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India: Husbands to Pay Wives for Doing Household Chores?

The Union Women and Child Development Ministry in India is considering a draft bill which, if passed by parliament, would make it legally compulsory for husbands to pay out a portion of their monthly income to their homemaker wives, for doing household chores.

As per the Ministry's proposal, a model is being framed which will allow for valuation of the work done by homemakers in economic terms and then recognition of this contribution to the economy by compensating homemakers for their labour.

The proposed law is expected to refer to homemakers as “home engineers“. Minister Krishna Tirath has said that this amount, which could be anywhere between 10-20% of the husband's monthly salary, should not be looked upon as salary for housework; rather it could be referred to as an honorarium or something similar.

While the Minister sees this as a step forward in women's empowerment, the proposal is being debated hotly, both offline as well as online.

A woman washing clothes. Image by Neil Moralee CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A woman washing clothes. Image by Neil Moralee CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Some feel that “measuring the value of unpaid work at home is conceptually correct and well worth trying”, though making it mandatory for husbands to pay out a fixed percentage of their salaries in lieu of this work may be the wrong way forward.

Others wonder how it will be possible to put a ‘price tag’ on all the work that goes on within a home and how such a law would be implemented – given the various questions that are sure to come up in it's wake.

And questions are indeed being asked. For example, LordRaj asks:

  • Are you suggesting an Employee / Employer relationship for the married couple?
  • Who is going to decide on the working hours and job description?

In Ground Report, which is an open news platform, D. Chaitanya outlines some further questions related to this issue that people (both men and women) appear to be hotly debating. For example:

  • If in the place of wife, house-maid is discharging every day house-hold work, then how should the house-maid be treated? Should not the house-maid be treated on par with the wife? (In such cases) who are legitimately entitled for that 10 or 20% of amount?
  • If 10 or 20% salary is deposited on wife’s name, what about the maintenance money to wife, if she deserts the husband and files a maintenance case on husband?
  • Will this law create new financial skirmishes between wives and husbands? Like 498-A of Penal Code, Maintenance laws, domestic violence laws, will this law also be misused by some wives?

Blogger Surya Murali too is wondering how the government proposes to implement a law such as this. She says on her blog:

 I am all for the empowerment of women, and also their financial independence… (but) my biggest question to these lawmakers is that how are they planning to implement the proposal? If they go about doing it the way such that a husband shares a percentage of his income with his wife for her work, I don’t see how it makes the economic situation of the house any better or how it makes the woman independent and empowered.  The gross income remaining the same, the household economy is not changed.  Most responsible husbands, in my belief, would share the running costs of the household with their wives anyway… if that isn’t the case, then this sort of a scheme is not going to improve the husband-wife equation of those households.

At iDiva, Archana Jayakumar asks:

How does all of this not make her anything but a glorified servant?

Sunita at Supari.org agrees and calls this proposed Bill as “family breaking move” by the government. Blogger LordRaj concludes that

Under the guise of ‘development and welfare’ of women, all you have been doing is promoting a bias against men.

Men's rights groups tend to agree. Vicky Nanjappa points out:

A proposal to part with a portion of the husband’s salary and hand it over to the wife has been strongly opposed by Men’s rights groups…The ‘Save Family Foundation’ has written a letter to Krishna Tirath, Union Minister for Women and Child Development, seeking immediate withdrawal of the proposal. The foundation, representing around 40 different men’s organizations across the country, has termed this proposal as one-sided.

The Cursed Indian Male appears to be feeling the pressure already. He laments:

With such incentives, it is not surprising that many wives would rather just sit idle, and get free doles from their husbands, with the kind blessings of the Indian judicial system.  And all this under the guise of women empowerment

However, others are more positive to this proposal for various reasons. For example, in a discussion in the Defence Forum India, Yusuf appears pleased. He writes:

Actually this news is music to my ears. Gives me more ways to save tax. :-)

Blogger Surya Murali goes on to offer, what she feels is a more practical solution to the issue, something that will truly benefit the women without getting her into the “employer-employee” hierarchy within the family. She suggests:

Let the government work out a method in which they evaluate the households economically and they give the housewives / homemakers an allowance. This totally skips the husband as a middleman and is a direct deal between the people who want the housewives to be empowered and the housewives. In my opinion, this would not only help the women be independent, it will also improve the general quality of life in households which otherwise manage with meager means. Thus, both targets of economic upliftment and female empowerment would be achieved.

InfoQueenBee agrees and adds:

Instead of making the law to provide for the ‘salary’ to the housewife, some other schemes may be introduced such as statutory-minimum/compulsory life-insurance, medical insurance, investments etc. for the housewives and children.

While we wait to see what happens to the Minister's proposal, it appears that the debate surrounding the question of the husband being forced to pay his “house engineer” an ‘honorarium’ for household work, is far from over.

Thumbnail image by Todd Berman (TheArtDontStop.org) CC: BY-NC-SA 2.0

18 comments

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  • Richard

    So now if she is reduced to an employee can she be fired if she does not perform up to the husband’s standard? No divorce required? Just a simple payout?

  • D Fox

    This doesn’t appear to be very well thought out. To put the cat amongst the pidgeons though, if the man must pay the woman for work shouldn’t she then pay for food and board?

  • fgdfgs

    This is complete nonsense.. There are some things that money can’t define, and one of them is a relationship. Instead of counselling and educating men and altering and strengthening the social fabric, the government in an attempt to capture votes from women is attempting to resort to a myopic strategy, that will only weaken social fabric. Instead of creating a means of counselling and equal partnership the govt has proposing to force upon a household employee employer relationship. Secondly this law in the manner it has been described is unenforcable and could be an invasion of household privacy

  • Vinci

    Great. This would prove to the world that our policy makers are plain Idiots. Imagine salary negotiations during engagements.

  • […] Written by Aparna Ray […]

  • rahulthinks

    This policy is very wrong. The minister should be sacked and some more sensible person should be elected on the chair.

  • HUGLI

    yes. This is the most welcome bill as per the voice of housewives in india. In india husband is earning. If woman goes foe for work she has to check for the arrangements of cooking, cleaning and watching over the child if it all works well then only she can work peacefully at office. it is not a easy thing to get a good maid for all this householdwork. hence women ha sto leave the job at the intense pressure of family situations. On the contrary if man goes for job women will take the responsiblity of home. there will be nice peaceful and tensionfree life going at home. but they say it is must for a housewife to do all the duties without any expectations. also according to them a good wife should ask nothing if he wants to give his mother a home, to his brother an education, to his sister a dowry, to his father a relaxed life. Any men can say whether most working women share the responsiblity of her family after married life. aif it is like that then they sure negotiate for marrying her.
    After all this what is left for housewife after feeding for her own child.she consider the childs future to be brightful and sacrifices everything?

    As per my view, for a good family
    8% of mens’s earning is to go for child future eduction
    8% of his earning to go for family healthfund
    8% for future pension life
    the above need not be given to wife. since wife is the legal gaurdian for the family she has to given the right to access the fund as and when needed.
    40% of his salary to household expenses. can be shared according to the responsiblities.
    10% for wife personal expenses
    10% for husband personal expenses
    10% for house rent.
    6% for husband’s family expense there is no written law for spending mens salary. but since family is the building block for future india for a prosperous family husband have to spent to it.
    Any lack of spending in the need is a pressure to the housewife.
    if you see the practical scenario most of the family is ending with the single child now since because we women has to concern about our future. mostly women desires to have one child. also she is getting pregnant for the second time only to have a male child.we have also seen the past generations. women having male child is now living rich.
    No women can think to do some welfare for her family and relatives.
    All emotions finally will have a financial value however it cant be measured. but at least a least amount to be sanctioned.

  • Krishnandu Sarkar

    Ministers are idiots. Hence proved.

  • Vinod Tanwar

    Idiot logo ki sarkar se or kya ummid ki ja sakti h. Pahle hi jhute domestic violence ke niche aadmi suicide kar raha, or UPA govt. stupid policy banakar aadmi ko pareshan kar rahi h

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