#Opinion

Paraya Dhan Forever: Why Can’t A Married Daughters Take Care Of Her Parents?

parents treating daughters as strangers, Married Daughters, Women and marriage, My Feminist Hero
It’s a double whammy for girls in India. They are ‘paraya dhan’ since the day they are born! Someone to be brought up and trained to manage their future husband’s home. And once they are married, they remain an outsider in their marital home as well till the end. It’s like the women in this country are the ‘nowhere’ people. And that hurts.

I thought the term ‘paraya dhan’ was used by less educated families in rural India. But little did I realise that as soon as I got married even though I was never called ‘paraya dhan’ I will become an outsider. First, I was treated as a guest when I arrived with my husband.

The next shock was when I was left out of decisions. Earlier my suggestions were taken seriously for the minutest of decisions, now after getting married nobody felt any need to involve me in any critical family decisions. I was an outsider now in my own family.

But unfortunately, as fate would have it my parents passed away very early and as my brothers are younger than me and soon settled abroad in their careers it was me and my sisters who took care of our parents’ belongings and property.

Why is it considered shameful if parents live with their Married Daughters?

I have two friends, both are the only child of their parents. Till their parents were active and working all was well, but when they entered old age things changed. One of the friends decided to move her parents into an apartment right next to hers in the city she was staying. While in the case of the other friend only her mother was alive. Her mother preferred to live alone in another city and not move in with her daughter or even move to the same city where her daughter now lived. The friend whose parents’ agreed to move was at peace but the other one stressed and worried for her mother all the time. The lockdown was the worst period for her.

feminist dads, daughters empowered beings

A still from the film Piku.

Why is it a huge sin if parents agree to a daughter’s caregiving?

Now that the daughters’ unmarried or married are given equal share in their parents’ property then it also becomes the duty of the daughters to care for their parents in their old age when they need support. 

Banking on the son 

If there are sons then it’s automatically assumed it’s the duty of the son/sons to look after the welfare of their parents when they are old or incapacitated. The married daughter is not to be involved. She becomes an outsider and none of this is her fault.

In another case of a close relative, their son was posted far away from his hometown. His father, unfortunately, went into a coma after a fall. After hospitalisation, he was brought home and one of the rooms was turned into a hospital room and a 24X7 nurse was kept. His sister lived in the same city so he depended on her to monitor their father’s condition and keep a watch over their father’s condition when he was away.

However, soon his brother-in-law declared that it’s not the responsibility of the daughter (his wife) to take care of her father since he also has a son. The son had to then ask his wife (who had just given birth to their daughter, she had to, even though being a new mom she was facing her own challenges) to move to his hometown and take charge.


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However, the courts say yes she is family

The Bombay High Court in a landmark judgment, by the bench of A.S. Oka and A.S. Chandurkar, held that married daughters continue to be part of their parents’ family and any rule which discriminates against married women is violating Articles 14, 15 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. They were hearing a case where the petitioner had appealed against the rejection of her claim to the kerosene retail licence held by her deceased mother, by the Minister of Food and Civil Supplies on the ground that as a married daughter, she could not be considered a part of her mother’s family.

Under the State Government Rules/Circulars, a “family” included the husband, wife, major son, major unmarried daughter, daughter-in-law, dependent parents, legal heir and adopted son. A divorced daughter or widow could be considered part of the family, but any licence granted would be revoked if she remarried. After listening to both sides of the argument, the Court came to the conclusion that the exclusion of a married daughter did not appear to be based on any logic or other justifiable criteria. The marriage of a daughter who is otherwise a legal representative of a licence holder cannot be held to her disadvantage in the matter of seeking transfer of licence in her name on the death of the licence holder. The Court struck down the discriminatory rules 22.12.1997, 16.8.2001, 10.12.2003 and 20.2.2004 to the extent that they excluded a married daughter from being considered a member of the “family”.

In another important judgment, a full bench of the Uttarakhand High Court held that non-inclusion of “a married daughter” in the definition of a “family”, and denying her the opportunity of being considered for compassionate appointment, even though she was dependent on the Government servant at the time of his death, is gender discrimination.

Daughters’ rights in Hindu Succession Act, 2005

Earlier, once a daughter was married, she ceased to be part of her father’s Hindu Undivided Family (HUF). Many saw this as curtailing women’s right to property. But on September 9, 2005, the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, which governs the devolution of property among Hindus, as amended. According to Hindu Succession Amendment Act, 2005, every daughter, whether married or unmarried, is considered a member of her father’s HUF and can even be appointed as ‘Karta’ (who manages) his HUF property. The amendment now grants daughters the same rights, duties, liabilities and disabilities that were earlier limited to sons.

Don’t you think it’s time that society too considers daughters as support systems for their parents? If equal opportunities are given to daughters in education and if as a result, they are economically independent then why can’t they be caregivers whether married or not?

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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