We have one of the most violent societies with respect to women. All of us know cases of violence against women. All of us are responsible in some measure. Have we participated in any movement that targets this issue? Aren’t we violent in our own homes? Do we recognize her rights, her right to be herself, her right to choose modest way of dressing, her right to pursue education and travel to fulfil her dreams, and many more such rights? To put my case clearly let me state some of the lesser known points for consideration of the State, State’s women commission, NGOs, religious authorities who can make the difference.
Islamic law doesn’t oblige daughters-in-law to:
· Do domestic chores in husband’s family.
· Accept any dictation regarding preparation of meals, washing of clothes from either husband or mother in law or any member of husband’s family.
· Share her salary with husband or his family.
· Request permission for staying in her parent’s home from mother-in-law.
· Stay in the house of husband he shares with his parents/brothers (though it is not intended to promote nuclear families but only to protect women from violence when she demands separate house. The women are ideally enjoined to take her new home as her own and treat her mother in law as mother and all this could be realized if she didn’t feel alienated, intimidated or otherwise harassed and dictated and were treated on the principles of love and mutual respect. This point is not intended to further disrupt already fragile domestic harmony and privilege rights over duties but only to foreground innumerable cases of violation of fundamental right to life and freedom of women in our socio-economic set up which Constitution guarantees everyone. I subscribe to the view that Gandhi emphasized that there are no rights but only duties, and from duties well done, issue all rights. The husband and his mother and father don’t do their duties, assume their daughter in law is their servant expected to do domestic works etc. and how can rights for them follow. Any way it is not their legal right that their daughter in law serves them. They could win the heart of daughter- in- law so that she serves them with all her mind and heart. The daughter-in-law is not supposed to woo husband’s family into confidence if she doesn’t like this. She can. Although law may not require, ihsan warrants putting the other before the self. Domestic chores done with love constitute a joy. Mother-in-law treated as mother gives a joy that no nuclear family or individualism can give. Joint family, properly regulated, is closer to the Islamic ideal of cooperative community centric living.
Keeping in view structural violence and disparity in our system of mores, it is suggested:
1 The State should pass a bill that legislates against demanding any gift in terms of jewellery or costly cloths from girls during marriage process. Any person (husband, his parents or any family member of husband’s parent’s family) demanding or accepting (which often supposes covert or overt pressure from other’s side) any gift in terms of jewellery, clothes, cash, car) should be strongly punishable by law in the form of very heavy fine that victimized girl should be entitled to. There are innumerable cases of suicide and delay in marriages because the would-be bride is unable to arrange heavy gifts for her new family.
2 If women’s commission is unable to press for such legislations and their strict implementation it would be interpreted as complicity with essentially exploiting socio-cultural institutions. It means vast majority of women shall continue to suffer for no sins of their own and women’s commission is a mute spectator only. The commission must seek a space in State Media for discussing these problems. It is the society which is guilty for not taking notice or action against thousand and one forms of violation against women’s rights from the day they born and especially from the moment she is engaged in wedlock.
3 Women, generally speaking, are prevented from inheriting property. Various excuses are given by her kith and kin to prevent it. It must be legislated that they give written consent in the court of law while adjudicating any inheritance/land transfer case from parents to children. There must be created some protection in nikah nama or other important document.
4 Some new document be introduced for checking abuses that should be binding on every couple. Or may be existing Nikah Nama may include provisions like the following. All the parties viz., husband, wife, parents of both fill an affidavit which declares that:
§ No jewellery/cash/vehicle/costly cloths/refrigerator etc. will be or has been accepted either as a gift or in any other form from bride or her family. An oath statement to this effect should be signed.
§ No feast has been served from bride’s side for any kind of baraat accompanying bridegroom. Except simple qahwa or tea or juice nothing should be served. Islam enjoins that bride’s guardians or parents need not spend a penny on any such function and these functions are to be financed by bridegroom’s family. The parents of the girl can give her whatever they wish as dowry but then that is personal property of the bride and not of bridegroom or his family.