With as much as 70,000 signatures and counting, a petition on Change.org is after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to intervene in perhaps India’s most prevailing domestic issue – ‘unequal distribution of unpaid household.’
‘If Mr. Modi can inspire us to light lamps and clap in solidarity, he can inspire us to correct an unfair norm that discriminates against women in every home,’ a Mumbai-based working mother writes in the petition.
Unlike the West, Indian households often rely on manual labor to run, starting from washing the dishes to wringing and hanging out the clothes to dry, not many have the privilege of a washing machine or a dishwasher. In simple terms, all the load lifting and chores rely on family members or in India’s case – women, unfortunately.
While this is how millions of middle-class Indian households run, relying on the superpower of women, sometimes domestic help is also hired but things are different now, perhaps never been more different in this lifetime.
Arguably, men are staying more at home, women too, children are not going to school and hired domestic help is not available, now that the nation is social distancing – the mixed result is a neat blow on Indian women and a test of their tolerance more than ever.
Petitioner Subarna Ghosh – exhausted from doing household chores in lockdown is writing to the PM ‘to talk to Indian men about doing an equal share of care work within the household in his next speech.’
“I do cooking, cleaning, making beds, laundry, folding clothes, and everything else,” Ghosh told the BBC. “It’s a fundamental question, why don’t more people talk about it?” she wrote referring to the unequal distribution and ingrained sexism when it comes to maintaining the household.
In India, men don’t typically do household chores. Like Mrs. Ghosh said about her husband – a banker – is “not the type to help with the housework” the same is the case with millions of other urban families, let alone villages. According to an International Labor Organization report, in 2018, urban Indian women spent 312 minutes a day on unpaid care work, verses 29 minutes of men. The same spiked up to 291 minutes for women as against 32 minutes for men in villages.
Noticing the toll lockdown and unequal burden for household duty has taken on Ms. Ghosh’s mental and physical health, her husband and teenage children have started to lend hands.
“My husband has started helping me with chores. He understood I was very affected by it,” Ghosh told the BBC. “But our men are also victims of this culture and society. They have not been trained to do housework. They require a little bit of hand-holding,” she acknowledged.
Indian men are groomed to be the breadwinner only while maintaining a household is fully and unfairly lent on women. For some urban women, the ‘systematic patriarchy’ is a ‘double burden’ as many women are working who return home to a pile of undone dishes and laundry, along with other pending jobs. The lockdown has undoubtedly exacerbated the whole setup manifolds.
Ms. Ghosh with her petition has sought to harness Indian PM’s popularity among masses. And certainly, on Modi’s request whole India did bang utensils and clapped from the balconies as a thanking gesture to the healthcare workers supporting the pandemic.
“When the rainy season started, he talked about cough and cold, so why can’t he talk about gender equality?” Ms. Ghosh told, saying she is hopeful of the PM.