Recently, the Indian government has been trying to push through several laws on marriage and divorce, especially the latter. Most of them are geared towards improving the pretty dismal condition of women who don’t receive their due share and who are often financially stranded when a marriage breaks up. Any civilized person would be in favor of adopting a system where no one has to suffer unfairly during this time.
I have a problem though with the approach the government is using. Provisions like providing the woman with a blanket 50% of a husband’s movable and immovable assets including those obtained via inheritance and without the woman having to do the same are highly unfair and discriminatory. Other suggested laws include paying a woman a salary as compensation for housework.
The biggest issue (and most insulting) is that it sets the role of men and women in a marriage in stone. Marriage has always been a personal arrangement between two individuals. Two people choosing to live together. There is nothing in the law of marriage or divorce itself that specifies what role the man plays and what role the woman plays. The law doesn’t say that all men should work and all women should be homemakers. The law doesn’t say that men are always financially better off than women. The law doesn’t say that all women are oppressed and need the state to take care of them.
It would be shocking in fact if the government were to redefine marriage to “A state of living where the man oppresses the woman and strips her of all financial support when he leaves. He has all the power and all the assets.”
And yet, this is precisely what is being done now. By creating laws applying to everyone, the government has effectively defined the role of men and women in Indian marriages. By giving half of the man’s assets to the woman regardless of how they were obtained, the government has legally changed what marriage means. It might have been socially enforced for a large number of women so far. But most people knew it was wrong on some level. But now it’s legal. It is now expected. Instead of doing things to empower women and give them more independence in marriage and divorce, the law has now officially degraded them to victim status. One and all without exceptions.
Why are women not outraged over this? Where are the opinion pieces crying that this is a shame and an insult? Where again, is the outrage? There should be violent opposition to three things. First, that the government is taking over marriage and is now officially telling people what it expects men and women to be like. Second, the fact that it is hugely unjust to a large number of men who have arrangements that go contrary to what the government deems every marriage to be. And finally, the insult to women where the law now legally assumes that every woman is oppressed and every man is taking advantage of her and she is helpless.
It’s well past time that the government got out of the personal lives of people. It’s high time that divorce laws were made gender neutral. Laws cannot be made keeping “most of the people” in mind. They have to provide justice to everyone. After all, I pay taxes too. Do I not have the right to be treated fairly by the state? You cannot just throw people under a bus in the name of the “greater good”. The law has to treat everyone equally and ensure justice for all.
I’m frustrated. And I’m angry. I’m angry that my personal life is being intruded upon where the state has no right to interfere. I’m angry that instead of focusing on empowering women, encouraging them to take their lives in their own hands, making divorce laws and child support easier, the government is trying to baby them and make them state victims. I’m angry that more people are not speaking out against this and condemning it.
I’m angry that in the name of the “greater good”, my life and the life of all decent people can be ruined. Are we so expendable that we don’t matter? What use of living in a country where you’re so easily thrown tossed to the wolves? And your fellow citizens just watch by the roadside without uttering a murmur of complaint.