From Madras HC comments on mangalsutra to a survey in Karnataka, a troubling view of women emerges

Source: This post is based on the article “From Madras HC comments on mangalsutra to a survey in Karnataka, a troubling view of women emerges” published in the Indian Express on 21st July 2022.

Syllabus: GS 4 – Role of family society and educational institutions in inculcating values and social influence and persuasion.

Relevance: Role of institutions on gender relations in India.

News: Recently, the Madras High Court’s comment on the mangalsutra and Karnataka’s survey that sought to gauge attitudes towards gender highlights the peculiar nature of gender relations in India.

What are the two instances that highlights gender relations in India?

Madras Highcourt’s comment on Mangalsutra: The court observed that the removal of the mangalsutra by the woman from her body amounted to “mental cruelty” towards her husband. The court also said that the mangalsutra is only removed at the death of the husband.

Karnataka’s survey: The survey of teachers, students and parents in Karnataka found that, 1) Childcare is women’s responsibility, 2) They put up with domestic violence for the “good” of the family.

What is the significance of these instances on gender relations in India?

The court’s comment a) Normalises ideas about inequality in family relationships, b) Consider a woman’s primary task is to be a good wife and display the symbols of domesticity.

Similarly, the survey highlights that a broad cross-section of society still thinks that women’s primary role is as wives and mothers.

Both instances highlight the duties of women. That is their duties are tied to their families, sons, husbands and society.

What is the role of society and institutions on gender relations in India?

The relationship between a society and its institutions is a peculiar one. The attitudes of the institutions are just a small part of the expression of social life. 

The relationship between institutions and society should be one where the former shapes the latter. This is crucial for any social change. In that, the courts of law enjoy a superior position in the hierarchy of institutions.

Why do institutions need to change?

An idea is getting popular that institutions of various kinds are sacrosanct and any criticism of their functioning is considered as the absence of proper respect for society and nation. However, this is not correct.

If it is a change that one is after, then he/she needs to consider the gender of institutions. This means that the default gender of institutions should be changed to avoid masculinity of institutions.

How institutions can ensure gender equality?

In a society where men can marry “modern” women who must both work and look after the home, they must respect gender equality. The institutions need to ensure that others benefit from it by contributing to social welfare. They must be open to all the elements of society not alone masculinity.

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