In India, requiring households to put women at their head may not work…

Who would you say is seen as (traditionally) ‘the custodian of food and nutritional security’ in a family? (My comments in red.)

“Numerous household expenditure surveys from a variety of contexts show that women are more likely to spend their income on food and child welfare (such as education and health care) while men spend more on personal consumption (alcohol, tobacco and other leisure) and on agricultural inputs” [Link]

So the recommendation below makes a lot of sense?

“Unnoticed among the NAC recommendations that have been accepted by the government, .. lies a radical new proposal that has the potential to re-arrange the power play in the family and in society: the ration card will be issued in the name of the adult woman in the household.

…” [ Lady of the house now head of the family ]

Why call it power play? Empowering women to feed their children is not other family members’ dis-empowerment.

“…

Under the chapter titled “Women’s Empowerment” in the Bill passed …the eldest woman in the family, not less than 18 years of age, shall be deemed to be the head of the household for the purpose of distribution of ration cards in every household, ‘priority’ as well as ‘general’, under the Bill. Additionally, according to the Bill, in case of a household that does not have an adult woman, but has female members below the age of 18, such members will become the head of the household on turning 18. Only in case of a household with no female member, will an adult male be treated as head of the family.” [ Lady of the house now head of the family ]”

Looks like harassment like this would become a thing of past?

We don’t issue ration cards to married women unless they adopt their husband’s surname after marriage. Maybe an order came about allowing it, I don’t know. If a married woman wants to keep her maiden name after marriage, we will not issue the new ration card in the usual manner. We will send her application to higher authorities and then we will proceed as they say.” [link]

But here’s somebody who doesn’t sound too happy.  He doesn’t seem to think unmarried little men and little women matter as much as married men who need to be taken care of by their spouses.

“A male resident of Kochi said, “It has to be seen how food security of husbands would be ensured if the ownership of ration cards is surrendered to women at a time when they are not keen on taking care of the needs of their husbands.” PTI  [Link]

Maybe he should follow the excellent example given below?

‘Community kitchen’ gives Bohra women freedom from cooking

“…she has stopped cooking for the family. Instead, she has started making imitation jewellery at home and added to the earnings of her husband, an autorickshaw driver.

… hundreds of women like her from the Dawoodi Bohra community have been unshackled from the hearth thanks to the ‘community kitchen’, a concept floated by their religious head Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin about four years ago in Mumbai. The community high priest promoted this idea so that women could devote time for religious activities, focus on children’s education or even start small businesses

Murtuza Fakri, who manages one of five common kitchens in the city, says a five-day training programme is held for the cooks of the community kitchen.

“Bohra families are spread over 13 different localities in the city. About half of them get food from the common kitchen,” he says. “The idea is to give nutritious food to all. The community is promoting the practice worldwide.”

The prices of tiffins vary from area to area. However, there are many people who contribute much more than their fixed sum so that some poor families get tiffins at subsidized prices.” [Read more]

K. shared a link that seemed concerned that Indian women would not want the ration cards to be issued in their names . And why. Do you agree?

“In India, requiring households to put women at their head may not work, Himanshu, an assistant professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University who goes by only one name said.

“Women are reluctant to take up such positions, because they are seen as undermining the role of men,” Mr. Himanshu said, based on his fieldwork. “It creates friction within households,” he adds. [link]”

62 thoughts on “In India, requiring households to put women at their head may not work…

  1. I think it would be a great idea, actually. After all, not only do earning female family members contribute largely to the food, health and education expenses of the family, but even a non-earning female member would first budget for food, health and education before budgeting for anything else. There is also the practical aspect of most of the grocery shopping being done by women.

    Of course there are millions of naysayers like Himanshu, who is right in saying that the current male heads will feel threatened by this new empowerment handed over to women!

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      • I think they are a wonderful idea. Although they will work best in a homogeneous religious/ social group in a country like India. Having spent the first 28 years of my life in Mumbai, I also think that they would probably work in just such a city, where time is of such importance that women spend the commute time everyday to and from work in completing essential tasks such as mending, darning, cleaning veggies for the dinner they plan to make as soon as they reach home, etc. It also helps that people in Mumbai think nothing of getting ready-made home-cooked food from elsewhere, never mind who has made it (as opposed to ready-to-eat packaged food, used mostly by bachelors and such, who cannot cook to save their life, or as a convenient quick once-in-a-while option by families, or just plain for its cool quotient- you know, even I eat the latest in XYZ noodles/ ready-to-use microwaveable pizza, etc.) Mumbai also has their fabulous dabbewala system, so the infrastructure to transport such food from community kitchens is already there.

        I also think that certain communities, who have traditionally used community kitchens- like the Sikhs with their langars- may be more receptive to such kitchens.

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  2. As far as i know married woman are not required to change their name or take the surname of their husband after marriage . Its not mandatory and even there is a law to support this . Not only this there is also law which is going to come in soon where by woman who have taken their husbands surname need not change it if they get a divorce . The court has left the decision on the woman .

    https://kractivist.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/married-women-in-maharashtra-can-keep-maiden-name-need-not-take-husbands-surname/

    There are many laws to help woman and empower them We need to be aware to them and keep a track of them

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  3. Love the community kitchen Idea. With the slighty better of paying to feed the poor, the balance it will create, the equality their children will feel should be significant. Plus the added income wil definitely help. Sheer brilliance.

    The ration card program needs a complete makeover, but I guess this first step is in the right direction. Maybe they will iron out the rest in due time. The surname argument is crap but then anything new will always have resistance. The men who complain need serious mental check ups. The mother in law – daughter in law issue shouldnt be mixed up with this. That is something that doesn’t need a reason for flaring.

    And I think it is the “Head of the Family” tag that hurts male egos. Media needs to be more careful of sensationalizing something that could do so much good.

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  4. Now on the topic of ration card / woman as head of family
    I think this is not a very good poilicy decision because some where they are limiting the role of woman to traditional kitchen / home etc . How can this be empowerment ?? http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/EXTEMPOWERMENT/0,,contentMDK:20272299~pagePK:210058~piPK:210062~theSitePK:486411~isCURL:Y,00.html
    the link should be read before calling all this as empowerment

    I FEEL ITS JUST AN LOLIPOP
    On the contrary they shoud have made equal rights to have ration card whether a man or woman from the family applies for it . The decision should be made by the family { husband and wife } or single woman { widow , divorcee , unmarried } as a matter of choice . http://indianwomanhasarrived.blogspot.in/2009/10/blog-post_11.html

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    • Rachna most of my maids wished they had more control over buying of ration – the men often spent money for alcohol. One woman waited every evening until her husband a barber reached home with daily groceries and then cooked for a family of six (four daughters and the couple). Being able to collect rations would definitely help this family – including the man, get better meals.

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      • Yes then she should be given a chance/ opportunity to have a ration card for herself and her children . If she gets a chance to decide only then she is empowered .

        Where will woman buy ration if they dont have money ???? If they still look upto their husband for money to go in the evening to buy ration then whether the card is in their name or husbands is immaterial

        What they need is a right to be able to earn and also have a legal right to apply for a separate ration card in case they need on

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        • Rachna, don’t you think where families live away from their villages, like when women work as construction workers or domestic helpers, then women will be able to survive and feed the kids better if they have ration cards in their names, even if there is domestic violence (very common) resulting in their being thrown out of their homes (frequent)??

          I know of women who went back to their violent husbands because the birth certificates (for school admissions) were with the man – I am sure ration cards hold similar powers.

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      • I AM NOT SAYING WOMAN SHOULD NOT GET RATION CARD IN THEIR NAME
        I AM MERELY SAYING THAT TO DO THIS THEY SHOULD HAVE THE CHOICE TO DECIDE IF THEY WANT IT

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        • Do you think some women may not want the ration cards in their names? I felt it would even help older and financially dependent women, to be seen as ration card holders in the family.

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  5. Community Kitchens

    One thing that i have always believed that if you like eating , you should know cooking
    Why should cooking be a job to detest . Man , Woman should both learn the art of cooking as its going to be very rewarding .
    Woman started detesting cooking because they felt that it binds them to kitchen and makes them “second class citizen ”
    Yes traditionally this is true and still it holds true if woman are given the “duty to look after the kitchen ” because she is woman .
    But to hate cooking because you are a woman according to me is not the correct attitude

    I was once working with an group which also had a guest house in the office . I had joined them as manager international trading . One fine day , within a month of my joining , my immediate boss who was incharge of the office called me and said
    ” Rachna , I think you should take up the responsibilty of guest house kitchen , you should organise for groceries and see the food time to time . I feel you can do this well because you are a woman ”

    I felt disgusted and my response was
    “Sir , make this a rotational process as we have many managers here . I am the only lady manager and I have not come here to to do house hold chores . In case its rotational , I will willing do it as a office responsibilty . Why should I DO IT BECAUSE I AM A WOMAN ”

    He was stunned for a moment and then kept mum and we moved on .

    Community Kitchens according to me is wonderful idea but its again forcing people to follow , its not empowerment at all . Its one concept that is like lunger and is in vogue in other communities as well .

    This link below is for people who are intrested to cook in jiffy but good tasty foodhttp://daalrotichaawal.blogspot.in/

    Me – //But to hate cooking because you are a woman according to me is not the correct attitude //

    Rachna, I feel most people who like to eat (not all, but most) seem to enjoy cooking too, most women and many men.
    The Community Kitchen concept is only to help women find time to earn money or to get involved in other activities.
    Those who really like to cook, could be employed by the Community Kitchens or work in related fields.
    I also feel it is okay to not like to cook, by both men and women, just like it is okay to not like to drive or use the ATM, not convenient but not wrong either.

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  6. //The idea of an official card with a lady’s photograph on it and her signature or thumb print as the household head may not be acceptable to entire communities in India//
    (Source: http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/09/are-men-useless-government-says-yes/?pagemode=print&pagewanted=print )

    Birth of a girl, daughter marrying someone of her choice, girls wearing what they want to, work in a profession of their choice etc.. also are things that are not acceptable to entire communities in India, but we can’t let it happen just because of that? So why in this matter we should maintain status quo? Change needs to be done. I welcome this move.🙂 Though I did not like the usage of words like ‘potential to re-arrange the power play in the family’ Why are they calling it power play?

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    • Why are they calling it power play?

      Because it IS power-play.

      At some level, a family, just like any small community, is all about the flow of power.

      Of course, there need not be a dominant partner, or a submissive one. Relationships can certainly be equitable, with shared responsibilities for day-to-day decisions. But that is just a specific form of power-play.

      At the end of the day, most families WILL make collective decisions, and in case of conflicts, the person with more power will prevail. Financial control provides a lot of power to veto, if not push, decisions, and therefore this idea does have “the potential to re-arrange the power play in the family”. Male-dominated as families are in this country, this can only be a positive thing.

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  7. Delurking for the first time. I have been running around trying to get my passport renewed for 2 months now. I had to give a declaration to the authorities that I wished to RETAIN my maiden name. Thought that was the end of it but this morning, 45 days later, during police clearance, I had to go thru the same crap. Why? How can you keep this name? Why wont you take his name? You have to. No, ans is still no? Ok, fine, give me a written statement to that effect if you want to keep your name! Btw, I live in an up-market area of Mumbai…

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      • well, my old passport was in my maiden name. this time when i renewed it, i was married, and hence its “compulsory” to change the name, i am told.

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      • I’ve had my maiden name for the past 18yrs, no issues with passports ect., i even have a gas connection in my name and no one asked me a thing.
        I wouldn;t have minded the name change, no great love for my biirth family but I value my certificates and marksheets and just don’t want the angst. so i prefered to retain it. I’m surprised that passport folks ar egiving you trouble.

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      • In my experience, govt agencies in Maharashtra are passionate crusaders for the name thingie.

        I know a few people who have been harrassed by the Mumbai passport office over this issue.

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    • That certainly doesn’t sound like ordinary procedure. My sister uses her maiden name, but she never had trouble getting her passport made (and this was years ago).

      To the best of my knowledge, as long as you have proof of marriage, you don’t need to provide any written statements about your name. This sounds rather like harassment to me, or at best, an oddity of the system in your particular state (although all states are supposed to have uniform procedures). I could be wrong, of course. I don’t hold an Indian passport, and the procedures may have changed since my sister’s time. In any case, I think you’d be well advised to speak to someone else within the system or perhaps call one of the national helplines. Two months is far too long a time for a simple renewal.

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  8. State sponsored centralized attempts at social engineering have almost always failed.

    The idea that the state will treat any particular person as head of the family is totally unwarranted. What if she is not a earning member of the family? Will that not cause undue issues in the family dynamics?

    As it is there are enough social complications in the Indian familial structure, why should the govt get involved in this is beyond my understanding.

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    • This country could use as much ‘social engineering’ as it can get.

      Sometimes, when society refuses to get its head out of the sand, the government has to play a role, especially in a multicultural country like India where different subcultures do not accept new ideas at the same pace.

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      • I think Government’s role must be limited to ensure passing laws on legal equality. When it steps into the territory of family hierarchy, we will face all kind of problems.

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      • @PWG: Artificially giving women a title without actually empowering them with education or options to earn a living is just that – artificial.

        Social engineering is hardly ever been successful and if it had been, a lot of posts in this blog would not have been needed to be written.

        In a country where the government cannot even protect basic right to life, access to law agencies for all women, and to expect it to magically transform the family dynamics of India by giving women a mere title of sorts is as unrealistic as one can get.

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        • Aditya law does make a difference, sex selection, dowry and honor killing started being seen and condemned as crimes only after laws were made. Sexual harassment also started being taken seriously when laws were made. Now it seems Anna Hazare said living-in is okay, prejudices against homosexuality too became easier to fight against after it was decriminalized.

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      • @IHM: The is not the same as laws against honor killings and dowry deaths. Murder was anyways not allowed by law. Sex selection is something that has actually gone up and banning it will not have any consequence (as seen in the stats over the last decade) to it as much as education about gender equality would.

        About making women the head of family…

        This is nothing to do with law but rather a crude way to enforce laws that protect gender equality.

        What if she does not want such responsibility? What stops the government from giving ration cards to all adults irrespective of gender? Why make a female adult responsible by law as the caretaker of the family? What gives the government the right to decide who takes care of the family? Is’nt the fact that women should not be obliged to take up a particular role the main grouse of anyone supporting gender equality?

        And now on the the state as an agent for social engineering…

        What if the government took this forward and started asking families to adhere to a particular cultural or religious definition of the family?

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        • Aditya I wasn’t thinking gender equality as much as more children being able to eat. I have only seen my maids go through difficulties in feeding their children and it seemed right that they would be taken more seriously, because they are the ones who do feed the families (including in laws). I also think they will get more respect in their families if they are seen as legally authorized to get cards in their names – it will mainly be old, dependent women and young mothers – like migrant labours.
          Do take a look at Sangitha’s comment also.

          And about legal equality and family ‘heads’: The male patriarch is legally the Head of the Hindu joint family.

          Parents attitudes started changing when daughters were given equal rights in parental/ancestral property. Law does make it easier for social changed to come.

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    • @IHM: Children end up being malnourished not because of the ration card are in the man’s name. It happens more so because the PDS has failed which is a governance issue more than a cultural issue.

      I think we are mixing up good laws with good governance in this case … Even though India does make pretty decent laws or interprets them quite sensibly (like the recent decriminalization of gays and anti-dowry laws) it has a hopeless record in governance on social issues.

      Anyone I know who uses ration supply has complained that they get less than their quota anyways and food quality is abysmal.

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  9. This is already happening in Pakistan. The current govt., which is very pro-women, has launched many schemes of social security for the first time, but in all of these schemes, only women can be beneficiary. The money is granted in their bank accounts only. I don’t know what has been the effect of this. However, there should be in parallel some schemes to benefit single or divorced men as well. I see way too many homeless men ( but no homeless women) but the govt. never thinks about handing out something to them. Never even heard anyone speaking to help them.

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  10. Just to clarify, there are not just ration card type schemes, there are schemes to pay the rent, pay the utility bills, medical insurances, schemes to start a small business and schemes to learn a skill, but all issued only in the name of women head of the family.🙂

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    • That’s good news B even if you disagree.

      Affirmative action is the only way that rigidly patriarchal South Asian socieites will, umm “wake up and smell the coffee”.

      Gender parity has been positively linked to things as varied as economic development, reduced crime, fertility and child mortality rates, better nutrition levels and even less ecological destruction.

      Yet, patriarchal societies like India would rather remain backward than give women a chance!

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      • I totally agree. Women having financial power will probably make their men to behave nicer. Will keep their anger and male ego under control. I have seen it happening so many times. Even among male relationships, financial power totally transforms it.

        However, you should see how some older retired men from middle classes are treated in our “patriarchal society.” That is, if they are not holding huge rental incomes and property. Once they are no longer an earning member, they are discarded as a used tissue paper. To the very least they are practically abandoned. Again, comes to financial power.

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  11. I don’t like the government meddling in my home. It should be left to the individual family to decide the primary person on the ration card. Any way, why not let everyone on a “family card” use it for getting the rations rather than decide who should be the primary holder?

    In my home my husband and I both do the cooking, some days it is me, some days it is him. It all depends on who is busy when. I wouldn’t want the government telling me to be the main cook.

    As for the an 18 year old female being considered the head of the family over an older male… really!! Consider a daughter who is a student either at home or staying in a hostel while the father / elder brother is back home! Is the girl supposed to stop her studies and come home to be the head of the family? The government has to realize that this country has all kinds of people living in it. This recommendation implies that every single man in this country is a self absorbed jerk. One size does not fit all, especially not in our country.

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    • Nisha,

      Do people who are heads of household currently rush back home to get the ration? When all kinds of people live in this country, we have to make sure the self-absorbed jerks (your words) don’t impact the health of families. The others (and there are a ton of those) were never a threat to their families and the law doesn’t need to step in. Because these people care about their families, it shouldn’t matter whose name is on the ration card!

      Exactly how does age come in here? Have you considered the scores of girls whose life choices from clothes to studies to choice of spouse are always decided by older people? We can’t assume our middle-class mores for a vast majority of our country. Plus, most middle class people rarely get the ration anymore.

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      • Sangitha,
        Ration cards are not for only one section of the society. It also has multiple uses. When recommendations are made regarding its use, I believe this should be taken into account. If a recommendation is meant for only one section, then that should be clear. We do have separate cards for those below the poverty line.

        Allowing all adults on the card the right to collect the ration would be better rather than designating one responsible person. I don’t know if the current situation allows this. If it already does, what prevents a woman who is earning her own money from using the card to buy rations? If a woman is not earning her own money, and has to get money from the male (the bad ones), would it help to have the card state she is the “head”? A drunkard who doesn’t buy the ration because he used it for his drinks is not going to give the money to the woman to buy rations either.

        What additional benefits would the “head” on the card have over the other adult members on the card? Shouldn’t we be asking for equality for all adults, especially if there are multiple family units in one joint family?

        The age came into the debate because of the statement “Additionally, according to the Bill, in case of a household that does not have an adult woman, but has female members below the age of 18, such members will become the head of the household on turning 18”. In a household which is running smoothly, this would cause turmoil and in one with a jerk of a male as the money earner, the same arguments as in the above paragraph holds. Nothing changes unless women have the capacity as well as the power.
        My arguments are not along the lines of males or elders as the superior. I do not think wisdom and responsibility comes with age or gender. My opposition is to the govenment assigning gender based roles. We have enough of it without it being made into a bill and passed into a law.

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  12. I think this is a great initiative, but somewhere, I fear that they(society, men, their families etc) will find a way to corrupt this.

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  13. There is no way i would buy into a community kitchen🙂 sorry i’m too much of a control freak to hand over my daily food choices to a group of people – however empowering it may be. I will definetly help out inthe community kitchen and give them whtever monetary help i can but we’ll cook and eat at home thank you🙂

    I’ve always had someone to cook. and from sat to sundays me and my husband cook , my sons do breakfast and we do lunch and everyone does their own dinner or share or whatever. we do go out to eat on sat , but the rest of the days i prefer food cooked in my home, even if it’s just curd rice. I don’t think cooking is a big deal. it takes me about 30 min f i have to do it all by myself, same time for my husband and kids except it takes then another 30 to clean up – messy people🙂
    I don’t think i can do the community kitchen though, my tastes, spice level, hygiene, choices, quality are way too personal.

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  14. Giving Ration card in name of females has a symbolic positive effect, nothing more than that.
    I wish the Govt will also insist on changes in all official and non official forms which now only ask for Father’s or Husband’s name and change it to Parent/spouse name.

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  15. As for women as head of household in ration card. why even have a head of household, why can’t they list everyone living in that house n dleave it at that? i don’t want to be head of household, i’m not, we both head the household , i don’t want my husband listed as head either, just list the people who live in this household and be done. what happens when you live with in-laws or parents? what makes the oldest man or women the head? that’s just stupid.

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    • It’s merely a term of convenience.

      In this context, “head of the household” is not meant in a sociological context. Rather, it refers to the person within the family to whom the benefits are to be granted, on behalf of the rest of the family.

      I agree that the term is unfortunate and needs to be changed.

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  16. Why does a family need to have a “head” to start with?! Why can’t the members take decisions jointly, considering every family members’ opinion. Maybe having a head makes things a bit simpler in very large joint families, but maybe it just creates more trouble than simplicity of matters.
    I do not see why a man, who generally/traditionally brings money to the household is seen as the head. When the woman is doing an equally important task of cooking for the family and feeding them and taking care of the next generation. It beats me why can’t they both be seen as equal partners instead of seeing one as the head and the other who follows/him her and is at the mercy of the head.

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    • But even a democratic form of decision making has someone at the head who takes the final call.. I think the head of the family should be whoever is smartest, and shouldn’t be based on gender..

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  17. Here’s what I don’t understand :–

    Insufficient nutrition during pregnancy affects men in-utero as it has been linked to cardiovascular illness and lowered immunity during adulthood.

    It is therefore in everyone’s interest that nutrition and health becomes a national priority.

    By denying women the ability to make decisions about food and nutrition, aren’t men sort of axing their own foot?

    Many men will pay a lifelong price for their mother’s malnutrition during pregnancy.

    To me, this is the strongest impetus for eliminating gender bias in nutrition, because, ultimately it harms everyone.

    The NYT article linked to this: http://www.globalhealthpolicy.net/?p=121

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    • By denying women the ability to make decisions about food and nutrition, aren’t men sort of axing their own foot?

      No, some men and women, who happen to have gained political power, are being stupid.

      As a male, I do solemnly assert that I have absolutely no desire to axe my own foot, or to deny women nutritional parity.

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      • “As a male, I do solemnly assert that I have absolutely no desire to axe my own foot, or to deny women nutritional parity.”

        PT, perhaps you are being flippant; that’s quite alright.

        In college, I visited a village in Melghat as a volunteer.

        Many women told us that they fed the men and sons first before eating themselves or feeding daughters.

        If there was no food left, they went hungry.

        Melghat has been battling malnutrition and high infant mortality for many years.

        (http://www.hindu.com/2009/07/23/stories/2009072360660900.htm).

        My comment was based on what I saw and learned during that trip.

        It is also based on Amartya Sen’s writings — http://www.flonnet.com/fl1822/18220040.htm

        From the essay:
        “…high incidence of cardiovascular diseases in South Asia strongly suggests a causal pattern that goes from the nutritional neglect of women to maternal undernourishment, from there to foetal growth retardation and underweight babies, and thence to greater incidence of cardiovascular afflictions much later in adult life.

        What begins as a neglect of the interests of women ends up causing adversities in the health and survival of all – even at an advanced age.”

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      • BIW,

        I do not disagree with you in general terms.

        In my own not-so-serious way, I was merely trying to point out that

        a) You must not class “men” under a single banner, as if they behaved as a unified entity; and, perhaps more importantly,

        b) The men who do deny women the ability to make nutritional decisions most certainly do not see it as “axing their own foot”, because it is not logical to consider the situation in this way.

        If a man could control his mother’s food choices, and still denied her proper nutrition, he would definitely be axing his own foot. In actuality of course, a man has no control over these choices. The person who CAN exert control (the man’s father) is a different individual, with a different set of experiences, values
        and ingrained behavior, and morally repulsive though it may be, he would not be harming HIMSELF if he starved his wife through her pregnancy.

        While the effect of poor nutrition on future generations is absolutely a good reason for trying to eliminate gender bias in nutrition, I think our reasons for doing so should be even more fundamental than that.

        Why should half the human race be given inferior nutrition? Even if this gender bias had no ill-effect whatsoever on progeny, I would still want it to be eliminated just as badly. Even if the bias did not harm everyone, but only women, it would have no effect on my desire to see it eradicated. What does it matter that a woman’s children may, in the future, face a higher risk of cardiovascular disease when the woman herself is literally dying for want of food right in the middle of a country which boasts of having a food surplus? Can there be any stronger impetus than saving the life of a human being, and delivering her from the horrible pangs of chronic hunger?

        I believe not.

        Let us peg our arguments on the intrinsic worth of people themselves, rather than the worth of the children they may produce, because in the end, this intrinsic worth is all that matters. It is only when women are seen as people in their own right, rather than child-bearing machines, that the gender disparities which ravage this society today can be minimized and eliminated.

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  18. It is a positive step, but family dynamics being what they are in India, I sincerely doubt that it would result in any major changes. An alcoholic husband could just as easily coerce his wife into handing over the money, as has been observed to happen under the NREGA scheme.

    Issuing cards to women instead of men may feel quite good, but I firmly believe that no amount of legislative intervention can fundamentally alter the power dynamics within a family unit.

    I think this measure would have a far greater effect if it was coupled with better awareness campaigns, as well as education, so that the targeted beneficiaries actually know their rights and are unafraid to use them. If women do not know their rights, there is simply nothing that anyone can do to protect them from coercion.

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  19. I find the comment that men’s food security will be harmed when women take charge very silly- it is as if the person is saying that women might get back at men for having treated them badly, now why would he think that way?🙂

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  20. Suppose we take our privileged, middle class selves out of the picture:

    1. Food is a major pillar for living besides being a major expense. Entrusting it to a responsible person makes sense. We can’t figure out who this person is household by household. Since alcoholism and migrant work (men working away from families) are big factors among people who need assistance in this area, making women heads of households seems to make sense for a majority.

    2. This will not change power-play between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Yes, even when there is an older man and a younger girl, it won’t really completely empower. It will however push the younger girl to do what she might not have before, making her more capable and willing, less scared to deal with this when she is a wife.

    3. They have to factor in the joint family thing, saying that a family with husband/wife over legal age can have its own ration card – not just be a part of the joint one, requiring familial power play. It will also mean more food to a family, a good thing for health.

    4. When it is clear that women take the biggest part of child rearing and maintaining the household, this ends up giving them some recognition for an unofficial post. We have to consider that this power play could also have the effect of stimulating men to get more involved in household issues, even if it might be from a ego hassle – in the beginning.

    When responsibility comes to one half of our population through official means, I find it funny that women protest. This shows us how deep social conditioning is! When a younger man can lord it over his mother who is always older, what’s the problem with a younger girl being head of household? Plus, being named on the ration card doesn’t mean physical presence. Currently, it is not like only the men named go and buy rations!

    In my opinion, a good idea that will need to be refined for stuff like joint families and other factors that show up as and when the scheme gets into effect.

    The community kitchen thing works for people when it is a healthy, tasty, convenient and affordable option. The intention to not make profit matters, I think. I don’t think it would work long term for middle class people without quality control. Even the dabba wallahs mostly carry home made food, the mess food isn’t the most healthy option on a large scale.

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