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  • Writer's pictureMuskaan Kapur

The Evolving Dowry: A Double Duty for Modern Times

Are the expectations to fulfill both household and work responsibilities singlehandedly, a new form of financial exploitation of married women?

मुस्कान- दीदी, अपना नाम और उमर बताइए।
सोनी- मेरा नाम सोनी है और मैं २४ साल की हूँ।
मुस्कान- तो आप कल रिश्ता देखने गई थी, आपको लड़का पसंद आया क्या?
सोनी- हाहा लड़का तो अच्छा है, लेकिन बड़ी अजीब सी शर्त रखी है उसके घर वालो ने।
मुस्कान- क्यों?
सोनी- लड़के की मम्मी कह रही थी कि पहले काम करना शुरू करूँगी तो शादी करेंगे
मुस्कान- आप काम करोगे तो?
सोनी- हाँ!
मुस्कान- तो ये तो अच्छी बात है। काम करना तो अच्छी बात होती है।
सोनी- अच्छी बात तो होती है लेकिन वो पैसे रखेंगे।
मुस्कान- मतलब?
सोनी- मतलब की वह चाहते है कि मैं काम करूँ और सैलरी उनको दु।
मुस्कान- अच्छा और आप ऐसा नहीं करना चाहते? क्यों?
सोनी- अरे, सारा काम मैं करूँ और सैलरी उनको दु फिर अपने लिये कुछ लेते हुए उनसे पैसे मांगू? ये तो ग़लत है?
मुस्कान- अरे ज़रूरी थोड़ी ना है कि पूरी सैलरी घर पे देनी ही है?
सोनी- नहीं वो ये ही चाहते है की पूरी सैलरी उनको दु।
मुस्कान- क्यों?
सोनी- वो इस ही शर्त पे तो दहेज नहीं माँग रहे।
मुस्कान- ये कैसी शर्त हुई?
सोनी- हाँ ये ही है, वह दहेज नहीं माँग रहे ताकि पूरी ज़िंदगी उनको सैलरी देती रहु।
मुस्कान- ये तो बहुत ग़लत है, और घर की ज़िम्मेवारी भी आप पे ही आएगी?
सोनी- हाँ और क्या, पहले पूरे दिन काम करूँ फिर घर आ के घर का काम करूँ और बाहर काम करके जो भी कमाऊ वो भी इन ससुराल वालो को देदू?
मुस्कान- नहीं aisa बिलकुल भी करने की ज़रूरत नहीं है। ऐसी शर्त मान ना भी ग़लत है क्योंकि पहली चीज़ तो ये कि दहेज लेना और देना जुर्म है, और ये शर्त भी दहेज का एक रूप ही है।
सोनी- हाँ, वो तो है पर देखते है अब घर वाले कहा समझेंगे, वो तो चाहते हैं कि जल्द से जल्द शादी होजाये। और उनको रिश्ता भी मंज़ूर है क्योंकि दहेज नहीं माँग रहे है ना।

This conversation was transcripted after taking all due permissions from Soni, who is a househelp in the interviewer’s locality. (she wasn’t comfortable sharing any photo, video or audio)

In traditional societies, dowry has been a longstanding practice where the family of the bride provides gifts, goods, or money to the groom's family as part of the marriage agreement. This practice has been deeply rooted, often serving as a financial security for the bride in her new household. However, with the progression of time and evolving societal norms, the concept of dowry has undergone a transformation to adapt to the demands of the modern world.

In recent years, an emerging trend has surfaced, where dowry is taking on a new role - that of fulfilling a dual purpose. Today, in addition to the traditional aspects of dowry, it is increasingly being utilized as a means to empower and support the bride in her aspirations and dreams. But has been whitewashing the reality, where under the veil of empowerment, violence is still taking place. The stereotypes and gender roles still take place.

Double duty is a concept that encapsulates the burden placed on women, expecting them to manage both domestic responsibilities and participate in paid work or income-generating activities. The roots of double duty can be traced back to historical gender norms and stereotypes that perpetuated the notion of women as caregivers and homemakers. Despite progress in women's rights, these traditional expectations persist in various societies. Social, cultural, and economic factors contribute to the perpetuation of double duty, creating barriers to gender equality.

Double duty hampers women's ability to exercise their human rights fully. The burden of multiple responsibilities restricts their time for personal pursuits, education, and career advancement, leading to limited economic opportunities. This, in turn, exacerbates economic disparities between genders and perpetuates the cycle of gender inequality.

Engaging in double duty often means women may have limited time to participate in paid work or pursue economic opportunities. As a result, they may experience economic disadvantages, lower wages, and reduced career progression compared to men, perpetuating the gender pay gap. Double duty may hinder women from pursuing their dreams and aspirations beyond traditional gender roles. In many cases, women are expected to handle double duty without adequate support from their families, employers, or communities. This lack of support can intensify the challenges they face in balancing their various roles. Women may find it challenging to allocate time and energy to nurture these relationships, leading to potential conflicts and dissatisfaction. Double duty can act as a barrier for women aspiring to leadership roles in various fields. The limited time and resources available due to caregiving responsibilities can hinder their ability to pursue career advancements and leadership positions. Juggling multiple roles can lead to emotional exhaustion and feelings of inadequacy for women who feel pressured to excel in all aspects of their lives. At the same time, the perpetuation of double duty can influence the expectations placed on future generations of women, potentially limiting their opportunities and perpetuating the cycle of gender inequality.

A multifaceted approach is necessary to alleviate the burden of double duty and uphold women's human rights. Policy changes, including parental leave, flexible working hours, and affordable childcare, can enable women to balance their responsibilities better. Moreover, challenging and transforming traditional gender norms and expectations through education and awareness campaigns can contribute to societal change. Promoting gender equality and addressing double duty is not only a matter of social justice but also essential for sustainable development. Empowering women economically and socially contributes to increased productivity, improved health, and enhanced well-being of families and communities.

The double duty remains a significant obstacle to gender equality and women's human rights. By recognizing and addressing this burden, societies can move toward a more equitable and just future. Creating an environment that supports shared responsibilities and challenges traditional gender norms is vital for empowering women and achieving sustainable development for all. Emphasizing the importance of women's rights in policy-making and social transformations will contribute to the collective progress toward a more equal world.


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