It was just my fifth day at my parents-in-law’s residence, when my mother-in-law came and sat with me for a conversation. It must have been the first time. She was sympathetic towards me and acknowledged that I must be missing my home and parents. That made me comfortable and made me want to listen to her.
But, she ended her conversation with me reminding that I’m no more a daughter to my parents. I must focus on the well-being of her family and son. I must learn to move on and start prioritising them. That my spouse’s siblings are more important than my siblings.
While I was taken aback by this advice, didn’t realise the depth of the issue then. I was overconfident about handling these issues. Slowly and steadily, I was trapped in these patriarchal values. Whenever I want to visit my parents, I have to negotiate with them about when I can visit them and for how long I can stay with them.
If I wanted to stay longer at my parents’ place and didn’t have the courage to talk to my mother-in-law; I would ask my spouse to help me. He conveniently chose not to be part of this process and left me to fight my own battle – just to meet my parents!
Most of the time, I would just follow their instructions without any further discussion. I felt miserable. I remember how my maternal grandfather used to do the exact same thing when he wanted his daughter to visit. He would come to our place to take permission from my paternal grandfather. A date would be decided and how many days my mother could stay at her home would also be decided.
Then again, on the decided date, he would come to take my mother and drop her. It was the rule not just for my mother, but for everyone including my grandmother. Only after my great grandmother’s permission could my grandmother visit her home and see her brother. But, I had never thought that I would also follow the same rules one day, to meet my parents after my marriage.
I feel disgusted and ridiculed when these negotiations happen. I feel suffocated. I felt less. I felt humiliated. I felt my parents dignity gets compromised by asking permission to take their daughter to her own home.
I strongly believe that this is a violation of my human rights. And this is the root cause of gender discrimination.
Gender discrimination starts even before a child is born. Parents and family members expecting a son, live an anxious life for nine months. Parents invest more in their sons than daughters. Let’s not dismiss the argument by saying, “Not all parents do it.” Our sex ratio is consistently declining.
One invests where a good return is expected. A daughter is considered ‘paraya dhan’ (literally translates to ‘estranged wealth,’ but culturally refers to daughters never really being part of their family of birth, but rather possessions to be bought over). Not only metaphorically, but we literally behave as if women in our society are objects and commodities.
Parents don’t prefer to drink water at their married daughter’s place, forget about supporting them. Daughters aren’t even considered to be able to take care of parents at their old age, though our law clearly puts the responsibility on both son and daughter. Instead, society shames the daughter and parents who break this.
The same has happened to me. When my mother passed away, and I started taking care of my father, it became an issue. For every small thing, my in-laws accused my father for no reason. They blamed him for destroying my married life.
The truth was he was struggling with depression and needed emotional support. If I can’t take a stand for my father during his bad days and if society expects me to be a loving daughter-in-law in place of that, it’s highly laughable. If I can’t be a daughter, how will I be a daughter-in-law?
I had once started a campaign called #DaughterForever to start a public dialogue on this issue. I am still struggling to convince people that it’s an issue and a big one at that. It’s one of the most important factors that creates gender discrimination and is a reason for women’s suffering. As daughters aren’t allowed to take care of their birth parents, they become liability for them.
Through my campaign, I am asking insurance companies to create appreciative commercials that show daughters can be also primary caretakers of their parents, just like their brothers. You can read more about it here.
One of my tweet threads citing reasons, statistics, and pros and cons of the issue can be read below:
#WorldElderAbuseAwarenessDay on 15th, #FathersDay on 16thJune. I don't kno if it is intentional or a coincidence. They just don't remind me my responsibility towards my 70yr old father, but make aware abt our vulnerability at many levels. #DaughterForever .@ChangeOrg_India 1/n
— Pranay Manjari (@PranayManjari) June 16, 2019
I strongly appeal to everyone to speak to their mothers, sisters and friends to find out their struggles and suffocation they go through just to meet their parents, in the initial years of their marriage . Don’t you think it’s a violation of my human rights as a daughter?
I hope someone will hear me out and acknowledge that this is a problem. A very big problem that causes gender discrimination at every level.