Working women in India tend to spend far less time than their male colleagues in advancing their careers and so miss out on promotions and other career opportunities and neither the Indian law or government policy views their work within the home as productive or of any economic value, says a new book.
The book titled "Separated and Divorced Women in India- Economic Rights and Entitlements" by Kirti Singh, a lawyer practising n women issues, examines the economic rights and entitlements of separated and deserted women in law and practises in India.
"In Indian set up it is typically the wife who spends long hours in building up and maintaining the house and in supervising the household work. Meanwhile, by spending most of her time at home, a woman loses her capacity to earn and compete in the job market," Kirti writes in the book.
In carrying out household tasks, women in many instances, have to give up their career. Thus, non recognition of household work and 'care' work results in reinforcement of gender discrimination and inequality, says the author.
Based on a survey of more than 400 women in four different regions across the country. The book published by Sage publications talks about the miserable financial conditions of separated/ deserted women and the lengthy procedural obstacles that these women have to contend with to get any justice.
It interrogates the absence of any laws that would give Indian women ownership rights in the property and assets that they have helped to acquire through financial or non-financial
contributions in the marital home, and suggests that Community of Property should be made a part of law for all Indian women.
The book also challenges the conventional understanding of productive work and advocates recognition of the productive nature of women's household work.
According to Kirti, the Indian women's contribution to the household work often becomes 'transformed' by law into self sacrifice.
"The women is not treated as an equal partner in the house, and similar inequalities arise when she looks forward to a separation or divorce," she says.
The problem is that though a property may have been bought during the subsistence of marriage, the party on whose name the asset has been bought becomes the owner of the asset.
That is typically the husband. Thus, if an Indian woman is separated or deserted even after years of marriage she is left almost asset less while her husband walks away with all the property, Kirti writes.
Another aspect discussed in the book, pertains to the pervasive scourge of dowry and how seldom women recover their dowry and stridhan through the law.
According to the author, the survey threw up a host of complicated issues for which no simple solutions are possible or perhaps even desirable.
"Many women who were surveyed felt that their husbands and society had ill-treated them and they had deep sense of being betrayed. They wanted solutions to the problems they were posing to the researchers, or actions to address their vulnerable, at times miserable financial position," Kirti says.
Apart from other laws and policies pertaining to separated women, the author has focused on presenting a simplified version of 'Maintenance' and marital property.