Have you ever watched any of those commercial advertisements that highlight the great disparity between the responsibilities of a man and a woman in a household? Or the recent Malayalam movie, The Great Indian Kitchen, that opened the long-buried debate about the thankless duties of a homemaker and the lack of consideration about them in our society?
From time immemorial, people underestimate a homemaker’s job. As if the stark gender gap between male and female employees, or duties of a husband and wife in running a home weren’t enough, homemakers were not even considered, until recently, in the economic evaluation of an individual in a society. The average Indian homemaker spends 352 minutes per day doing household work.
The traditional setup in the average Indian household is one in which the women in the house take on several duties like cooking and caring for the entire family, making sure the lives of all the members are seamless.
When a woman marries a man, the expectation is to learn the innumerable tasks her mother-in-law does daily. If she chooses to give up on her own career or financial independence and take care of the household, the choice comes with several responsibilities and duties which conveniently become part of her life.
WHO ARE HOMEMAKERS?
The dictionary definition of a homemaker is a person, especially a woman, who manages a home and takes care of her family. There is, of course, much more to it than just that. Homemakers do everything from providing food for the family to managing the upkeep of the house by taking on maintenance or repair work to keeping a tab on the finances spent on the household to purchase groceries, cleaning the house, raising her children and a lot more.
While homemakers have their hands full with the above, the men in the house go out to work and earn the required finances to provide for their family. For centuries, what a man does is considered as the actual contribution towards running a household while the efforts of homemakers in the same setup are side-lined. This is a result of the traditional conditioning given to men and women of this country for generations.
WHERE DOES THIS CONDITIONING BEGIN?
We are conditioned from a tender age that our mothers are the complete programmers of the household. They know how stuff works at home and are responsible for everything that happens, whether good or bad. They fight through the lows, celebrate the highs and achievements of all the members, constantly making sacrifices and giving unconditional support and love to every single member of the family.
When Covid-19 sent the whole world into a lockdown, harsh realities, like the average lack of contribution by men towards domestic work, surfaced. Even though working men earn an income to run a house, they are hardly adept at actually running a household without support from their wives. This goes to show the obvious truth that a husband and his homemaker wife are on par with their duties towards their home, whether they are salaried workers or not.
After what seemed like centuries, finally, in January 2021, the Supreme Court passed a revolutionary judgement that challenged one of the stringent, draconian and patriarchal practices that the Indian society has been following for several generations. The judgement, passed by a bench comprising Justice N.V. Ramana, Aniruddha Bose and Surya Kant, came about in rather unusual circumstances when the economic values of a deceased husband and wife were to be calculated after they were killed in a road accident in April 2014.
The insurance company, which was compensating the surviving family of the deceased couple, had slashed the amount by 50% since the wife in the said case was a homemaker. After a detailed analysis into the matter, Justice Ramana declared that the innumerable unpaid contributions made by a homemaker are on par with those made by an office-going husband. Quoting the findings of a Time-Use Survey conducted by the National Statistical Office of the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation, he emphasized: “Women spend 299 minutes a day on unpaid household work as against 97 minutes spent by men.”
This progressive judgement by the apex court of our country is highly laudable and has paved the way for more such developments in India, which will attempt to socially empower its women.