Why Should A Woman Need Permission To Visit Her Parents After Marriage?

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Recently, a man filed for divorce on the grounds that his wife ‘deserted’ him by visiting her parental house frequently and for long durations without his consent. Family Court of Bareilly had sanctioned the appeal for divorce but the wife moved Allahabad High Court to contest the judgement. Now, the Allahabad HC has inferred that a woman visiting her parental house frequently without any consent from her husband is not desertion or cruelty.

The judgement compels us to raise many questions about the rights of a married woman in India. Does a woman have the freedom to exercise her right to live the way she wants after marriage? Can she make the freedom to make decisions for herself and her family? Why should she be dependent on her husband’s consent or permission to meet her parents or do anything for that matter? Why must a woman give up control and agency over her life after marriage?

Women are discouraged from frequently visiting their parents once they are married. But why?

It is believed that once a woman gets married, she has to devote herself to her marital family. She not only has to embrace the marital family as her own but also prioritise its needs before her parental family. Once married, most Indian women are rarely encouraged to take care of their parents and be in touch with them during happy or difficult moments. Both marital and parental families shame women who visit their parents frequently and accuse them of shaking off their responsibilities towards their marital home.

Meeting parents after marriage: Every woman’s right

Marriage in our society is just a trading business in which women are reduced to tan and dhan. Tan that performs housework and gives birth to ghar ka chirag for her matrimonial. And dhan that is offered to her new family to ensure that she is taken care of and not discarded or mistreated.

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A representative image from the film Thappad.

Most Indian families believe that if they have welcomed a bahu, they have the right to control her life. What she wears, what she eats, what she earns- it all needs to be dictated by the family she represents in the outside world. And when bahus do anything that is against the policies of the family or that doesn’t involve its permission, they are criticised for being unsanskari.

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On the other hand, women cannot even look up to their parents for support because they too are bound by the patriarchal definition of marriage. Often, when women visit their parental homes, parents nudge them to leave before the neighbours and relatives start weaving rumours. Why is she staying with her parents for so long? Does she not respect her in-laws? Is there any problem with her marital life? Such questions scare the parents who equate a daughter’s reputation with their marital status. Moreover, since daughters are seen as paraya dhan of their parents, parents feel helpless when it comes to supporting their married daughters or interfering in their marital lives.

What gives the marital families the right to decide what their bahus should do? Does marriage mean caging women so that they have to seek permission to even breathe freely?

It is high time we get rid of the idea of paraya dhan, the elephant in the room. A woman doesn’t cease to be a daughter after marriage. She is as much a bahu or a wife as she is a daughter. It is her right to equally support and love her marital and parental family. It is just not fair to assume that only sons will get to stay with and take care of their parents after marriage. Daughters too have the right to prioritise their parents, despite their marital status. Stop making marriage a reason to distance them from their basic rights.

Views expressed are the author’s own.