Kin relationships provide a method of passing on status and property from one generation to the next. Consequently, they form social groups of cooperation and conflict. Indian society is a patriarchy, which usually thinks that men should dominate everywhere. Most property and other resources are controlled by men and are passed on from father to son. Even though women in India now have legal rights to inherit property, customary practices, social sanctions and emotional pressures prevent them from acquiring control over these assets. The subservient role of daughters in the family is a culturally specific form of patriarchal bargain: to accept gender equalities with the inherent psychological implications in exchange for a security blanket that, in practice, means little.
Violence between females
Violence against women through the traditional power equations of husband and mother-in-law are common in India. Less often spoken about, but also prevalent, is the violence between women within a family. The situation of the protagonist of the book, where own mother abuses her, is even more unusual. The abuse is sometimes physical, but usually takes the form of dominance, humiliation, isolation, threats and intimidation; followed denial and blame when confronted with the issue. There is a preference for sons; daughters are viewed as inferior. Mothers who bear sons enjoy an elevated status within the family. This encourages a particularly close bond between mothers and sons, at times almost obsessive.
Simone de Beauvoir (‘The Second Sex’) says: “one is not born, but rather becomes a woman.” The man is superior as he is the breadwinner and this gives him a position of power in the family and in society. Women are outsiders. Sometimes, though, roles are reversed, as in ‘Daughter By Court Order’ and pseudo-hierarchical positions are established that are not in the traditional gender format.