Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Should women have a share in their husband’s “hard-earned” income?

“Housewives may get a monthly salary from their husband!”

I was surprised to hear this and asked the person to repeat before I could absorb it. This, I feel, has been a usual reaction for this issue. However, unlike many others, it had brought a smile to my face. No, the fantasy of the “empowerment of women” had not cropped up in my mind.  For me, it meant two things. First, it recognized the labour and value of a housewife. And second and much more important, I was reminded of some women I know who had to work in order to sustain themselves and their children, for the husband was least bothered.

But I was very shocked to see the general reaction on this issue. People have been accusing this proposed law of “breaking” the family. It has been argued that this law will turn the husband-wife relationships into a contract or in a boss-servant relationship. I really don’t understand the myth of a “united”, “peaceful” family which will eventually break-down. There is much more to the relationship of ahusband and wife. Financial dependency is not the only cord. Infact, if such a law comes, the hardwork and dedication of a housewife will not be taken for granted and undervalued.

According to a feminist scholar, the fact that women stay at home and manage household allows men to go out and work. So if they are given a small remuneration for the same, then what is the harm? The general tendency is also that if she gets something extra, she will be spending it on her children and to improve the household. They are also staying at home and preserving the “tradition” and saving the alleged “breaking-up” of the institution of family. So then maybe a small amount to save the “tradition”? Though it is not clear if working women will be excluded but as they are always struggling to balance the domestic sphere and the outside, a small remuneration will really not hurt. I also know of some women who don’t get any financial help from their husbands as they are working. They are asked to manage the household entirely on their own income.

Stories about how housewives have to justify every penny that she managed to get from her husbands are not uncommon. Such a law will rescue such women.
The problem, I feel, lies not much with the word “salary” or with the proposed “contract system” or the issue of the “househusbands” but with the fact that we only consider the middle and the higher class or the privileged women. What about the women of the working class? It is not to say that there is no problem with the middle and the high class but they still have options and opportunities. But what about these women? What about the rural India? This law may grant them freedom from domestic violence, a small share of financial independence and most importantly, respect for their work and dedication. They may also get an opportunity to fulfill their dreams and passions without justifying their worth.

It is also superficial to think that the law will not have any clauses. So let’s think before we dump a proposed law. It may not be required by us but it can make a big difference for someone.

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