If they are so concerned about a roof over their heads, instead of eyeing their husbands’ ancestral property, why don’t Indian daughters in law make their own homes ?
A huge majority of married Indian women live with their in laws in their ancestral homes – in Patriarchal Joint Families.
Patriarchal laws allow Indian parents to disinherit their daughters, keep them in dependance, marry them into joint families where the dependence continues and where they have no financial (and many other) rights.
We also have laws that leave divorced women (and their children) homeless and with generally no alimony, maintenance or child support – because please note, our society, family values and culture does not approve of divorced women, they were supposed to Get Married and Stay Married or Die Trying.
Moving away from the Joint Family is condemned by the society, resisted by the husband and frequently disapproved by the woman’s own parents. Women (or couples) who do that are condemned as home-breakers.
These emails were written and published much before IrBM Bill – Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage [link] was ever heard of. The email writers are not wondering why it is not wrong for them to be thrown out of their homes, they just are just fighting to be allowed to make their own homes.
1. From a daughter in law: ‘My in-laws emotionally blackmailed us against acquiring anything on our own, and I now realize it is because they feared the son will move separate and not be there during their last days.’
“My husband has been there for them financially for over two decades, denying himself of acquiring any property of his own, always considering his family house as his own, his family’s needs as the major priority and now there is talks of giving away part of the little property to the daughter because it is her ‘right by law’. My in-laws emotionally blackmailed us against acquiring anything on our own, and I now realize it is because they feared the son will move separate and not be there during their last days.
Am I wrong in thinking like this? Should I just keep quiet as a ‘good’ Daughter-in-law’? Even my parents advise me to just let it go and do my duty, but I am very worried about my own future, this role of ours as providers is unappreciated and seems never ending . My husband loves me and assures me that things will be alright, but I am hating the entire helpless situation I am in.”
2. From a son: ‘I can move out today if I want (though the house is big), but my mother wants me to stay’
“…my wife often rakes up property issues, or rues the expenses on my father’s ill-health, comparing the gifts that I give to my sisters on rakhi. I can move out today if I want (though the house is big), but my mother wants me to stay on since she feels helpless alone.”
3. An email from a mother in law who is hurt because her daughter in law is trying to decide what she does with a part of her own earnings. Please note she is handing over the rest to her in laws. This is not an uncommon scenario.
We are very happy family and consider my son’s wife as our own daughter and we have told on her arrival at our home. We believe that she also considers us as her parents. Two days back my DIL received her first salary (INR 30K) after the marriage. She informed my son that we should open joint bank account so I can transfer the salary… Actually we own big 2BHK flat in prime location of the Mumbai city with all amenities and that too very near to her office. Also they are getting full privacy and already been given separate bedroom with attached toilet, TV, AC etc. etc
4. Some Indian parents of sons prefer
working earning daughters in law to dowry. Why? Because it is understood that whatever a daughter in law earns belongs to the in laws. But the working daughters in law and their parens do not wonder if her earnings get her financial security. It’s enough for them if she has her in laws’ approval.
Her father had promised her in laws that that he would “arrange” for her job using his “connections in the ministry” which has not happened till date (5 years).
How does one change this?
It can’t be easy, because an Indian paraya dhan‘s spouse’s parents feel entitled to her earnings, her dowry and sometimes even her inheritance. They get away with this because Getting and Staying married is seen as the only goal in an Indian woman’s life. The only way to change this is make sure every woman sees financial self reliance and not marriage as her biggest goal in life.
And self reliance also involves claiming her share from her brothers, and if married, from the husband. Threats or fear of divorce should not result in giving up self reliance.
Desi Daaru’s suggestions:
I don’t want the man I marry to have a stake in my parent’s property, so i can see why men would be wary of this law.
Here’s are examples, however, of laws I would like to see-
-Laws that make it difficult for in-laws to insist that they control all their DIL’s earnings. (not sure if it’s possible, but one can dream)
-Laws that help couples to create ‘joint marital property’ even if they are staying in a joint family (?tax-breaks)
-Laws that remove the tax-benefit status enjoyed by HIndu Undivided Families
-Laws that make it easier for women to claim their birth families ancestral property without necessarily getting dragged through the slow legal system- In other words, an equal division must be default, and in cases where it does not happen, the party that benefits should be hauled up before the courts to clearly explain why the daughtesr and sons are being treated unequally.
What do you think?
A Desi girl’s guide to relationship survival: Her Marital Home: His Inherited Property
By the way, how do you think does patriarchy react to women claiming their inheritance from their parents? Next post.