April 5th, 2017
Recently, a husband moved the court seeking a divorce from his wife on grounds that she often removed mangalsutra and sindoor (vermilion) to irk him.
Coming to the rescue of lakhs of Indian women, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court ruled against the man’s bizarre (read: draconian, offensive, sexist, misogynistic and patriarchal) plea.
While we are all pleased with the court’s ruling, the fact that such a plea was sought in 21st century India is depressing. What gave this man the leeway to think that he is entitled to seek divorce if his wife doesn’t wear a pallu over her head, or refuses to wear sindoor?
Sadly, our mythology explains it.
The tradition of wearing sindoor is a medium to empower women to the likes of Sati who was regarded as the ideal wife who gave her life for her husband’s honour.
Similarly, an Indian woman wears sindoor in the parting of her hair for her husband’s long life and to signify that she is married; while covering their head with pallu is seen as a mark of respect that she is expected to give to the male members of the family.
Contrastingly, the only symbol that a man has to wear to signify that he is married is……well, nothing.
A woman is tied to the norms created by the society for her ‘well-being’; after all, marriage symbols protect her from eve teasing, sexual harassment, and rape (marital included), and only unmarried women fall prey to unwanted sexual harassment.
And, if sindoor, mangalsutra and pallu aren’t enough for her protection, there are a host of other traditions that show women their true place – in her husband’s patriarchal shelter.
Though the Bombay high court did not grant the husband divorce from his wife, does this actually benefit her? She has to continue living her life with a despicable man who tries to control her consent.
It’s time that each of us questions the misogyny in Indian traditions.
A father hands over his daughter to the groom, giving him the ‘gift of her virginity’, which is authenticated on the first night that the couple spends together.
The wife is also expected to take her husband’s name and follow his religion after marriage.
The prevalence of such oppressive traditions in the 21st century cannot be justified even with an iota of logic.
In 2015, a man sought a divorce from his wife, pleading that her partying at night is mental cruelty to him. The year before that, a husband wanted to divorce his wife because he did not approve of her wearing trousers to work.
While these cases might sound hilarious on the surface, its repercussions are much more troubling than we can fathom. Men have been brought up in an environment which tells them that they are the superior sex. They treat their wives how their mothers or sisters were treated while growing up.
The onus of prejudice against women falls upon our patriarchal society which includes each of us. A change can only be brought about when we look at women beyond her face, her curves, and her luscious long hair. A woman is a mother, a sister, a friend, a daughter and a teacher – respect for the female gender should come from within.
The Logical Indian appreciates Bombay High Court’s ruling and we hope that it steers people in the right direction.