By Salwa Abdulrahman:
Meet Asma, a 26-year-old housewife from Malappuram, Kerala, who lives with her in-laws while her husband works at a construction site nearly 2000 miles away in Abu Dhabi. Like most Indian wives, Asma is expected to stay at her husband’s house, despite his absence. Although a graduate in Business Administration, she was denied a career by her mother-in-law, since “good Muslim wives never mingle with unrelated men.”
“My husband’s mother treats me like a maid,” says Asma, fighting back tears. “She won’t let me stay with my parents for more than a day, saying that she cannot manage the house by herself.” Asma is expected to cook, clean and wash everything for the entire household. Somehow, she manages to find her peace because her husband expects her to be the ‘all-enduring bahu‘, so often idolised in Malayalam movies and serials.
To a Keralite, Asma’s story may sound all-too-familiar, since a large chunk of our population is spread across west Asia, out of which very few can afford to take their family along with them overseas. But to any other rational human being, it sounds bizarre and downright derogatory. Which it is, to the core.
Think about it. To be separated from your own family after getting married is bad enough, but enduring that without having a partner by your side to share your woe is beyond one’s imagination. Sadly, our male-dominated society seldom addresses this issue.
Although many parts of Kerala boast of a matrilineal descent, women are still expected to cater to their in-laws’ wishes before their own. The situation is pretty much the same in other parts of the country. Thousands of such solo wives, whose husbands leave them to work abroad, have similar stories to tell.
To these expatriates, all I ask is, “Do you think its fair to imprison your wife in your house, knowing that she’d rather be living with her own family?” If the answer is no, do something about it. Give your wife the freedom of choice she deserves. If the answer is yes, I’m afraid you have a major male chauvinism issue. Get over it.