Shaadi k baad aisa nahi chalega? As a woman, you much have often come across this statement because in our society, women are expected to undergo several changes when they get married. It is assumed that the responsibility to sustain a marriage is on the wife’s looks, behaviour, financial status, and her devotion to patni dharma.
Change after marriage? Why should women alone have to change?
But why should it be only a woman’s responsibility to comprise, adjust and change herself after marriage? Isn’t marriage a bond of equality where both the partner should be equally invested? It is high time that we change the power relations that ravages relationship and marriages. Yes, some compromises and changes after marriage are important to sustain the relationship. But change after marriage depends on choice, requirements and not on gender. Stop forcing women to undergo the following changes after marriage just because they are women:
1. Change the way you dress
A married woman in India is expected to walk with a signboard that indicates “they are taken”. Sindoor, mangalsutra, chuda, ghoonghat and other jewellery become important accessories of married women. Yes, some women personally like to undergo these changes which is perfectly fine. But why should other married women be forced to change the way they dress if they don’t want to? Why are they shamed if they don’t wear sindoor and all? Why should sindoor and mangalsutra curb the agency of women to dress and live as per their choices? Do men wear anything to look married?
2. Never expect to be respected and treated equally
A married woman is always expected to respect and conform to the demands of her in-laws and husband. But she can’t expect the same allegiance and respect for herself and her parents from her husband. She should fulfil the desires and needs of the husband but never demand the same from him. But dear society, a woman is an equal and respectable human being irrespective of her marital status. Keeping husband and in-laws happy is important but not on the cost of self-respect and agency. It is equally important for the husband too to take care of his wife and his in-laws
3. Let your in-laws and husband decide about your work life and earnings
Mainly Indian women aren’t allowed to work and earn after marriage and are expected to depend on their husbands’ earnings. But why can’t society digest the fact that an earning wife can support his husband in the family expenses? Why does society enforce all the financial burden on the man of the house?
Now let’s consider those families that allow their bahus to earn. If the family has an earning daughter-in-law, her job and earnings are never taken as seriously as her duties towards the family and house. She is never appreciated for her success but is always depreciated for not doing the housework. Moreover, when she gets her paycheck, the in-laws expect her to give all her money to them or her husband. They are not allowed to spend even a penny for their parents or else she is shamed for being selfish.
Dear society, do you expect men to both earn and wash dishes? Do you expect them to leave the job after marriage? Do you expect them to give the records of all the expenditures? And do you expect men to support their in-laws financially? No right? So stop enforcing expectations and restrictions on married women’s right to earn and take financial decisions because of their gender.
4. Break off your ties with your parents
It is very common for women, whether working or not, to leave her parents’ house and the city where they had their job after marriage. They are expected to accept her husband’s family as their own while see their parents only once or twice in a year. While the same is never expected from her husband who not only gets to stay where he has the job but also live with his parents.
Dear society, it was in older times when women were married/sold to other kingdoms as war prize or a symbol of alliance. But today, marriage is an allegiance between two people and their families based on love, equality and mutual respect. Then why should the relationship be unfair towards women and centred on the convenience of the man? Why should a woman be expected to stop caring and supporting her parents and old friends? Is only a man allowed and capable of supporting his parents after marriage?
5. Don’t raise voice against abuse
One of the biggest apprehension of a single woman about marriage is the fact that marital rape is still not a crime in our country. Marriage in India is seen as a legitimisation of any sexual relationship between a wife and a husband. Just because a woman is married, her consent for sex either ceases to matter or becomes a ‘yes’ forever. She is also expected to never raise voice or question the deeds of her husband because, as the superior one in the marriage, it is his right to expect “service” from wife and “teach her a lesson”.
But dear society, when are you going to accept the graveness of sexual harassment? When are you going to stop restricting and blaming women in order to deal with harassment? How long will women remain deprived of exercising their legal rights within or outside marriage? If a woman refuses to accept these changes, which she should, why is she a “bad woman”? Just because a woman gets married, doesn’t mean she puts her choices, ambitions and sexual agency on the back burner. It is high time that we accept this and change the way we understand marriage.
Views expressed are the author’s own.