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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

To Sons and Daughters

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Male-female inequality in Indian society is not up for debate. Within framework of marriage, rituals of dowry, forced marriage, and child marriage largely work to detriment to Indian women. These were some of the thoughts I was contemplating on when listening to this melancholic song (charkha chalati maa) from movie Pinjar. In one of the stanza heroine addressing to her mother says something like “to sons you give palaces and residences (inheritance) and to daughters you give banishment from home”. Heroine rues unequal treatment of man and woman in institution of marriage and laments inherent discrimination in the practice.

At this point my mother made an insightful comment, which is this post about. She is product of same society and is very traditional in many ways. Yet, she is also open to new ideas and is a regular participants in debates with me on my new world feminist views. I find her views particularly interesting because as experienced educated open minded women she have access to both sides of debate, knows the practicality of issue and is not bound by extremism of modern feminism.

She said that it’s true that sons get inheritance and daughters get separation, but sons also get any debt too. In Indian context, it is very possible that father passes negative net wealth and it’s sons who bear the burden of clearing the debt, and not daughters. In, now illegal but still prevalent practice of forced labour tied to high interest loan some ancestor in family took long ago (Bandhua Majdoori), it’s the sons who work to payoff paternal debt. So daughters don’t get inheritance but they don’t get debts too. They lose upside but downside too. It does sound something simple but it is profound too because nowhere have I come across this angle of discrimination, not in any of internet debates, not in blogs, or not in my mind itself.
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