Married daughters having sufficient means, are under an obligation to maintain their parents: Bombay High Court

A gender neutral law that requires all children to ‘maintain’ the parents would be accepted, even welcomed by many today. It could change the way Indian parents (and society) love, view and raise their children.

The primary reason for male child preference in Indian families is that only a male child is viewed as budhape ka sahara (provider of elder care), a duty that he is expected to perform by providing an obedient and/or dependent daughter in law as a caregiver for his parents.

The daughter in law may or may not be earning (or allowed to earn), whatever she earns or owns is generally not in her control; in traditional patriarchal families everything that is hers – her time, money, energy, children, name, social life, sleep, what she eats or wears etc may be controlled by her spouse and in laws. Then how is a married daughter expected to provide elder care to her parents? With permission and gratitude?

Story of a daughter trying to take care of her parents : An anonymous email. [link]

This would change only if parents of Indian daughters stop seeing their daughters as future daughters in law. A gender neutral law can enable and accelerate such a change.

Today there are many Indian families, where there are no male children. The daughters in many such families are raised, at the very least, as equals amongst some more equals – or equals who must compromise because there is no option, or even as budhape ka sahara. So, it is becoming – very slowly – the progressive, generous and the right thing for in laws to permit the daughter in law to support her parents. It’s often done unhappily, because it is difficult to give up unearned entitlements. Some parents in law  might feel victimised and resentful, like in this case: “My parents are not allowed to visit me at my place. None of my relatives are welcome either.- An anonymous email.”

I think this is just the time for such a gender neutral law. It would also be a step towards putting an end to the legal system treating girl children (and women) as liabilities and paraya dhan for the parents and the society to protect (etc).

Normally one would say, that justice and fair laws need not wait for society’s acceptance – in this case the social changes seem to be waiting for a legal stamp of approval. The law would simply smoothen the path of the much needed changes that are sure to follow.

Married Daughters Are Obligated to Maintain Their Parents: Bombay High Court

“It was contended that the married daughter is not liable to maintain her parents since after marriage she has gone to live in her matrimonial house in the other family i.e. of her husband. Married daughter has an obligation towards her matrimonial house, husband, father-in-law and her children and therefore she cannot be held liable to maintain her parents. Further contended that, it is the choice of the parents to seek remedy against one of the children and, in the instant case, the parents had filed the application only against their eldest son.

High Court rejecting the aforementioned contention held that, “in the instant case, married daughter proved to have been working as a Software Engineer in USA and having sufficient means, is under an obligation to maintain her parents.” []”

But what if the married daughter has no income of her own? Would she still be obligated to maintain her parents?

If yes, then this would convey that whatever a married couple earns during the period they were married is being considered Joint Matrimonial Property.

This would also convey that marriage need not make an Indian woman dependent and hence incapable of being a budhape ka sahara to her parents.

But what if only those married daughters who are working earning are obligated to maintain their parents? What does this signify?

That they do not have an equal share in what the couple is making during the period they are married? That they remain dependents unless they are earning? No equal rights in Marital property?

Then why mustn’t earning be a top priority for a married Indian daughter?

If marriage and parenthood makes some Indian children (daughters) less capable of working earning and providing maintenance for their parents – why wouldn’t the parents (in need of elder care) prefer single daughters, earning daughters or male children?

Only when raising ideal daughters in law is not their goal, would Indian parents be able enjoy having and bringing up girl children.

Related Posts:

How can the society ensure that marriage (and homemaking) does not result in women becoming financially dependent on their husbands?

A married woman does not have the freedom to spend on her parents and will have to request and hope for her husband’s permission to do so.

Married Daughters Are Obligated to Maintain Their Parents: Bombay High Court

Some basic questions on joint family finances and daughters in law.

So why don’t Indian women fight for their own ancestral property rights?

Should women be given a share in residential property of the husband, including inherited and inheritable property?

Haryana panchayat cuts off married girls from parents’ property

Should couples’ assets be treated as joint property?

An email from a Mother in law’

Reply from the Indian mother in law.

When a newly married Indian woman gives up her career, what else does she give up?

Cabinet clears bill: Equal rights in Marital property, Easier divorce.

So why don’t Indian women fight for their own ancestral property rights?

“A Delhi court has refused alimony and advised the wife to find a job. Now that’s Equality.”

“I am tempted to ask- does she mean girls who have no brothers should send money to their parents as well?”


4 thoughts on “Married daughters having sufficient means, are under an obligation to maintain their parents: Bombay High Court

  1. Great ruling towards gender equality. If sons and daughters were held equally liable for their parent’s care there would be less female-infanticide and the girl’s status as a secondary citizen will change.


  2. Somehow, I have always heard that education correlates with women’s empowerment. In India though, I am not sure how far this is true. Even educated women have so little capability to make any decision for themselves. When they try to do so, they are branded as home-breakers and over independent and destroying Indian society. It would be interesting to understand how education correlates to financial independence, and especially at different age ranges. Include the differential between ‘earning’ and ‘financial decision making’ in financial independence, and it would be interesting to look at data for young Indian males as well.
    I think it would be best if we could have some kind of social security system. It would take away the pressure from both male and female children to view their parents as an obligation and for parents to treat children as an investment. It would help people who do not have children, or whose children are unable or unwilling to look after them.
    Given how few Indians pay income taxes, however….


  3. I think about this often, because my husband had no savings when we married — he became the primary breadwinner when he was twenty five, but would hand over his salary to his parents, who never saved or invested, because they had a “budhape ka sahara”.

    As a result, our married life is frought with money problems. My husband is fifty, but has less money saved than I do, despite all the years I have worked part-time.

    My in-laws felt entitled to their son’s earnings, but never thought about what the son and his wife would do to provide for THEIR own retirement.

    As is usually the case, my parents gifted us some money when we wanted to buy a house, but my mother-in-law is totally oblivious to our monthly struggles to pay the home loan EMI, AND save for our own retirement.

    It amazes me that she is not bothered about our money problems, even though she is entirely financially dependent on us, whereas my father, feels a need to help.

    Our cultural norms are screwed up, because they encourage the parents of sons to behave pretty much like extortionists, while the parents of daughters feel a disproportionate sense of guilt and responsibility for the couple’s financial well-being.

    In India, sons are just retirement plans, and many parents like my mother-in-law, have absolutely no empathy or concern for the son’s financial problems, caused in part by their own irresponsibility.


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