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.
“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.” [https://indianlawyersforum.com/news/?show=171]”
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?