family honour, their empowerment and happiness should further boost the family’s strength. But on the contrary, families confine their women within houses and deprive them of their rights to be educated, free and empowered. They don’t let women make the decisions for themselves or the family.
Their happiness is understood only in terms of the family’s or its male members’ happiness and satisfaction. Women’s subordination to men seems to be mandatory to preserve the family honour rather than their success and empowerment. It is only ironic that even though family honour resides in women, its preservation often comes at the cost of their life. Even today, women are brutally killed by their kins in the name of protecting the family or communities’ honour.
Family honour is measured in terms of women's bodies and not their individualities
It is important to note here that when society defines women as family honour, it refers to their bodies and taboos around them rather than their individualities. Because if it referred to their individualities, wouldn’t they get the right to uphold and carry forward the name and legacy of the family?
If women were the honour of the family, why would we ever have a concept like male-child preference or female infanticide? So by defining women as family honour, society restricts women’s individuality to their bodies and sexualities- the defilement of which is an attack on the personal and family honour.
But do women have no agency and voice that goes beyond the limitations of their bodies? Is it right to confine women’s individuality within the limitations of the body? Is it right to measure a woman’s worth in terms of the presence or absence of scars on her body? And how do we define whether a body and hence a woman’s individuality is defiled? In a society where a pre-marital kiss is seen as immoral, isn’t the concept of women’s honour and worth made too fragile?
Ghar ki izzat should be determined by its empowered men and women
If women are the family honour, it is imperative to give them the right to define its terms. We need to understand that if women are the Ghar ki izzat, then their success should be a matter of pride and oppression a matter of shame for the family. Rather than expecting women to change themselves, give up their choices and freedom to preserve the family honour, it is about time that we change the way we define Ghar ki izzat.
It is wrong to believe that a family’s reputation is upheld by empowering its men and oppressing its women. It is wrong to believe that family’s honour lies in women’s submission to male authority. And it is wrong to believe that family honour is defiled by women who defy social norms. Rather, Ghar ki izzat should depend on how empowered the men and women living in it are. It should depend on the ">feminist upbringing and discourse painting the walls of the house.
Views expressed are the author's own.