An Educated Woman Can Choose Not To Work. What's Wrong With That?

An educated woman can be a homemaker. Instead of questioning why she is unemployed, we need to ask why do we refuse to acknowledge her labour as "work"?

Vanshika nirAkula
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For Indian women, being career-oriented is often not a choice that they get to make for themselves. In the case of many working women, they must earn an income because their family demands so. Then there are women who are socially shamed for giving up a job and called lazy, for choosing to be homemakers. And why just those who quit the workforce, don't homemakers all over the country, who have never held a job, have to hear this at least once in their lifetime? The problem is, that we refuse to see the choice to not work as a valid choice.

In a recent trial hearing at the Bombay High Court, Justice Dangre said "Our society has not yet accepted that the woman of the household should contribute (financially). It is a woman's choice to work. She cannot be compelled to go to work. Just because she is a graduate, does not mean she cannot sit at home," while hearing a revision application.

Justice Dangre made the comment while hearing a plea filed by a man against paying maintenance to his former wife. According to the petitioner's side, his ex-wife was a graduate and was capable of making a living for herself, thus he felt that the family court had "unfairly" instructed him to pay out maintenance.

Yes, educated Indian women can choose not to work

One couldn't agree more with the response by Justice Dangre as it holds a mirror to the mesh of patriarchal norms which makes women's choice (or lack of it) in terms of careers so complex. Women are often denied the dignity of labour, social security, decent and timely wages, and in some cases, even the right to be called a ‘worker’. Further, the question arises are these women financially independent? In many cases, despite earning wages, these women do not get to make financial decisions for themselves and depend on men their lives to do so.

Also, women’s choice of paid work is deeply influenced by patriarchal and religious norms, restricting their mobility and decision-making ability. Their work and contribution to the economy are not valued in any visible form. Since domestic and care activities are specifically categorised as ‘woman’s work’, they are left to manage paid and unpaid work responsibilities on their own, on a daily basis. So who is to say that a woman who manages household daily isn't actually working? Isn't she actually performing unpaid labour? If her hard work is not seen as work, then whose fault is it?


Suggested Reading:Why Is Housework Considered The Essence of Being A Woman?

Our conditioning in a patriarchal society is such a way that we are never allowed to question the ways of the world. Dad goes to the office, mom stays at home! No one questions further. But do women really even have a choice to work? Or are choices just made for them? Do in-laws decide whether a woman will work after marriage or not? And what kind of work can she do? Home before 6 pm, after that cook for everyone, never miss a family function, but stop, is your work even respectable enough for us to boast about in front of others?

The argument shouldn't be about does a woman, or even a man, has the right to sit at home despite being qualified to work? Instead we need to ask why do we still refuse to acknowledge all the hard work that goes into being a homemaker and what actually deters educated women from joining the work force? Unless we ease the burden of household chores from their shoulders, or let them choose a career of their choice, and give them the power to make financial decisions for themselves, working women of India will never be truly independent.

Views expressed are the author's own.

Indian homemaker