Recognizing Emotional Abuse

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

The last post and some recent emails brought up the subject of abuse within families.  I’m glad that the email writer moved out.  She is able to analyze her situation quite rationally, which indicates that she got out in time.  Although the majority of these emails tend to come from women, men can also be victims of abuse.  One recent email from an American woman detailed how her Indian boyfriend was being emotionally blackmailed by his parents.  Many commenters advised her to stop dating him because he needed to gain control of his own life before entering into a relationship.  In my own extended family, my cousin, who I grew up with chose to not get married.  After delaying his parents’ attempts to get him married for a few years, he finally came out in the open and declared he doesn’t ever want to get married.  He is an only child and  has been subjected to emotional blackmail (such as daily threats of illness and suicide, hysteria, self-starvation) from his parents.  Five years since he announced his decision, they are still around, but I do see that he is worn down, tired, and stressed most of the time.  He was a happy, fun loving child, always following me around (I’m eight years older to him) asking me to play hide and seek with him.  It bothers me when I see him become a hollow version of himself.

Emotional abuse is a potent method of damaging someone’s psyche, especially a person’s sense of self worth and dignity.  It is potent because it often goes unrecognized.  Its incognito status allows people to inflict substantial damage on victims – as much as that through visible forms of abuse such as aggression and violence.

Socially sanctioned forms of abuse are the hardest to recognize.  In many cultures, parents have unlimited authority over their children.  Any situation where authority goes unchecked is a fertile environment for abuse.  Another culturally sanctioned form of abuse occurs with other authority figures such as teachers, boarding school staff, clerics and law enforcement officers.  This is not to say that all parents, teachers, clerics and police are abusive; but if their authority is not subject to checks and balances, there is potential for abuse, and support when it does occur.

It is important to note that in the case of parents, spouses, and intimate partners, they may not always be aware that they are turning abusive.  Although it is difficult to empathize with the abuser, he/she could also be caught up in a destructive cycle that cannot be voluntarily broken, without professional help, and distancing from the victim.

In the Indian context, parental abuse often goes unrecognized because there is an entire network of constructs, rules and operations that have been built around it.  Recognizing parental abuse threatens so many existing power structures that cultural walls have been built around it to safeguard the unquestioned authority of parents.  Accusing one’s parents of the smallest wrongs is tantamount to treason.  There is so much fear and guilt surrounding this discussion that many sons and daughters don’t dare to broach their parent’s fallibility.  Any attempt at doing so is often accompanied with tremendous guilt and self-reproach on the victim’s part.

However, problems, especially when they are deep-rooted, cannot be pretended away.  It is important for us to recognize abuse.  People are often shocked at the word ‘abuse’ when it is used in the context of their loved ones.  Ironically, it is loved ones who are the most likely to inflict abuse – their increased proximity to the victim and their sense of entitlement, and in some cases, co-dependence make intimate relationships more prone to abuse than relationships that are one step removed.

Who can inflict emotional abuse?

– Spouses/partners

– Parents on their minor children

– Parents on their adult children

– Adult children on their aging parents

– Relatives on children in the family

– Siblings

– Bullies at schools, colleges, and in cyber space

– Police on people in their custody

– Teachers and school authorities on children

– Managers on their reports

What forms does emotional abuse take?

– humiliating, excessive judging/criticizing, shaming, slandering, ridiculing, being dismissive, labeling, condescending

– controlling, taking away choices (requiring permission for going out, controlling spending, controlling routine choices like dressing, showering, eating), infantalization

– accusing (being overly suspicious, reading into every move), blaming (holding victim responsible for abuser’s problems and happiness)

– unreasonable or impossible demands

– emotional distancing, silent treatment, alienating, emotional abandonment or neglect (withholding affection, love, support, withholding communication and expecting mind reading)

– excessive codependence (treating the other person as an extension of themselves, not respecting boundaries, knowing what is best for you, being constantly needy)

– threats and intimidation (loud voice and aggressive body language meant to induce fear, direct or indirect threats to the other person, her reputation, her children, her parents, her safety)

– emotional blackmail (threats of suicide, ill-health or becoming an alcoholic), hysteria (disproportionately intense reaction to mistakes), and self-injurious behavior or threats on self-harm (cutting oneself, burning oneself)

– baiting (deliberately provoking anger through false accusations, preying upon weaknesses)

– creating no-win scenarios (asking someone to choose between two bad options – “you either starve or you apologize for something you didn’t do”, “you either cut off with your brother or cut off with me”)

Some less common forms of expression

– Symbolic suffering (setting fire to a toy or favorite object) – inflicting suffering on an inanimate object or a small animal meant as a threat or intimidation

– Engulfment – showering excessive and suffocating amounts of attention, constantly checking whereabouts, inducing guilt (when victim enjoys something) and fear, exhibiting pathological jealousy

– Stalking – either physical or via phone/email

– Gas lighting/brainwashing – omitting or twisting information to favor the abuser and make the victim doubt their own memory or understanding of events

– Recruiting – making the other person an accomplice in questionable activities

What It Feels Like

The victim often feels confused, hurt, and frightened.  (I will begin to use the female pronoun but this applies to both men and women.)  She loses confidence and begins to doubt herself.  She may doubt her own opinions and beliefs.  She may even begin to doubt facts and her own memories.  There is a sense of one’s reality slipping away.  This makes the victim feel powerless.  Most of the victim’s energy is focused on “being careful” around the abuser’s moods, trying to “read” his signals, and working hard to earn his approval.  The victim is filled with a feeling of dread; there is always the feeling that something may explode (even when things are going well).  The victim begins to blame herself when things get ugly (“if only I had been more careful, if only I got home earlier, if only I cooked his favorite meal”).  The abuser and victim go through cycles of “good” and bad phases.  During the “good” phase, the abuser regrets his actions, tries to flatter or please the victim, and makes peace.  The peace is invariably temporary and is shattered for the smallest and most unpredictable “reasons”.   Initially, the “good” phases serve the purpose of locking the victim in the destructive relationship; however in later stages, the victim begins to understand the hollowness in the kind gestures, begins to recognize the pattern to the point of being able to predict what is coming next, but is unable to break out of it.

How To Cope

There is only one way to cope with abuse.  And that is by putting physical distance between oneself (victim) and the abuser.  At first, this might mean leaving the room and refusing to engage in abusive interactions.  Eventually, moving out of the abuser’s life is necessary for survival.  Leaving requires 2 things – planning and support.  A practical plan is necessary – where will I live temporarily, how will I earn my living, etc.  The victim also needs the support of another human being – a close friend or relative who will help the victim not give in to her fears and go back to the abuser.

Even after getting away from the abuser, many victims continue to suffer the effects of abuse – they will continue to suffer from a lack of self worth, make harmful or self-destructive choices, become close to people who are another version of their previous abuser, and continue to be unhappy.  Victims need to work with a counselor and take the support of strong, reliable friends/family and work on the process of self-healing.

The abuser can recover only through psychological counseling and doing the hard work of recognizing, understanding, and modifying his own destructive behavior patterns.

Victims of abuse cannot be told or expected to “snap out of it”.  Recognizing and dealing with abuse, and supporting the victim practically and emotionally are the only ways to authentic healing.

Who would you never ask for advice?

Who would you never ask for an advice or an opinion? And why?

How would you react to being judged when you seek advice/opinion?

Would you mind if the one offering advice expects you to follow their advice?

Or if they expect you to accept their opinion as the final opinion on the subject?

So what do you look for when you do seek either advice or an opinion?

No judgment?

A discussion about how the advice-giver feels about the subject?

A discussion that helps you see (maybe with more clarity) what you feel about the issue?

A list of possibly available options?



Being allowed to disagree and make up your own mind?

Being allowed to vent without judgment?

Being supported in making up your own mind?


Objective criticism? (if any)

Who do you think is best suited to take the final decision for you? (Or for any adult) Why?

Have you ever regretted asking someone for an opinion? Why?

If you had to to say something to inspire a victim of domestic violence to walk out, what would you say?

Satyamev Jayate, Episode 3 dealt with dowry and it was overwhelming to watch Amir Khan say what so many of us are trying to say on our blogs. The fact that he’s also saying it on the saas-bahu channels makes it even more effective. I think these three episodes should become a part of Indian students’ Social Studies syllabus.

Below is a rough translation of the Rupaiya song from Satyamev Jayate, Episode 3 (Thanks for link Anil Singhal)

I wish there was a song for Indian women in abusive relationships too, a song that could motivate them to take an honest look at the chances of the abuse ending (very poor), and then to walk out and to never look back (or look back perhaps but with a clearer perspective). Not a song that makes false promises, but a song that could help victims see that they could deal with the challenges of making a better life for themselves – and how it really would not be more difficult than living with the indignity and fear of violence and verbal abuse, telling them they were only choosing a known devil over unexplored options, and how it was unfair that they had to struggle harder, but their lives and happiness were worth fighting for.  And they would never know what they could achieve unless they tried – a song maybe with some information about the cycle of abuse.

If you had to to say something to inspire a victim of domestic violence (verbal or physical) to see a life beyond getting married and staying married – what would you say? How would you say it?

There is an anonymous victim of domestic violence and marital rape reading this post. Hugs and strength to her.

And here’s the Rupaiya song for young Indian women to refuse to marry men who accept dowry. Corrections and better translation welcome.

Dear father, dear husband and friend,
And my mother, you hear me too.
I am not a burden on someone’s head,
Don’t see me as a boat stuck mid-river.
I will be my own oars, I will fight with the waves
Oh I refused to be evaluated in rupees.
How would money sell me

Yesterday I walked holding my dad’s finger
Tomorrow I will be my dad’s walking sick
Ma I am a birdling in your nest,
I will fly back home with the grain (i.e. when I have achieved my goal)

The one who has no self respect,
the one who chose wealth over me,
such a partner I don’t need
There’s no better time to say no than now.
I will walk alone, I will find my destiny.
Don’t try to evaluate my worth in rupees.
Ho ho ho

When the hearts don’t meet
Why throw wealth away for meaningless rituals?
We knit relationships in the hope of love,
Why should we tolerate greed in this bond
Is there no life apart from being married?
That too a marriage which is basically an accounts register?
I don’t need a husband like this.
This is the auspicious time to say ‘No’ to such a marriage.

I will bloom like the morning, and I will fill like the night.
I refuse to have my worth evaluated in rupees.

Listen to the original song (in Hindi) here.

More than half of young Indians believe it’s okay for a husband to beat his wife.

Domestic violence doesn’t begin with the first slap, it begins with the acceptance of the possibility that one of the partners in a relationship under some circumstances might get violent.

I have heard women say (proudly) that they ‘are not beaten by their husbands’ because they have the ‘common-sense’ to not argue with their husbands when they are angry, they wait for them to ‘cool down’ and then explain how they reached home late from work or how they forgot to add salt in the food.

Sharing an email by PT.

If you, like me, were kind of hoping that the younger generation would herald a change in gender-based power play in relationships, you might be in for disappointment.
According to a UNICEF report, 57% of Indian boys in the age-group 15-19 think it’s okay for a husband to beat his wife.

More shockingly, 53% of Indian girls in the same age-group agree!

India did fare better than countries like Nepal (where the figure is over 80% for both sexes), but overall, it’s still an abysmal situation and demonstrates our failure as a nation to instill respect for the female gender even amongst women themselves.

Is it more victim blaming? The same just-world fallacy?

Maybe girls are thinking, “Well, MY husband would never hit me, because unlike those abused women, I’m a good wife/DIL.”

That sort of thinking requires you to assume that the victim was at fault and therefore deserved it.
What a mess our society is!

And here’s a comment from the article. I have heard this elsewhere too. What do you think?

Couple of decades back wat the husband was earning was sufficient to run his family. But in todays life no matter where the survey has been made, whether rural or urban, there is need for women to support her family by working outside. This can be the main reason for lot of misunderstanding btw the couples n in laws. This eventually leads to voilence when it crosses its limit . Adding to this is inferiority or superiority complex btw the couples who earn lots of money ,modern life style of the present generation. Many a times its necessary for the couples to hv mutual understanding or a talk so that their teenage children dont get the feeling that beating is the only solution for all the problems. May be this can even help us build a healthy society.

Related posts:

Domestic Violence – Tears and Dreams “She was offering me advice on relationships. You can offer to help rescue a victim. She did not consider herself one. She is happy in her marriage.”
When Is It Okay For A Man To Beat His Wife?
Overheard at a Beauty Parlour…
How Victim Blaming confuses rapists, police and the society about when exactly does non-consensual-sex becomes a crime.

An email: My principal fear is my wife is not going to be able to love my parents as much as I do.

Let me share a comment in response to “An email. Aren’t the sons supposed to have their own family lives?” (Click to read)

How common do you think are these expectations? How common is it for Indian women to feel fortunate and empowered that they are marrying a family and not a man? In general, are women able to/allowed to choose?

I apologize to the email writer, because I have not sufficiently engaged with her problems. Just got on my own train of thoughts that I wanted to share here. This is quite possibly a separate mail, as I have no answers for her, but only going to talk about me.

//Moral of the story for all going-to -be -married ppl is never to agree to live in a joint family after marriage.//

As a ‘good’ son, who’s at the age when he should be thinking about getting married, these kind of mails/comments put the fear of God into me.

My principal fear is my wife is not going to be able to love my parents as much as I do.

That her conception of a marriage is going to be principally about ‘me and her’ and not principally about my family and hers.

I grew up in an environment where individual identities weren’t a big deal. Individuals were integral part of the families, where the sum is greater than the parts and naturally got greater precedence. There wasn’t anything to think about it at all. And this wasn’t always about women. Men choosing careers, other life-choices was always wedded to the interests of the family, even as things got more and more nuclear.

Slowly this has begun to be viewed as ‘stifling’ and it gets mixed with the debate about a women’s role in the marriage. But I think it is larger than that. It is the individual and the family.

This kind of ‘judging parents’ is just not done. They can be difficult it just does not matter. They can’t be approached with a calm weighing of pros-and-cons. In fact the terms with which relationships are being discussed here – ‘fairness’, ‘I do my bit’, really leaves me baffled. I see one commentator has done person-hour math about kitchen time!!

Anyway each to his own. Let me stay on me..

These new-fangled ideas of parents ‘letting the kids live their lives’ do not appeal to me. I just want my parents to be as they are today. Comfortable making the kind of decisions (or what would be called ‘intrusions’) they have been always been making. I don’t want them, at this age, to start withdrawing into a ‘you have your life, we have ours, we’ll meet for dinner’ mode of things. If marriage were to do that to my relationship with my parents, it would be quite disappointing.

And they are already mentally preparing to turn our relationship into one between adults who respect each other. And I know they are consciously turning into different people as this is in my best interest, going forward. I just want to be treated as always: like a kid, who can be ordered about and taken for granted – not politely asked favours. In fact I get very annoyed when they say: ‘would it be possible for you to do this?’ when the last two words would have sufficed.

I want to be someone with whom they can speak their mind to, without fear of being judged. And I hate it that they are slowly transitioning away because popular media and their social network is teaching them to ‘be mature’, ‘to stay out of your adult son’s business’ etc.

I know that seems to work for most people these days. I also know I probably skipped a generation: I much prefer the relationships my aunts had with my grandparents than my cousins (and cousins-in-law, I have no siblings) have with my aunts. It worries me that the girl I am probably going to marry, is likely to prefer the latter.

I always make career/life choices that ensure my parents are most comfortable. I don’t like associating words like duty, sacrifice etc. with this, because all of that emanate from an individualistic thinking. What I am talking about is, having really no considerable conception of oneself as an individual, in the first place. IMO, more than any attributes, it is his/her relationships that defines a person. Someone who is even conscious of placing a family’s interests above one’s ‘own’ is going to have a problem. It’s only a matter of time.

I realize, the way I have presented it is quite paternalistic as I I have not mentioned my relationship with my parents-in-law. Actually I am resolving to go all out on that. And that is not just because of reciprocity, because that is how I naturally feel about marriages and relationships.

Heck, the last few years I have been thinking about my prospective parents-in-law, whoever they are, more than about my prospective wife.

Will they be living with us? What can I do to make them comfortable with me, my parents (4 elder people, starting to live together in the autumn of their lives – one can anticipate discomforts).

Or will they not choose to live with us? Where then? With my siblings-in-law? What if they live in another city? Will my wife be ok with that? (I can’t conceive not living under the same roof as my parents, let alone in a different city). Or would we need to move to a place that works for all of us. Or will they be more ‘mature and distant’ people, than me and my parents? In which case, would a girl who grew up in that environment enjoy become the closeness of our family? Or would she call it ‘suffocating’?

And so on and so forth that it is just crazy. My question is, is it possible a girl out there is likely to be thinking about a marriage along these lines and not thinking principally about the guy she is going to marry?

And the more I read the comments here, the more I doubt the possibility of that.

Scaredy Cat

Related Posts:

Can a Veetodu Maapilai rightfully ask for the 4th coffee of the day or whatever he wants in his in-laws’ house?
The invisible family member in the saas-bahu post.
Paraya dhan and her limited rights.
Why do Nuclear Families face so much criticism?
Marrying out of caste, Divorce, and Nuclear Families are Social Problems or solutions to Social Evils?
An email from a Newly Wed Wife. “Now they don’t like me.”
A daughter in law’s legal rights in her in law’s house are the same as her husband’s rights. Whatever is his, is hers.
Indian brides told to reduce mobile phone use.
A detailed check list of conditions from modern young women of marriageable age.
So what could make even the average, selfish, money-minded Indian family welcome baby girls?
Another email. When an Indian daughter-in-law has no brothers.
Marriages are sold to Indian women in a glossy cover…?
A marriage arranged by the parents is better because they have experience.
So are the men offended?
Eleven questions the family elders ask women in unhappy marriages.
Loving husbands who devote their days and nights to maintain peace in the family.
Dying statements of vengeful women settling scores by attempting suicide.
Can’t end marriage over sari 😉
Is it possible to solve a problem without treating the cause?
Is your relationship healthy?
Dheeyaan dee maa rani, bhudhaapey bharey paani
Ruchi’s husband may not like to live in a Joint Family.
What would you not change for love?
No Jeans For Indian Daughters in Law.
Men Will Be Men 🙂
It’s not about hot hot chappaties.
My Dreams Are More Precious Than Yours?
To an Anonymous DIL

An email. Aren’t the sons supposed to have their own family lives?

Sharing an email.


I am a regular reader of your blog and I appreciate how you highlight the discrimination of girls in Indian society. But, in my experience I have seen a number of boys (and men) who are manipulated and misused more so by their own family members for selfish reasons.

They are raised and brainwashed from childhood to be faithful to their parents and be their as providers and nothing else.  The education, the extra-care they give to boys is only in this hope, and the rules set for his wife, the DIL, is just an extension of this mentality. They fear the son will stop providing them and their family (read as daughters and her family) and hence start controlling his thoughts and his life from childhood.

I do not know if this is a south-Indian mentality, but I have rarely seen any discrimination when bringing up girls, in fact they are loved and cared for a lot more than boys and it continues to a larger extent even after they are married. It is the boys who are restricted, controlled  and disciplined a lot more. The parents do not mind having N number of daughters as long as they have one son  as ‘Budhape ka sahara’.

In my in-laws family, all the discrimination you talk about is only for the Son.  My husband, the son is  just the provider whose job is to have a constant supply of funds regardless of what it is for.  It is so ‘normal’ an expectation it does not matter to them how the son provides as long as the parents, the daughter and her family are kept happy.  My husband & I have had our share of financial troubles, some which the family is aware of, but nothing has mattered to them, they talk in a supportive manner when it suits them but  their expectations from us continues at other times, this despite my in-laws being financially secure. No questions can be asked when they feel the ‘need’.

I do not understand why this is rarely talked about in our society. It is so very unfair. Aren’t the sons supposed to have their own family lives?   Doesn’t his wife and kids have the first right to his earnings? Aren’t they the first priority?
Along with this, there is always a fear in these parents that the son might care for his wife’s family similarly. Hence all the ‘jamai‘ kind of attitude is taught to the sons, my husband is manipulated and has always been kept away from getting close to my parents. I am always blamed for showing ‘extra-care & love’ to my parents instead of my in-laws.

The daughter, my sister-in-law on the other hand  rules the roost, still demands whatever she wants from her parents, and the person who has to meet these demands is their son. My husband refuses to deny that in the fear of ‘hurting’ his family.  He has been brainwashed into believing that the only reason he has to even earn is to make their lives comfortable and happy. His family does not stop reminding me & my husband how we need to save for their medical expenses in the future, and how the daughter has to be cared for, provided for and given her due share in property even after they are gone. There is no such similar caring and concern shown for their son and daughter-in-law.

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.

Why are Sons treated like ATM machines? They are expected to give away all their savings as ‘duty’  and  parents have no hesitation taking it from them,  but  when it comes to giving the son anything in any little form it is seen as a big deal? My sis-in-law has always been given anything she demands after marriage from clothes, to house hold items to jewelry to everything that she thinks is of need but even an occasional saree given to me  is always mentioned like a favor done though it was bought with my husband’s earnings!

I am very disturbed about denying me & my husband the right to property even though we are the sole-providers to this family and will be there till the end. But I have no voice in this whole matter though it is my life that will be affected. I am made to feel like ‘a not well-raised girl’ who interferes in the family affairs and  a typical daughter-in-law who prevents their daughter from getting her due share.

Sorry about the ranting, am  just frustrated to see the unfair discrimination, where the husband and I have no say in any household matters except be seen as a constant source of never diminishing funds .

I consider myself a fair, non-judgmental, co-operative person but I am disgusted and disappointed with how manipulative, self-centered this world is.

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.

another frustrated daughter-in-law married to a ‘good son’

“If one of the parties wants a divorce, it should be granted irrespective of who’s “fault” it is.”

Do the Indian laws meant to protect women’s rights actually ‘baby’ women? Do you think that women should not be able to stop a husband from divorcing them if he does not want to stay married to them? If one of the parties wants a divorce, it should be granted…?

Some points to consider.

1. Many Indian families marry their sons, with massive dowries. Either before, or soon after a child is born (specially if it is a girl child) they decide they want a new daughter in law with more dowry. This is common.

Why don’t women gladly divorce such men? Basically because Indian women are raised to see Getting Married and Staying Married as their ultimate goal in life.

They may have other reasons too.

A 28 year old woman’s daughter had some medical problems and developmental delays. She felt she was not going to be able to care for her without the father’s support. The father loved the child, but his mother felt the daughter in law was not respectful enough. The man seemed undecided, loved the child, but seemed to fear his mother too. Now if it was easy for the man to divorce her, his family would have ensured that does happen.

In many cases like this, women do not think they benefit from being divorced, and the husbands swing between loyalty to their birth  families and wanting to stay married.

In the past such people could get the son married again, no legal divorce was needed. (Who does it look like is being babied here?) This still happens, though it’s not common in middle class families.

I know of a driver whose parents forced him to marry a woman they really liked, but he left his village with a woman he liked and lives in Ghaziabad now. The legal wife takes care of the parents and has one child. She’s grateful to have a roof over her head, she has no idea that she can’t be driven out of her marital home until she signs the divorce papers.

In another case my maid from Hubli left her husband and came to live, close to her mother, in Pune when she found out that he already had a wife and a child. The husband came after some months, was furious and beat her infront of her family, (who supported him). They didn’t want her responsibility and the stigma of a separated daughter, although she was not dependent on them. No amount of convincing from many of her employers worked, she went. She doesn’t understand that her semi-forced unhappy marriage is not even legal. Are they social equals?

There are thousands of cases like this. The wives have no idea that they have any rights at all.

Why doesn’t this work as easily in middle class families anymore? What changed? The Indian middle class acknowledges that now a wife’s signature is needed for divorce before a second wife can be brought in.

Can this be seen as babying Indian women?

2. In many cases the son has been persuaded to marry the woman in the hope that she would change him into the kind of person his family wants him to be, one example, is Smartu and Sweety’s case. Taking away a woman’s right to have a say in divorce cases would be welcomed by such families. “She fails to change/improve him, divorce her, try another woman.

Question: Who is being babied here?

3. Parents also attempt to break ‘love marriages’. They often succeed, because many believe that in India a woman marries not a man but an entire family. (This applies only to women, men marry a woman (or more) not her  family.)

4. Sometimes married men want a legal divorce to marry another woman. They can’t do that until the first wife is divorced. All this is new to the  Indian society – in the past, even the middle class women did not have the power to stop a married man from marrying a second time.

5. Most Indian women, even today, are brought up to be dependent and devoted wives, quite  along the lines of Mr Responsible Father, and they are blamed and held responsible for not being able to save their marriages. Until these attitudes change, I wonder if divorce laws, where one party wanting divorce is enough for divorce to be granted, might take us back to the times when women had no control over getting married and being ‘sent back’ or being legally divorced?

What kind of laws could help women in such cases?

Laws that ensure that they can not be married and divorced without having a say in both. This is very difficult for Indian families and society to accept. Also laws that ensure they have child custody and means to raise the children (child support), and, sometimes, they should have a chance to try to ‘save their marriages’ if that is what they feel they need to do.

Financial independence is difficult to achieve so long as child care, house work, spouse’s career and elder care etc are seen as women’s jobs. Social stigma, family’s disapproval, risk of losing children’s custody (fathers are natural guardians) make it still tougher.

Can men and women stay unequal in every way, but have exact same (not equal) laws governing them?

Do divorce and marriage affect Indian men and women in the same way? How does one change how divorce impacts women?

Irresponsible girls who throw away their lives while in throes of lust for the completely wrong person…

In response to “Don’t let me down dear daughter!”, a comment expressed this opinion.

“In defense of parents – and while absolutely hating my parents for their emotional blackmail – I do see where they might come from. I have seen innumerable girls (and sadly this still applies to girls in our society) throw away their lives while in throes of lust for the completely wrong person.

These girls typically run away with the first guy who gathers enough courage to ask them out the first time. Typically this guy does not have a great value system, any sense of responsibility, any education,ambition, willingness to improve their lot in life, respect for women and so on and on. As a result, the said girl either lives her life in grief or returns to her parents home where none of guys among us will marry her anymore.
I have seen way too many examples of such irresponsible behaviour and so do not have any hopes of parents granting girls “freedom” within bounds.

As they say, it is the limitation that defines any freedom.”

I was going to delete this but further comments indicated that this was written in all seriousness.

My response:

I wonder why don’t we consider guiding these daughters instead of locking them up. That’s a more reliable ‘protection’. But is it really about protecting the girl from unhappiness? I don’t think so, because we don’t kill to protect.


Strangely, this  protection is only from falling in love (etc.) – not from violence, being burnt alive, abuse, murder or rape in their marital homes, even if this home is chosen by the parents.

Can an intelligent adult be expected to blindly trust such hypocrisy?

If the arguments given are honest and logical. If caste, community and the neighbour’s father in laws’ third cousin’s  opinion are not the reason given for rejection of a partner a daughter (so lustfully!) chooses.  Then the opinion of the elders would be considered worth taking. The parents have to earn this trust.

Sometimes girls are pushed into running away to escape forced-marriages or other problems at home. If the family accepts and supports their choices, girls won’t be forced to run away, they will see their home as their sanctuary and support system – as the place one always wants to come back to.

Assuming they do choose badly, could it be because they were not allowed to form independent opinions or choices?  While anybody can make a mistake  (including the parents) – some basic guidelines could make choosing easier for the daughters, but parents don’t want to hear of girls choosing their own partners.  They would rather kill them. One Khap supporter claimed only prostitutes choose their own partners.

When the parents arrange a marriage, do they always choose well?

Giribala said, ‘Freedom to obey’ is not ‘freedom.’ And when the obedient girl marries the person of her parents’ choice, she gets the ‘freedom to obey’ for the rest of her life!’

Freedom to obey also means, they can’t come back home.  Sometimes they must adjust till they die. Sometimes they kill themselves, sometimes they  are burnt to death, sometimes they are sixty before they realize they can’t go on. They are told their happiness depends on their luck. Does this make a daughter see the parents as her genuine well wishers?  Think about it, would you trust someone who says it’s your Destiny to live an unhappy life and your Duty to serve those who make life unlivable for you?

Social conditioning has such powers – some girls do.

Some rebel.

They can see that if they are old enough to get married then they are also old enough to choose their partners. Nobody has more right to decide who they marry than the girls themselves…

Sounds like common sense? But we tend to put custom (i.e. old habits ) over common sense.

There are some with unlimited freedom to control other citizen’s lives . It seems Gujarat  government has forgotten that these citizens are voters too.

GANDHINAGAR/SURAT: The Gujarat government has asked courts not to register marriages unless there’s parental consent in writing. (Click to read – Thanks for this link Desi Girl)

Indian family values are good for Indian daughters?

When a girl disappears…

My cleaning maid didn’t come yesterday – this morning she said she didn’t know how to tell me what happened, but knew me well enough to know I would understand. What could it be? Her chachiya-saas’s 4th daughter (father in law’s younger brother’s 4th daughter) didn’t come back from tuition the day before. The 15 year old had left with just a notebook, pencil and a little change for some snack, all the kids reached till their street together around 7 30 pm , and after that she hasn’t been seen.

The mother waited till 8 30 pm, then asked my maid to come with her to the tuition teacher’s place. Then they looked in all the parks – including she said ‘a notorious park near XYZ theater’ and her mother started getting worried then and wished the daughter had died instead of this.

I thought she would be praying for the child to be alive? No, it seems not if it is a daughter.

She started crying saying it would have been better if she had eaten poison and died.

Better for who?

I asked her if the mother feared the girl had eloped.

“…it is possible that the fault lies with our own child, but I was close to her, I know she was not like this..”

“Like what Kanta? And what fault? She is 15! Younger than my daughter, even if she did like a boy,  did she discuss this at home? Could she discuss something like a liking for a boy with anybody at home?”  By making falling in love such a crime, we put girls in terrible dangers. Like cornering them into running away (and often being sexually exploited) instead of simply going out with a boy.

“All her other daughters have never let us down, the older three have had proper arranged marriages… ”

“Did you ask everybody in the neighbourhood to help you look for her? Somebody must have seen her… if she was forced she would have dropped her notebook in the struggle?”

“We did, her mother was worried about ‘badnaami‘ (honor) but agreed to complain to the police when I convinced her.”

“Kanta if honor is so important, tell her mother such news can’t be kept a secret, now she can save the child’s life, by making a noise and all this honor-shonor is forgotten in a few years. What’s the worst that would happen? She won’t get married? At least save her life now.”

The female sub-inspector at the police station asked us to get her school certificate to prove she was 14, saying she looks older…”

This boggles me. Wasn’t this too urgent to worry about her age? Find her first and then worry about her age…? She could be dying this moment.

My maid left for the girl’s school, (opening today, she said, after summer vacations) “Maybe if some haadsaa (disaster) happened with her, she would be too ashamed to face her parents so she might have gone to a friends’ house, or maybe somebody knows where she might go...”

So if something bad were to happen to a daughter, it is possible that her family was not the safest haven for her to rush to?

I told Kanta not to work but to try and speak to as many people as  they could, get help from neighbours, teachers, class mates …and not to rule out acquaintances. 70% crimes against women are committed by someone known to the victim.

“I can’t tell them at such a time, but her father drinks and often brings home his cronies and the mother was often beaten for protesting, she used to tell him they had young daughters at home, it was not right to bring this kind of men home. Maybe somebody known to her  told her there was an emergency and took her away to some lonely place…”

She disappeared on Thursday evening, it’s Saturday morning now. No news.

So what do our children owe us?

This is a part of a longer discussion.

IHM: We Indians go out of our way to prevent marriages where a man and a woman have chosen each other… (so called, ‘Love marriages’).

Somebody-I-do-not-agree-with says

‘In India man and woman are considered sub set of family, which is in turn considered a sub set of community. Individuals who want to opt out of being such subset of subset should eschew related benefits too.

Community living is a responsibility; while it provides enormous advantages to its members through strength of relationship, it also requires the members to reciprocate, to foster the customs of the community and to strengthen it.


If these two ‘willing people’ are swayambhus, i.e., people who took birth on their own and grew up by themselves, let them do whatever they want.
But if they have been brought up by a community, they owe something to that community, they owe not to put their selfish interest above reasonable community practices.” (click for an example of one such reasonable community practice)


I have some questions here,

1. Are the members free to opt out if they eschew the related benefits?

2. Do all members benefit or only those who are in positions of power? I fear some family politics and financial status might decide who is in power.

3. Who decides if the practices are reasonable? Those who benefit from the practices, or those who must sacrifice?

I know a lot of Indians believe this. What do you think? What do the children owe to their parents?