Women in India

Indian women demand break from chores, insist men finish housework under lockdown

Retired company executive Ajay Mehra prepares Indian pancakes for lunch at his home in a Delhi suburb.
Retired company executive Ajay Mehra prepares Indian pancakes for lunch at his home in a Delhi suburb. © RFI/Vikram Roy

Thousands of people have petitioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi to try and convince Indian men to do their share of chores as women in the house were exhausted by the “unfair share” of work during the lockdown.


So far, around 70,000 people have signed the online petition of Subarna Ghosh, a Mumbai-based women rights activist.

 “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,” said the petition published by change.org.

 Activist Ghosh, a mother of two who runs a charity, dashed off the petition to Modi because she said she was fed up with the backbreaking routine during the lockdown.

Ghosh thought of the petition during a discussion with colleagues on gender inequality.

“This was considered a very frivolous topic and I suppose it still is especially in a time like the pandemic but a lot of women are responding, saying ‘hello, this is not frivolous, this is serious for us,’ Ghosh told RFI.

“So, the dent has been made but when you talk of big changes, such big changes don’t come overnight,” Ghosh said and adding that she faced online banter for the initiative.

Running homes in the lockdown became even more difficult as it kept away domestic help who wash, clean and cook for families which can afford pay to escape the drudgery.

India’s 249 million households account for just 6.5 million washing machines, according to industry estimates.

Dish-washers, vacuum cleaners, microwave ovens or air fryers are largely considered a luxury.

 India’s rich and famous

Her petition has also grabbed the attention of India’s rich and powerful as well.

 “It may seem frivolous to people that haven’t been overburdened by domestic chores and online abuse, but to those who have started the petition, it is a question of hope and change,” Bollywood actor Richa Chadha 'sted told RFI.

Several other film stars have shared photographs in social media cooking, washing or doing the dishes even before the petition came online.

The chief minister of Kerala state, which has India’s highest literacy rate, too has asked men to help out.

 Double whammy for women

But activists believed a push from Modi was unlikely to change the male recalcitrance even if he tried.

 In 2018, urban Indian women daily spent 312 minutes on unpaid care work while the city menfolk did 29 minutes, according to an International Labour Organisation study.

 “Indian men consider household chores to be below their dignity so the burden falls on the women,” said Sarita Kukreja of Women Welfare Foundation, an advocacy group.

 She said the lockdown was a double whammy for women who worked from home but also had to do the laundry, feed her cooped-up family, sweep and mop the house with bare hands.

“It has been hard for them”.

Anand Lal Banerjee, a former police chief of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most lawless state, said he hoped the petition could work.

“This move about making more males work, share house work and share rearing up of the children is a very well thought move,” Banerjee told RFI.


  “I hope it ends up in educating more people.”


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