Husband as paymaster? No thanks

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The Union government’s idea of making husbands pay salaries to their wives or homemakers has not gone down very well with many women.

The draft Bill being considered by the Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry for socio-economic upliftment of homemakers is actually an impediment and not empowerment, say many women’s groups in the city.

As per the recent proposal, husbands will be required to deposit 10-20 per cent of their monthly salary in a bank account which has to be opened in their spouses’ name as a fixed monthly salary.

Though folks like Nagamma, a domestic help are elated at the thought of “having a regular income from her drunkard husband” and women like homemaker Shantha Rangasamy are happy “finally they will get some money for their daily routine,” many are of the opinion that insisting the husbands to pay may make it ineffective.

“It is nothing but a patriarchal decision that again makes women dependent on their husbands,” says women’s right activist Ms Nirmala Kotravai. “If the idea is to empower housewives, we are once again falling back on the man’s income. It is the government which should foot the bill and not the husbands,” says the founder of women’s organisation MASES.

Ms Sheelu, president of Women’s Collective, agrees, “If the government pays farmers who are producing food for the country, what’s wrong in paying women who rear the future citizens of the country?” There is no doubt that the value of household work should be recognised but the Bill in this form will only end up spoiling spousal relationships, she says.

Ms Leena Manimekalai, a poet and independent filmmaker says, “Salaries from husbands reinstates patriarchal values and endorses the role of a wife as a ‘sexual slave’. Women can be liberated from the tyranny of the family only when governments step in. This bill insults women and re-appropriates them as a family property.”

The Bill, meanwhile, has already evoked some jokes from the men: “This will at least ensure that some money is left for me as my wife takes away the entire salary and gives me only a daily allowance.”

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