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Asia

India decides it's time to pay the homemaker

The Indian Ministry of Woman and Child Development is mulling down the idea of allotting a portion of husband's income as salary to his wife. Not everyone agress that it's the most progressive of ideas.

According to a well-known Indian saying, the wife is in charge of the 'home ministry,' whereas the husband leads the 'finance ministry' at home.  This is probably about to change now.

The Indian Ministry of Woman and Child Development has recently proposed the idea of reimbursing housewives for their efforts in performing the household chores.

Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath said that the step would empower the housewives. She told the media that if the proposal was approved by the central government, the ministry would formulate other schemes for housewives such as tax rebates to promote it.

Tirath said that the money given to housewives would be called an honorarium rather than a salary. But the most important thing, she said, was to show respect to the housewives' hard work.

Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research, a feminist tank, told DW that the proposal would actually make women's lives more difficult at home because "the husband might demand more services from his wife after paying the money to her."

Atit Rajapara, president of Men's Rights Association in India (MRA) also criticized the proposal. "The proposal is biased and will create an extra burden on husbands."

Regressive or progressive, a debate

Indian women sitting in a courtyard and chatting

The proposal is to empower Indian women financially

Minu Bhargava, a marketing professional in an IT company in India told DW, "I think such a proposal is regressive and this approach and, although looks like it's in the favor of women, it might not have the relevant consequences. It is like belittling the efforts of a woman, a homemaker."

She added, "As a nation, we have progressed in many ways and yet when it comes to saving a woman's dignity and self respect, we come up with fairly archaic and outdated suggestions to resolve the same."

Such issues should be dealt at a personal level by individuals, according to Bhargava, adding: "If government really wants to help financially insecure women, it should be through a systematic research of their lifestyles and needs."

The views of journalist Purnima Pandey, a single woman working with Life Positive magazine, are no different.  "Instead of helping women to become independent and empowered it will make a woman more dependant and no-hoper," she said.

Pandey told DW, "It would be better if the policy makers sleep on the idea and to make implementable proposals and schemes for the social security of women at all level."

Experts think this proposal puts a question on the sanctity of a family, making it look like a business by quantifying the contribution of a homemaker.

Placing the very dynamics of a marriage under spotlight, Rajpara talks about the idea of an employer-employee relationship. "If the husband is going to pay he should have the right to keep a check on his wife's performance and audit it," He adds that wives will then be treated like maid servants and will be fired on non-performance. "

Indian bride and grooms

The dynamics of a husband-wife relationship might change with such a law

However Pragya Ramjiwaal, a financially independent homemaker says, "There are some stingy husbands who like to keep financial control in their hands. This ruling will definitely be a slap on their face."

Time to change the rule

Talking about female empowerment, Kumari told DW: "This will not make any difference to the family income as the same salary will be split into two. Rather the debate in the feminist movement is that the state itself should give recognition and value to the reproductive work done by women."

Rajapara, meanwhile, said the government wanted to caution people not to marry, by putting this additional burden on husbands - apparently as an indirect measure to control rising population.

He retorted: "Husbands will pay the part of their salary, provided the wife also equally contributes in paying off various bills, house rent or other expenses."

Before the proposal gets a legal sanction, it has to pass through recommendations both social and political.

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