Sujay (name changed) is 28 and he is separated from Renu, his 25 year old wife. He earns Rupees one lakh a month as software Engineer and his estranged wife earns Rs.20000/- a month as a bank employee. However, when his wife moved to court demanding a monthly maintenance of Rs.25000/-, in spite of all the counseling of the court mediators, Sujay refused to pay even a single penny to her.
Though many traditional minded people think that it is a husband’s duty to maintain his wife, men like Sujay are completely clear about this issue as he says, “In a world, where feminists preach gender equality, men and women should work and earn for their living and pay for their respective lifestyle. It is patriarchal, if a man is expected to maintain and provide for his separated wife and her lifestyle.”
So, should patriarchy dictate the decisions of family courts or should the principles of gender equality be applied in these cases? It is out right anti-feminist, if men are expected to follow traditional masculine role of provider for young women, who can work and earn a living.
“Maintenance is the money that a man is expected to pay to his young estranged wife, who does absolutely nothing for him. If a 25 year old separated woman deserves to get maintenance from her husband, then one has to wonder, who pays maintenance to a 25 year old unmarried woman? If a young woman can’t survive without a monthly bank cheque from her separated husband, then how are all the unmarried young women surviving in India?” Says Rajesh Vakharia, President of SIFF.
According to him, “Giving maintenance to a wife is patriarchy of highest kind.”
“What is the contribution of a woman to man in a marriage of 6 months that a man has to post a cheque of Rupees twenty thousand every month to her? What kind of gender equality is this?” He asks.
“Patriarchy defines rigid traditional gender roles for men and women. Today, there are growing attempts to free men and women from these traditional gender roles. Even school text books teach kids about how our preconceived notions about gender constrain ourselves. It is just a matter of time these patriarchal expectations on men as providers will go.” Says Virag Dhulia of Confidare, which focuses on research on men’s issues and runs men’s community centers at Delhi and Bangalore.
“Often, we hear many eminent personalities and celebrities blaming men for not adapting to the changing gender roles and being stuck to 16th century mindsets. The pertinent question is, do men really resist evolving or are they being deliberately tied down to patriarchal roles even as women are being liberated?” He asked.
It is extremely unfortunate that on one hand excellent views on gender equality are preached by feminists like Actor Aamir Khan and Kamla Bhasin, while on the other hand our society puts in place more and more restrictions on men to keep them inside the patriarchal fold.
It seems as if it is only women, who need to be freed from patriarchy, while men have to be both modern and patriarchal at the same time. It’s like blaming men for having 16th century mindset and then forcing 16th century social expectations on them.
In-laws have to pay maintenance to young women:
In fact, the height of absurdity here is that, just recently the Law Commission of India gave a proposal to Law Minister Sadananda Gowda to amend the Hindu Marriage Act to make the in-laws of women to pay monthly maintenance, if her husband has passed away or is disabled. So, the courts and law commissions believe that it is not only a man’s traditional duty to provide for his young wife, but also it is the duty of old parents of a man to financially provide for the young woman of 25 years of age.
“Either the Indian society moves towards a non-patriarchal gender equal society or it remains inside traditional patriarchal fold. It is absurd to keep pulling it in both directions and then keep blaming men, when deep rooted patriarchy does not go away.” Says Anil Kumar, founding member of SIFF.
“If a young man can work and earn his livelihood, then a young woman can also work to earn her life style. This has to be the first principle for all the family courts, instead of reinforcing patriarchal belief that a 25 year old woman becomes destitute unless her husband provides for her.” He says.
“Family Courts in most western countries have done away with the concept of maintenance to women. It’s high time, Indian Government and Courts stop practicing traditional patriarchal principles and instead tell the women to work and earn their life style.” he says.
Child Support is different from maintenance:
Here, Let’s not confuse child support payments with maintenance or alimony to women. If there is a child born out of wedlock or a live-in relationship, then it is duty of both the biological parents to take care of the child and share the child rearing expenses and parenting equally. Even here, though modern men are expected to change diapers and nurture the child, but the same men are often told to become patriarchal and forget the child during a divorce, claiming that only women can nurture the child and men cannot.
Most separated men are not allowed to see their kids for months and even years. Family courts most often ignore the pleas of these young men. While women often demand hefty child support payments from fathers, but they rarely allow fathers and in-laws to meet and spend time with the child. Most often these fathers are even restrained from visiting the child in the school.