Taking a Break..

...from the alphabet series, primarily 'cos I have something far more important to write about, and also because I can't get a word for N.

Recently, there was a news article about a new bill proposing that husbands pay wives for household chores. This got shared in my school WhatsApp group (only girls) by someone who said 'finally, we would get paid for all the back breaking work!' . This was accepted with much cheer from SAHMs and also by some working women who said that it is good for women in lower economic strata.

I, for one, found the law totally sexist, and also flawed. Any law, should be implementable. How is the beurocracy going to roll this out, and how is judiciary going to ensure adherence? In a country where majority of the working class earn their salaries in cash, implementing this is not going to be easy.

But, even if it was, I would really oppose it - it presumes that household chores are the duty of a woman. I can never see it as a step towards 'woman empowerment' as some people claim it to be. It is almost paid bonded labour right? And being a paymaster, the husband will now have even more authority over the wife ! Will it result in some form of a reverse dowry - you are literally buying a maid, right? With a law like this and with no social security net, what happens when the husband dies? When will marriage be treated as a union of two consenting adults who decide to live together so as to make each other's lives easier?

That set me thinking - what would I like to see as steps towards woman empowerment?

I would much more gladly accept a law that can somehow ensure that household chores are mutually shared. (utopian thinking, I know.) Ideally, what is needed for women empowerment is good infrastructure to take care of kids and elderly, so that women can pursue their dreams and be independent. Of course, it is also necessary to culturally empower women through education and intervention programs so that they are not guilty to dream.

At the risk of the institution of marriage breaking up, we still need far easier laws for divorce. I have seen cousins and friends struggle through the legalese and I find that ridiculous. If getting married is so easy, then breaking it up should also be easy. If kids are involved, yes, their future needs to be adequately protected. But, then again, what is the guarantee that being in a marriage protects the kids? I know of several couples who stay separate, but are not legally divorced, just 'cos they don't want to go through prolonged custody battles.

Marketplaces for women entrepreneurs, flexible work hours, leave policies that are gender neutral, skilling of women, awareness of existing laws, an effective mechanism to get quick and fast justice and finally reproductive health education (contraception, spacing of children etc) are some of the things that I feel would empower women across economic strata. What is your wish list?


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