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Department of Sociology
NARESH CHANDRA SOURABH
THE CULTURE OF WOMEN'S HOUSEWORK
A Case Study of Bihar, India
To be presented with the permission of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University
of Helsinki for public examination in Auditorium XII, University Main Building,
, 2008 at 10 o’clock.
Helsinki University Printing House
THE CULTURE OF WOMEN'S HOUSEWORK
University of Helsinki
Department of Sociology
NARESH CHANDRA SOURABH
THE CULTURE OF WOMEN'S HOUSEWORK
A Case Study of Bihar, India
Helsinki University Printing House
Research Reports No. 253
Department of Sociology
University of Helsinki
Copyright © Naresh Chandra Sourabh
ISBN 978-952-10-4497-7 (Paperback)
ISBN 978-952-10-4498-4 (PDF)
Helsinki University Printing House, Helsinki 2007
Love, homage, and gratitude
Shree Late Ram Prasad Singh
Shree Late Danyamati Devi
My youngest brother and eldest sister
Shree Late Shambhu Shail
Shree Late Shakuntala
Who lived not to see this work!!!
The Culture of Women's Housework—a Case Study of Bihar,
This study examines gendered housework in India, particularly in Bihar. The
perspective adopted in the study was in part derived from the data but also from
sociological literature published both in Western countries and in India. The
primary attention is therefore paid to modern and traditional aspects in housework.
The aim is not to compare Indian practices to those of Western societies, but rather
to use Western studies as a fruitful reference point. In that light, Indian housework
practices appear to be traditional. Consequently, traditions are given a more
significant role than is usually the case in studies on gendered housework,
particularly in Western countries. The study approaches the topic mainly from the
socio-cultural perspective; this provides the best means to understand the
persistence of traditional habits in India.
To get a wide enough picture of the division of labour, three methods were applied
in the study: detailed time-use data, questionnaire and theme interviews. The data
were collected in 1988 in two districts of Bihar, one rural and the other urban. The
different data complement each other well but also bring to light contradictory
findings: on a general level Biharian people express surprisingly modern views on
gender equality but when talking in more detail (theme interviews) the interviewees
told about how traditional housework practices still were in 1988.
In the analysis of the data set four principal themes are discussed. Responsibility is
the concept by which the study aims at understanding the logic of the
argumentation on which the persistence of traditional housework practices is
grounded. Contrary to the Western style, Biharian respondents appealed not to the
principle of choice but to their responsibility to do what has to be done. The power
of tradition, the early socialization of children to the traditional division of labour
and the elusive nature of modernity are all discussed separately. In addition to the
principle of responsibility, housework was also seen as an expression of affection.
This was connected to housework in general but also to traditional practices. The
purity principle was the third element that made Biharian interviewees favour
housework in general, but as in the case of affection it too was interwoven with
traditional practices. It seems to be so that if housework is in general preferred,
this leads to preferring the traditional division of labour, too. The same came out
when examining economic imperatives. However, the arguments concerning them
proved to be rational. In analysing them it became clear that the significance of
traditions is also much dependent on the economics: as far as the average income
in India is very low, the prevalence of traditional practices in housework will
continue. However, to make this work, cultural arguments are required: their role
is to mediate more smoothly the iron rules of the economy.
Key words: family, gendered housework, division of labour, responsibility, family
togetherness, emotion, economy of housework, modernity, traditionality
Naisten kotityön kulttuuri – tapaustutkimus Intian Biharista
Tutkimuksessa tarkastellaan sukupuolittunutta kotityötä Intiassa, erityisesti
Biharissa. Tutkimuksen näkökulma perustuu osaksi tutkimusaineistoon, mutta
myös sosiologiseen kirjallisuuteen, jota on julkaistu aiheesta sekä länsimaissa että
Intiassa. Päähuomio kohdistuu kotityön moderneihin ja traditionaalisiin puoliin.
Tarkoitus ei ole kuitenkaan verrata intialaista käytäntöä länsimaisiin käytäntöihin,
vaan pikemmin käyttää länsimaisia tutkimuksia hedelmällisenä viitekehyksenä.
Tässä valossa intialaiset kotityökäytännöt vaikuttavat perinteisiltä. Sen vuoksi
perinteille annetaan tutkimuksessa merkittävämpi rooli kuin yleensä
sukupuolittunutta kotityötä tutkittaessa on tapana, erityisesti länsimaissa. Aihetta
lähestytään pääasiassa sosio-kulttuurisesta näkökulmasta käsin; se antaa parhaat
välineet ymmärtää perinteisten tapojen säilymistä Intiassa.
Jotta kotityön jaosta saataisiin riittävän laaja kuva, tutkimuksessa käytettiin
kolmenlaisia aineistoja: yksityiskohtaista ajankäyttöaineistoa, kyselylomaketta ja
teemahaastatteluja. Aineisto kerättiin vuonna 1988 kahdella Biharin alueella, toinen
maaseudulla ja toinen kaupungissa. Erilaiset aineistot täydentävät toisiaan hyvin,
mutta ne myös tuovat esiin ristiriitaisia tuloksia: yleisellä tasolla biharilaiset
ilmaisivat yllättävän moderneja näkemyksiä sukupuolten tasa-arvosta, mutta
puhuessaan siitä yksityiskohtaisesti (teemahaastattelut) haastatellut paljastivat
noudattavansa perinteistä työnjakoa kotitöissä. Näin siis vielä vuonna 1988.
Analyysi keskittyy neljään pääteemaan. Velvollisuus toimii käsitteenä, jonka avulla
pyritään ymmärtämään sitä argumentaation logiikkaa, johon kotityön perinteiset
käytännöt perustuvat. Toisin kuin länsimaissa biharilaiset vastaajat eivät vedonneet
valinnan periaatteeseen vaan velvollisuuteensa tehdä sitä, mitä heidän tulee tehdä.
Perinteen vaikutusvalta, lasten varhainen sosiaalistaminen perinteiseen työnjakoon
ja modernisuuden pakeneva luonne ovat ne komponentit, joiden välittämänä
perinteisyytenä ilmenevää velvollisuutta tarkastellaan lähemmin. Sen lisäksi että
kotityö nähtiin velvollisuutena, sen tärkeydestä puhuttaessa vedottiin myös
kiintymykseen. Kotityötä pidettiin kiintymyksen osoituksena sellaisenaan, mutta
erityisesti silloin, kun se noudattaa perinteistä työnjakoa. Kolmantena teemana
tarkastellaan puhtauden periaatetta, joka sekin sai biharilaiset suosimaan kotityötä,
mutta myös tässä tapauksessa erityisesti perinteisen työnjaon mukaista kotityötä.
Näyttää siltä, että jos kotityötä suositaan, se johtaa ikään kuin väistämättä
perinteisyyden suosimiseen kotitöiden jaossa. Tämä tuli esiin edellisten lisäksi myös
tarkasteltaessa neljättä teemaa eli taloudellisia ehtoja. Tässä tapauksessa perustelut
olivat rationaalisia. Haastattelujen analyysi osoitti, että perinteiden sitkeys on
riippuvainen myös taloudesta: niin kauan kun keskitulo on Intiassa hyvin alhainen,
perinteisten käytäntöjen ylivalta kotityökäytännöissä jatkuu. Jotta tämä toimisi,
tarvitaan lisäksi kulttuurisia perusteluja: niiden tehtävänä on pehmittää talouden
Avainsanat: perhe, sukupuolittunut kotityö, työnjako, velvollisuus, perheyhteisyys,
tunne, kotityön talous, modernisuus, perinteisyys
The knowledge contained in this work has its roots in nature, family, social
surroundings and educational institutions. Throughout my life nature has been an
infinite source of my learning. The second sources were my mother and father, and
both parents' families which proved to be of great help in schooling me; especially
my father and mother, my maternal grandmother and middle uncle (father's
brother) imprinted their wisdom on my mind. Thus, my beloved father Shree Late
Ram Prasad Singh who was a popular teacher was not just my father, but also my
first and true Guru. If the intellectual imprint on me and contribution to the growth
of my knowledge are rooted in my family ties, institutional teachers from my earlier
school time to university have helped me to be what I am now. Chronologically,
their names are Shree Late Rajendra Prasad of Nagarnousa, Nalanda [Scholar of
English and Hindi, Novelist, Essayist and Critics], Professor (Emeritus) Yogendra
Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Professor Riitta Jallinoja,
University of Helsinki. These outstanding personalities from the world of academia
developed my academic intellect and knowledge. So, nature, family and
institutional teachers in association with social surroundings formed a triad to
develop my academic life. Thus my first and foremost thanks and respect go to this
The influence of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus atmosphere on the
growth of my intellect and knowledge has undeniably been influential on my
academic achievements and for this I am truly grateful to it. Among teachers at
JNU, I enjoy naming Professor (Emeritus) Yogendra Singh, Professor Ravindra
Kumar Jain and Professor C. N. Venugopal who inspired me to carry out my study
abroad. Professor Singh's scholarly imprint can easily be found in my work. While I
was a JNU student, I was impressed by his lucid lectures and seminars which were
full of heavy argumentations and discussions, analysis and logic, whereas Professor
Jain impressed me with his sharp and sound criticism and deep analytical styles. I
am really indebted and grateful to these three professors. I am also grateful to
Professor Ehsanul Haq for his constant encouragement to finish my dissertation. I
am greatly indebted and grateful to Professor Raj Pal Mohan, Auburn University,
U.S.A. for counselling me about special skills for writing my work and always
showing his enthusiasm for the progress of my dissertation.
At the Department of Sociology, University of Helsinki I am truly grateful to
Professor (Emeritus) Erik Allardt who was my first supervisor. He provided great
feedback on my work by commenting on the theoretical part of the early draft of
the manuscript and giving strong arguments and discussions, and making me
scientifically cautious at certain points, though at this time he was not my official
supervisor. For expertise in my research area, I had to turn to Professor (Emerita)
Elina Haavio-Mannila, and she supervised my study for a longer period. Under her
great supervision, I attended my two post-graduate seminars and also prepared to
be presented in the World Congress of Sociology in New Delhi, 1986. Professor
Haavio-Mannila also arranged a fund from the Academy of Finland to conduct
fieldwork and collect materials for this dissertation in 1988. Her persistent
scholarly guidance, inspiration and encouragement led me to be ready with the
early draft of this work in 1999. For all this I am indebted and grateful to Professor
(Emerita) Elina Haavio-Mannila.
Professor (Emeritus) Tapani Valkonen's deep attention and constant guidance and
encouragement as regards the methodological part of my research work were
unforgettable. He was also often ready to write letters of recommendation to raise
funds. In 2006, once in the corridor at the Department of Sociology he met me in a
very pleasant mood and said, 'I wish you will complete your dissertation'. This
made me so happy. For this all, I am very grateful and indebted to him.
I am grateful for the excellence of the former chairperson of the Department of
Sociology Professor Kari Pitkänen's administration for providing me with much
support in promoting and completing my dissertation. At the same time, I also
thank the present chairperson of the Department of Sociology, Professor Anssi
Peräkylä. Also, my thanks go to many other people who have assisted me in
various ways at the Department of Sociology: Ms Ritva Suorsa (former secretary),
Ms Kati Mustala, Ms Marja Salo, Dr Tapani Alkula and also the participants of the
two postgraduate Step-seminars for their valuable comments on my presentations.
My special thanks go to Dr Tapani Alkula for his great help in making this volume
I remember all my family members because of their constant suffering and waiting
to see this work complete, and the same questions were always echoed silently or
verbally: 'When would I be completing my work that they would see?' In the
course of constant suffering, many of my important family members and kin passed
away. First my beloved youngest brother Shambhu Shail in1993, then my beloved
parents Shree Late Ram Prasad Singh and Shree Late Dhanyamati Devi. After my
beloved father passed away, still I was hopeful that at least my beloved mother
would see my PhD work finished. But this wish was not met; my Maiya (Mother)
suddenly passed away on the morning of January 9
, 2007 just after I had
submitted my dissertation to the Faculty of Social Sciences for pre-examination.
This made me completely upset. To confess, all those who were eager for my work
and suffered for the delay have left this world.
In addition to my beloved parents Shree Late Ram Prasad Singh and Shree Late
Dhanyamati Devi, I am indebted to my brothers Shree Late Shambhu (youngest),
Ashok and his spouse Smt Kusum Devi, and sisters — Shree Late Shakuntala
(eldest passed away as a young girl), Smt Minaa Devi, Smt Kiran Devi and their
spouses Shree Late Bhola Prasad and Shree Dharmendra Kumar and the children
of my brother's and sisters', paternal grandparents Shree Late Mangru Das Gop,
and Shree Late Mama, my grandfather's brother Shree Late Dhannu Das Gop
[Bhagat] and maternal grandparents Shree Late Shree Das Gop and Shree Late
Kangan Devi and my mother's brother Shree Late Ramvilas Prasad Singh and his
wife Smt Tara Devi and mother's sisters Shree Late Janaki Devi and Smt Rukmini
Devi as well as my paternal uncles — Shree Late Ramsharan Prasad, Shree Late
Haricharan Prasad and Shree Late Shiva Prasad. I greatly appreciate and thank my
beloved wife Smt Kanchan Raj, whose contribution was immense.
I am also thankful to my JNU friends — Shree P. K. Karunakaran (Deputy
Registrar, JNU), and Shree A. N. Kunjunny (Ex-Section Officer, JNU) for their
encouragement to do my PhD abroad. In Helsinki I am grateful to my friends Mr
Sunny Kwemtua Odum and Ms Regine Schön (Doctoral candidate of Psychology,
University of Helsinki) for their honest encouragement to complete this work.
Also, my undisputable thanks go to Professor Timo Myllyntaus, University of
Turku, Professor Klaus Karttunen, University of Helsinki and Mrs Iiris Niemi and
Mr Hannu Pääkkonen, Statistical Centre, Finland, for their contributing role by
providing valuable discussions.
To see this work in this form I am truly indebted to those who had participated in
the time-use study and survey programmes. Also I am thankful to the volunteers
for their excellent support in collecting my fieldwork materials for the study. On
this occasion I may not forget remembering Shree Mithilesh Kumar of Molanipur,
Patna whose family provided me with food to shelter and so on during my stay to
collect fieldwork material from that rural area. I am thankful to them.
I wish to express my thanks to Professor (Emerita) Marjatta Marin, Department of
Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä and Docent Pekka
Valtonen, Institute of Development Studies, University of Helsinki, the official pre-
examiners of this dissertation. The comments of these pre-examiners have been
most useful. I deeply appreciate Professor Ulla Vuorela, Department of Sociology
and Psychology, University of Tampere, who honoured me by agreeing to be my
examiner for the viva. I am also grateful to Secretary Ms Terhi Kulonpalo, the
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki for her kind help. For the
language revision I thank Mr John Gage. I am also grateful for the financial
support received from the Academy of Finland to do my fieldwork in Bihar in
1988. My acknowledgments also go to the Department of Sociology at the
University of Helsinki for including this work in its publication series.
I wish to extend special gratitude to my dear supervisor Professor Riitta Jallinoja
who has devoted selflessly and constantly a huge amount of time, energy and
patience in order to supervise me in a special way and to read my manuscript
several times in different stages and comment throughout to bring this work into
the form it now is. It was a great opportunity for me to get Professor Riitta
Jallinoja as my supervisor. Her special sociological knowledge has been stimulating
throughout and has helped me to improve the design of the dissertation. As well,
she was helpful in several other ways. For all this, I am truly indebted to her. I
express my special humble gratitude to my dear Guru Professor Riitta Jallinoja.
Helsinki, Autumn, September 13
Naresh Chandra Sourabh
Abstract .............................................................................................................. vii
Acknowledgements .............................................................................................. xi
Abbreviations .................................................................................................... xix
List of Maps ...................................................................................................... xx
List of Pictures ................................................................................................... xx
List of Tables .................................................................................................... xxi
Introduction ........................................................................................................ 1
1 Housework: The responsibility of women ....................................................... 7
1.1 The case of India ................................................................................. 7
1.2 The case of Western countries ............................................................ 20
1.3 Theoretical perspectives .................................................................... 27
2 Data and methods ........................................................................................... 35
2.1 Time-use study as a method ................................................................ 35
2.2 Time-use study in India ....................................................................... 43
2.3 Data of this study ............................................................................... 47
2.4 Description of the respondents .......................................................... 64
3 Division of labour in housework ................................................................... 70
4 Housework as responsibility .......................................................................... 87
4.1 Obligation of responsibility ............................................................. 91
4.1.1 The power of tradition ........................................................ 94
4.1.2 The cultural roots of housework ...................................... 107
4.1.3 Socialization ................................................................... 113
4.1.4 Elusive modernity: The case of
educated and employed women ........................................ 131
4.2 Housework as an expression of affection ..................................... 139
4.3 Purity and quality principle .......................................................... 144
4.4 Economic imperatives .................................................................. 151
4.5 Consequences of neglected housework ......................................... 155
5 Conclusions ................................................................................................ 165
References ........................................................................................................ 177
Appendix A: Activity Coding ......................................................................... 193
Appendix B: Questionnaire ............................................................................ 205
Appendix C: A List of Major Questions of the Oral Interview ......................... 216
Glossary .......................................................................................................... 218
ICSSR — The Indian Council of Social Science Research
Used in parenthesis:
RHN — Rural Household Number
UHN — Urban Household Number
IRN — Interviewee's Response Number
List of Maps
1. Map of India .............................................................................................. 49
2. Map of Bihar .......................................................................................... 49
2. Map of Patna ........................................................................................... 49
List of Pictures
1. Distributing time-use diaries and questionnaires among teachers. ................ 54
2. In a rural co-educational school, a teacher is introducing me to his
students. ................................................................................................. 54
3. The volunteers are interacting with people while distributing time-use
diaries and questionnaires among participants. ....................................... 54
4. The volunteers are checking and sorting time-use diaries and
questionnaires. ......................................................................................... 54
5. Visiting the rural Dinapur (Danapur) and Maner areas in the summer
before starting actual fieldwork. ............................................................ 57
6. My living place and working office in the rural area. ............................... 57
7. In the rural area, the Goraiya-asthan occasional market. ........................... 57
8. A scene between Dinapur (Danapur) and Maner rural areas in the rainy
season, with paddy crops different than in the summer. ........................... 57
9. Because of the rainy season, the fieldwork jeep got stuck in the mud. ....... 61
10. Rushed from my fieldwork to my maternal grandmother's
death ceremony rituals. ............................................................................ 61
11. In Patna, the DaĎahra festival is celebrated by burning effigies of
demons. ................................................................................................... 61
12. The celebration of Chaĕh Pėja (Chaĕh ritual) festival. ................................. 61
13. On the banks of the Ganges river, women celebrate Chaĕh Pėja
(Chaĕh ritual). ........................................................................................ 75
14. At Sunrise on the banks of the Ganges river, women celebrate Chaĕh Pėja
(Chaĕh ritual). ......................................................................................... 75
15. In urban Patna, a grandmother is cleaning rice before it is to be
cooked. .................................................................................................. 75
List of Tables
Table 1. Time spent in domestic work by sex in selected Western countries
and in India, average hours and minutes per day. ............................ 26
Table 2. The distribution of female and male respondents in rural and urban
areas in the survey. ....................................................................... 65
Table 3. The distribution of female and male respondents
by age in the survey ........................................................................ 65
Table 4. The distribution of females and males by their marital status in the
Survey .............................................................................................. 65
Table 5. The distribution of females and males according to their work in the
survey. ............................................................................................ 66
Table 6. The distribution of scored hours in the Sunday and Monday time-use
diaries. .......................................................................................... 66
Table 7. The distribution of scored hours in the Sunday and Monday time-use
diaries among females and males. .................................................. .66
Table 8. Mean time spent per day (in minutes) on major domestic tasks by sex
and marital status. ........................................................................... 70
Table 9. Mean time spent per day (in minutes) on major domestic tasks by age
and sex. ......................................................................................... 71
Table 10. Mean time spent per day (in minutes) on specific domestic tasks by
female and male. ....................................................................... 72-73
Table 11. What are the housework tasks you prefer to do, if you could make a
free choice? ................................................................................... 87
Table 12. If you are not given freedom to choose, what housework tasks you
are asked to do? ............................................................................ 88
Table 13. In your opinion, has housework an important role in maintaining
family life? ...................................................................................... 89
Table 14. To what extent do you think you are responsible for performing
housework? ................................................................................... 91
Table 15. Do you think that both women and men should share housework
equally? ......................................................................................... 94
Table 16. How far do you agree with the statement that experiences and
inspirations of our traditional life with certain norms and values (such
as customs) and women's potential for motherhood restrict women to
domestic work? ............................................................................. 96
Table 17. At what age did you start to get training for housework? .............. 113
Table 18. When you were asked to do housework in your childhood, how was
it asked? ...................................................................................... 122
Table 19. In your childhood, when you were asked to do some housework
tasks, did you get the impression that performing housework is
important? ................................................................................... 126
Table 20. How far do you agree with the statement that a woman's role must be
identified with hearth and home? ................................................... 131
Table 21. Does participation in household work result in increasing love and
affection among the members of your family? .............................. 139
Table 22. To what extent, do you think, are love and affection important to
members of your family? .............................................................. 140
Table 23. Do you think you will encounter any of the following crises if
housework is stopped in your family? ........................................... 156
Housework has been a subject of wide interest among family researchers for
decades. Investigations are mainly concerned with the question: How do males and
females share the total amount of domestic tasks and time? Issues such as
housework and sex-segregated roles, economic productivity, attaining satisfaction,
emotional well-being, and the issues of stress, burden, equity and conflict at the
family level are also subjects that raise interest among researchers (e.g. Srivastava
1978; Berk 1985; Benin & Agostinelli 1988; Broman 1988; Shelton 1990; Biernat
& Wortman 1991; Erickson 1993; Lye & Biblarz 1993; Mederer 1993; Kluwer et
al. 1996; Stohs 1994, 550, 554-5). Generally the studies conducted thus far have
been focused on spouses or couples living in nuclear families. Studying housework
and related family issues varies greatly in terms of types of theoretical and
methodological considerations. Consequently the types of results obtained differ
from one study to another.
Throughout the ages, domestic tasks have traditionally been part of the female role
(e.g. Dube 1963; Haavio-Mannila 1971, 120). These tasks create unending and
monotonous productive service in the lives of women. Women generally spend a
considerable amount of their time and labour resources on these tasks. This has
been investigated in advanced time-allocation studies by social scientists (e.g.
Becker 1965; Szalai et al. 1972; Oakley 1974; Johnson 1975; Hawrylyshyn 1976;
Walker & Woods 1976; Gronau 1977; Robinson 1977; Murphy 1978; Berk &
Berk 1979; Acharya & Bennett 1981; Andorka & Falussy 1982; Nakanishi 1982).
Their findings suggest that domestic work performed by women is essentially
important in fulfilling the social and economic needs of the family and nation.
In most societies, women are assigned and restricted to the home as their primary
occupational sphere (Blaxall & Reagan 1976; Hauser & Featherman 1977). Even
for those women who work outside of the home, housework is still one of their
main chores (e.g. Dalla Costa & James 1975, 21; Perry-Jenkins & Folk 1994;
Kluwer et al. 1996). They often manage a heavy domestic workload (e.g. Myrdal
& Klein 1968, 4; Rogers 1980, 7), running the family and producing goods and
services, whereas men's co-operation is minimal (e.g. Greenstein 1996). Women
are expected to bear responsibilities related to the domestic field which are socially
and culturally assigned to them and to provide services which are asked for (e.g.
Epstein 1970, 148; Stolte-Heiskanen 1971; Eagly 1987; Shelton & John 1993;
Sidanius et al. 1994). Many highly qualified women endeavour to combine their
work and family life, rather than give up one for the other (e.g. Mehta 1970;
Fogarty et al. 1971, 230; Srivastava 1978; Ramu 1989). As well, many women,
usually due to domestic burdens, still remain part of a relatively disadvantaged
stratum, although modern societies provide possibilities for greater
interchangeability of the sexes between the public and domestic sectors (Scanzoni
& Fox 1980, 744). This suggests the women's ideology of conceptualizing the
female role, wifery and motherhood in family life (e.g. Oakley 1974; Bernard 1975;
Lopata 1976; Lopata & Thorne 1978; Srivastava 1978; Lipman-Blumen 1984, 23-
24; Jain 1985; Sharma 1986; Ramu 1989).
The problems raised above prompt one to investigate housework and to evaluate
the gender role in the family. This study focuses on the division of labour in
housework in India. Although the amount of work performed by women in the
household is all over the world greater compared to that of men (e.g. Greenstein
1996; Kluwer et al. 1996), this is specifically true in a traditional society, like India,
where norms and values, attitudes and beliefs heavily support this kind of division
of labour. The norm is that women are solely responsible for performing
housework without exception (e.g. Srivastava 1978; Jain 1985; Sharma 1986;
The target group of the study consists of rural and urban families. The study
examines cultural meanings, both emotional and economic, of the performed sex-
segregated housework responsibility. In order to give a more comprehensive
picture of the sex-segregated roles, housework of the female and male is examined
by data based on age group, and marital status.
This research work is only applicable to the geographical location and to the
particular categories of households stated in the study. It may not be applicable to
other groups of households and geographical locations. But for reference purposes
and further academic advancement the study may be of use. The work is viewed
from a specific perspective as discussed in the study.
In order to identify and develop the objectives of this study, three general questions
a. How is housework maintained in India?
b. What are the cultural (e.g. norms and values, attitudes and beliefs) forces behind
the segregation of housework by gender?
c. Does modernity have any implication for gendered domestic work to direct it
towards gender equality as in many Western countries?
This study comprises five chapters. Chapter One examines the issues of gender role
in housework responsibility as they are studied and interpreted by family scholars.
Attention is paid to two diversified societies: Indian and Western. The aim of the
chapter is to generate deeper cross-cultural knowledge of the housework issues,
though the study particularly focuses on India. After that, some relevant theoretical
perspectives are examined to enlarge the scope of gender issues in housework.
After the discussion of the conceptual and theoretical issues, the data and
methodological aspects are examined and illustrated in Chapter Two which
consists of four sub-chapters. In the first two sub-chapters, there is an attempt to
thoroughly examine various time-use studies conducted in India and in other
countries. The usefulness and weaknesses of these studies are also assessed. In the
two last sub-chapters my attempt is to illustrate the data gathered for this research.
The empirical results of the study are presented broadly in the following two
chapters. Chapter Three examines the reality of the division of labour between
women and men in housework as it was actualized in Bihar in 1988. The aim of
Chapter Four is to make clear the results presented in the previous chapter. The
significance of housework in general but also the gendered division of labour tend
to persist as they have since time immemorial, because housework is seen as a
responsibility. The obligatory nature of responsibility is rooted in the power of
tradition, to which a great number of interviewees referred when explaining their
commitment to housework. Therefore a separate sub-chapter is devoted to the
description of the roots of these traditions. Traditions remain alive if children are
socialized according to them, and that happens as the data of this study shows.
This is handled after having examined the role of tradition. The obligatory nature
of responsibility is also visible among educated employed women; this is indicated
in the sub-chapter on elusive modernity.
The second element that characterizes housework as responsibility is of a different
type than the aforementioned obligation as it was manifested in statements that
referred to tradition — directed external forces. Here the study moves on to
examine those more personal-type utterances that see housework as an expression
of affection. Here feelings in general but particularly the feelings of togetherness
are prominent. The third element, the purity principle seems to be the most
significant in India in viewing housework as a responsibility. The fourth element
deals with economic imperatives, which bring an additional external factor to the
set of factors which tend to support the sustenance of the significance of
housework on the one hand, and on the other the traditional allocation of
housework between women and men. Finally these two facts are assessed by
looking at how the interviewees view the consequences they see if housework is
neglected. All these four elements are inquired into in separate sub-chapters, each
of them adding new knowledge to the one that is given in the sub-chapter where
the opening of the question about responsibility occurs.
Particular concepts are central to this study, therefore it is reasonable to define
Housework (gharelǌ kƗryƗ or ghar kƗ kƗm): Work not done for market purposes.
For the most part it is done at home, but some domestic tasks are done outside the
home, for example, fetching water, shopping and gardening. In this study, the
major domestic tasks are kitchen work, processing of food and other items, care of
house and garden, rearing and caring for children, caring for the elderly, unfit
persons and guests, care of animals, handicrafts, shopping, and cultural and
Culture: In this study culture is conceptualized as traditions, a set of shared
attitudes and beliefs, norms and values. These are rooted in the culture. Every
society is understood to share a distinctive culture, albeit it varies among
Sex and gender: Gender is a cultural concept, but it is also affected by ideology
which determines what kind of gender roles are proper. The social conditioning of
gender is highly context-dependent and varies across nations or cultures as gender
ideologies vary across individuals (e.g. Greenstein 1996). Mason (1997, 158)
defines the societal gender system as 'the socially constructed expectations for male
and female behaviour that are found (in variable form) in every human society.'
Gender is not reducible to biology (Oakley 1974, 24) whereas sex is; sex thus
refers to the biological distinction between man and woman emerging, for example,
in the tables of this study, when differences between males and females are
Work and labour: For the most part, family sociologists use the term 'work' and
'labour' variably and as if they were equivalent (e.g. Oakley 1974; Hawrylyshyn
1976, 115-118; 1977, 83; Gronau 1977, Bianchi et al. 2000, Lavee & Katz 2002;
Lewin-Epstein et al. 2006). This position is also taken in this study.
Tradition and modernity: Traditions are seen and conceptualized as old practices in
society whereas modernity (non-traditional) is experienced as something new
which is born in the process of social transformations. Social transformation is seen
as a historical process proceeding from traditionality to modernity when traditions
begin to fade, or as Perälä-Littunen (2007, 344) puts it, 'Modernity began when the
divine "order" of things no longer was a satisfactory explanation, and thus, order in
the world became something that had to be consciously reflected upon. As
permanent, stable order could not be attained, ambivalence emerged.'
1 Housework: The responsibility of women
The aim of this chapter is to present knowledge on the persistence of gender roles
in performing housework. For this purpose two cultural areas have been chosen,
India and the Western world. Since the study is on India, my attention will first
focus on the case of India. The aim is to describe how gender role responsibility
functions in discharging domestic tasks in India. To describe this, relevant studies
are used. The same concerns the case of the Western world: how gender role
responsibility is defined and put into effect in Western households is examined
through relevant studies. The interest here lies in the fact that a more equal division
of labour between women and men was launched in the Western world. As will be
seen, the equality issue has been called for in India, too. Finally, the chapter
concludes with examining relevant theoretical perspectives aiming to telescope and
understand this research objective better theoretically.
1.1 The case of India
How is housework carried out and maintained in contemporary Indian society? Are
Indian norms, values, attitudes and beliefs effectively responsible for the gender
roles in the household? Is labour divided by gender so that women have to do
housework, while men have to work outside the home?
Obviously in Indian society traditional norms, values, attitudes and beliefs are well
maintained. They are regulated in the roles and lives of men and women in various
stages of their lives. This is confirmed by terms such as gĵhiăƯ (female
housekeeper) and gĵhasth (male housekeeper). These stipulate roles by gender line
and social anticipation (e.g. Ramu 1989, 99). Subjugated anticipation defines the
issues of authority, power, rights and responsibility of men and women in the
family. This relates to the existing notions of masculinity and femininity in society.
Therefore, man and woman have their separate spheres of duty in the common
household. The woman as a gĵhiăƯ views her rights and duties with devotion and
responsibility in discharging all domestic work. The man as a gĵhasth does the
masculine type of work which mainly falls outside the home. In this context, Ramu
(1989, 100) clearly states: 'Moreover, the cultural expectations that govern what is
masculine and feminine also set territorial boundaries where masculinity and
femininity are to be best expressed: for women, it is at home and for men it is in the
world of work.'
The concepts of masculinity and femininity are not merely biological but also
cultural. Usually the man is assigned the masculine duty of fully providing
economic support and security to his family. He is dominant and powerful in the
pursuit of personal and family needs and achievements. As an ideal husband he is
to be the provider, supporter, protector and benefactor of his wife and family. In
return he is to get warm, expressive interaction, love, affection, deference and
services to satisfy various needs. The concept of masculinity defines roles for the
male and female in the family. This regulates their identities and specifies
household tasks to be carried out. If a man somehow gets engaged in feminine
types of housework like cooking food, washing dishes or sweeping floors, it harms
his masculinity. An ideal woman, under the concepts of satƯ (true and devoted
wife) and pativratƗ (faithful and devoted to the husband) is expected to tend to the
personal needs and the comfort of her husband and family. This compliments the
assumptions of masculinity (e.g. Dube 1963; Altekar 1973, 93-121; Mies 1980;
Ramu 1989, 99-100).
Correspondingly, the concepts of masculinity and femininity define that man is the
natural master of the social order. Conversely, woman by nature is nurturing,
obedient, subservient and dependent. Such roles of men and women are rooted in
their manners, behaviours and appearances. The concept of masculinity in the
Indian family system is patriarchal, patrilineal and patrilocal. However, there do
exist exceptional matriarchal families (e.g. Mies 1980; Ramu 1989; Dhruvarajan
In the Indian social set-up, marriage is a must for all girls regardless of wealth or
poverty. The worth of their lives is based on becoming a successful, ideal wife and
mother under traditional norms, values, attitudes and beliefs. After marriage, giving
birth is a top priority for a woman. Otherwise she is looked down upon in society
and regarded as a great misfortune to herself and her family. It is not only in
bearing a child that the importance of motherhood is found, but also in the
nurturing of the child with love, affection, devotion and sacrifice. 'Consequently,
women place childcare at the top of their domestic and personal agenda', as Ramu
(1989, 103) says.
Norms, values, attitudes and beliefs are responsible for regulating housework by
gender. Housework is women's work, whether or not they are educated or
employed. Men are disinclined to perform domestic tasks because of deep
conditioning in their upbringing and early experience. Women typically say that
men are not prepared to do any kind of domestic job, as they have not been trained
for such work by their mothers. Generally, women have been doing the domestic
tasks. One cannot change that now (Sharma 1986, 63). Sharma also informs us
that these traditional attitudes belong to almost all women. 'Housework is part of
the female role and that efficiency as a housewife is an important measure of
success as a woman' (Sharma 1986, 64).
In everyday life, women are socialized under the images of satƯ (true and devoted
wife) and pativratƗ (faithful and devoted to the husband). These idealized images
stress self-giving, asceticism, reunification, selfless honour, devotion, obedience
and loyalty to husband and family. The traditionally ideal and virtuous wife, mother
or woman earns respect from within and outside of her family (e.g. Ramu 1989,
100). The socialization of women's femininity is not limited to the family agency
but also to outer organized agencies like educational centres. Generally all
education of women is welcome so long as it does not alter their traditional role
(Ramu 1989, 31). Thus far, the traditional role of Indian women has not changed.
Formal education of women in India is 'feminized' so that it is considered to be an
instrument to promote and maintain a domestic system along the traditional line. In
this context Karlekar (1988, 157) states: 'Femininity means non-assertiveness,
compliance, obedience, and in education, choosing options that will not conflict
with these basic orientations. [...] Clearly then, education has to be manipulated to
provide goals and training for girls which are to be substantially different from
those for boys.'
Women's association with housework is directly linked with the panorama of satƯ
(true and devoted wife) and pativratƗ (faithful and devoted to the husband)
doctrine in Indian, particularly Hindu, society. The proponents of these doctrines
are Sita, Savitri, Lakshmi, Paravati, Anasuya, Gandhari, and Dropadi. Ideal images
and stories of them are familiar to the masses regardless of their age, sex, caste and
religion (e.g. Mies 1980; Fruzzetti 1982, 124; Ramu 1989; Dhruvarajan 1990).
The pervasiveness of the domestic role of women is so well established that, in
general, they are expected to be domestically competent in the household.
Therefore, in most cases girls are given domestic learning and recreation during
their early induction to family life (e.g. Kalakdina 1975, 91; Jeffery 1979, 69). It
has also been observed that women learn their gender role expectancies in their
families and afterwards transmit them to their children. Thus, women initiate and
maintain ritualistic and traditional behaviour for the future lives of the female
children. The deep-rooted and intensive idea behind the female's gender role
responsibility is well expressed by phrases such as the 'house as the woman's
natural place' or 'women are meant for housework'. This is because women have
been responsible for doing housework for centuries, and they are necessary and
skilled in this area. Also, due to the induction of the pardƗ (this does not allow
women to appear before others) system the role of women is either pushed or fixed
in the household. Their careers are identified and understood through the hearth
and home, regardless of their outside employment. They are also frequently called,
'gharelǌ aurat' / 'ghar kƯ aurat' (household woman), 'gĵha-patnƯ' / 'gharer baou' /
'ghar kƯ bƯEƯ' (housewife), 'gĵhiăƯ' / 'gharvƗOƯ', 'gĵha-svƗminƯ' (mistress of the
house) (e.g. Altekar 1973, 90-114; Dube 1963, 188; Jeffery 1979, 13; Mies
1980, 67-68; Ramu 1989, 99; Tenhunen 1997, 121).
Guided by these social notions, women perform the unending tasks allocated to the
domestic field in their families (e.g. Jeffery 1979, 65-67). The duties of women
include taking care of the children (feeding, bathing and bedding, etc.); sweeping
and cleaning the house; fetching water for domestic needs either from a well, a
pond or a river; cooking and serving food for the men and children; scrubbing the
utensils; washing the clothes of the men and children; looking after the storage of
provisions (Dube 1963, 195-203; Seymour 1975, 760; Jeffery 1979, 68-74). Along
with these tasks, women also go to the market, engage in arts and crafts, knit and
embroider, and perform agricultural tasks, such as preparing the ground, sowing,
weeding, growing vegetables, harvesting, threshing, winnowing, drying, boiling
(mainly paddy) and storage, etc., all of which are related to women's tasks as part
of their 'ghar kƗ kƗm' (housework). However, the performance of all these tasks
varies (e.g. Dube 1963, 200).
Jeffery's (1979, 68-9) observations suggest that women of Indian families,
compared with women in industrialized nations, have hardly any domestic gadgets
and convenience foods to ease housework. This is partially true in the urban
context and fully true in the rural context where electricity is also scarce. Actually
the easing of housework largely depends on family types, economic class position
and regional settings of the households. In an urban setting, among middle-class
households, there are often certain types of domestic gadgets to ease housework,
such as refrigerators, gas or electric stoves, electric toasters, sandwich makers,
blenders and small electric ovens. Other items in the household might be equipment
for sifting food items, sewing machines, electric or steam irons, new kinds of
detergents and scouring pads and so on. But still, household equipment like
vacuum cleaners, freezers and washing machines are not available in the household
(e.g. Sharma 1986, 66-8).
As well, the ease of housework is not fully dependent on modern types of domestic
equipment like electronic devices, but also on the culture of food and required
services. These might vary due to habits, complexity of food and services, and
attitudes and beliefs about quality, purity and pollution. Under these circumstances,
the situation in Indian families differs from that of the households in more
industrialized countries. Therefore, women’s tasks are extended to include buying
raw foodstuffs daily or every other day. They have to prepare a variety of spices
and herbs for each dish. Wheat flour is stored for a longer period at home, but the
capƗWƯ / roĕƯ (unleavened bread) has to be made freshly every day. Loose
foodstuffs, such as lentils, rice, wheat, flour, sugar, salt, etc. have to be thoroughly
sifted for tiny pebbles, particles of clay, etc. In a dry dusty climate, keeping the
house clean is a difficult and never-ending task. In the hottest weather, women
must ensure that the small children sleep comfortably by fanning them with their
hand. Throughout the year, it is the woman's task to massage the baby many times
a day. They perform their domestic chores for long hours, punctuating them with
periods to rest or chat. This reflects the lack of alternative possibilities for passing
their time with unending and arduous domestic tasks (e.g. Jeffery 1979, 68-69,
Mies 1980, 180; Sharma 1986, 81).
Compared with women, the men's contribution to housework in the family is
minimal. Normally, men are not expected to do kitchen work as it is against the
social norms. Men even expect that a glass of water should be brought to them,
that their bed should be made and folded, that their clothes should be kept tidy, and
so on. Normally women perform such duties as a woman. Then the question arises
whether men take any responsibility in performing tasks in the family. Actually
men may take care of children, particularly in educating them; to a certain extent
such a task is not gender specified. Men also do household tasks, such as fetching
water and fuel, shopping, taking care of cattle and entertaining guests, sweeping
and repairing certain parts of the house. These tasks are considered either
masculine or not gender-specific tasks. In summary, women are still, as in former
times, expected to be responsible for discharging domestic tasks. They do not ask
their men to perform such tasks because the men would lose their dignity (e.g.
Dube 1963; Mies 1980, 45; Ramu 1989).
The importance of the mother's child-care role is examined in Srivastava's (1978)
study in relation to the level of mothers' satisfaction with child-care. In this regard,
half of working women claim that they are neglecting their children. In contrast,
most non-working wives feel satisfied while providing sufficient care for their
children. This shows that the class position of wives affects child-care. However,
the study concludes that it is undeniably common to take into account the need for
child care among all classes (ibid, 104-107). One of the problems of this study is
that it does not inform the reader how child care is shared between spouses. The
provision of such information would be of great significance when clarifying the
gender roles in question; this information was achieved in the author's discussion
on family budgeting and shopping. Furthermore, the study also lacks information
as to whether and to what extent household chores are shared between spouses.
Sharma's (1986) anthropological study of Shimla, a city in North India, deals with
various issues of women's work. These include housework and housewifery, and
household management. Urban household settings are sampled, which indeed are
of great interest in this case. Her findings show that most Shimla women manifest
common, traditional attitudes towards performing housework, regardless of their
family class and employment (ibid, 68). They believe that efficient housework is a
significant measure of women's success in life (ibid, 63-64). Generally, women
consider male co-operation with housework as too unrealistic to seriously
contemplate (ibid, 63). The reason for this is that men's disinclination to do
housework has deep roots in their upbringing and early experience. Sharma found
that the typical attitude is expressed as follows: 'Our Indian men are not ready for
this kind of thing. Our Indian men have not been trained by their mothers to do
housework, they have always had it done for them. How can you change them
now?' (ibid, 63). This is important knowledge about the division of labour in the
household. This attitude reveals the willingness of women to justify the roles of
men and women in the household. They express no need for men to do any major
housework because this is accepted to be a purely female responsibility. This
expresses an inalterability in their traditional roles. Nevertheless, in her study
Sharma does not mention what men are actually doing in the household. Certainly
men must participate in some kind of housework. This is left out of her study. In
addition, she does not define the tasks that make up 'housework'. From other
studies it is evident that men also participate in certain household tasks such as
child care and going to the market (e.g. Jain 1985; Ramu 1989). These drawbacks
in her studies make the information provided on the division of labour disputable.
For a few women, it is noted that that they are so identified with domestic work
that they do not even consider having any free time (Sharma 1986, 63). Women on
average spend most of their time and a considerable amount of energy on cooking,
cleaning and doing laundry. Housework seems so inseparable from the female role
that there is no point to say whether women like or dislike it. However, many
women are able to specify their like or dislike with regard to some selected
housework. The study notes that cooking is more frequently approved of.
Similarly, making garments is considered as the most feminine activity, while
washing clothes is a universally disliked job (ibid, 78-79). In the case of household
management (e.g. budgeting), the author finds that there are no households in
which the responsibility for household management falls entirely upon either the
wife or the husband (ibid, 88). Wives' skilfulness in domestic work is required for
the creation and maintenance of social values and relations (ibid, 83). How women
experience domestic work depends on material conditions, their living standards
and family expectations (ibid, 64).
Further, Sharma (1986) notes that most women of all classes believe that it is
important for mothers to train their daughters in domestic skills (pp. 73-79). Her
study shows that mothers are responsible for transmitting housework gender-role
values to their daughters through the process of socialization. After some time the
daughters would also be able to play the traditional female role by performing
housework themselves. This also implies that the mother plays a vital role in
actualizing female gender roles. This ensures the perpetuation of these roles.
In comparing the role of women and men in the household, Jain's (1985) and
Ramu's (1989) studies are particularly interesting because of their greater empirical
relevance. Jain's study, based on cross-regional rural families in India, reveals
persisting sex-segregated roles in families irrespective of caste, class and regional
variations. Men are primarily responsible for an outside job, and spend most of
their time there. Women spend time on housework as their primary function. This
includes cooking, grinding, cutting, shopping, cleaning, sweeping, washing clothes
and utensils, fetching fuel and water, and child-care-related activities. This study
was carried out in the rural areas of Rajasthan and West Bengal. Intensive and
interesting features of women's roles are also visible there. In rural Rajasthan,
though women are heavily engaged in agricultural work, housework is still left to
them as their essential job. If a woman from the West Bengal region has an outside
job, she most likely prefers to keep her traditional feminine role and work
domestically in someone else's household. In these discussions, two things are
revealed. Firstly, in the Rajasthan case, we notice a stress on the housework that
women do regardless of their outside job. This is similar to other researchers'
findings (e.g. Chakrabortty 1978; Karlekar 1982; Sharma 1986). Secondly, in West
Bengal, we find an emphasis on the feminine identity and role performance of
women. Such perception includes the type of job, i.e. housework. Also, this
feminine perception itself shows that women naturally prefer housework. However,
from these two separate regional cases, we find in general a perception of women
as domestic workers. In this regard, Jain (1985, 215-216) confirms: 'Women
perceive themselves as mainly engaged in activities within the household, of which
their most regular engagement is in what are called domestic activities.'
The amount of time adult men spend on housework is very little and almost
invisible compared to that of adult women. Men do those household tasks which
are not necessarily specified as 'feminine', such as fetching water and child care.
Notably, the men of West Bengal co-operate with women in household activities a
little more than do the men of Rajasthan. In my view, this might have to do with
the self perception of men due to regional values.
Jain's study shows that gender segregated roles in society are dominant and
accounted for by culture and self perception. She states: 'The link between the two,
the myth and the methodology, is obvious. It also has its base in reality — in that
women and girls are uniquely engaged in household chores or domestic activity,
and many similarly supportive activities [...]. Perception also plays a vital role in
leading to this presumption' (Jain 1985, 215).
Ramu's study deals with urban-based dual- and single-earner families of Bangalore,
a city in India. He examines categorically the crucial issues of housework,
including attitudes and behaviours among middle-class families in which tradition
and modern social values exist. Regardless of women's work status, they perform
domestic tasks that also include child care. It is noted that dual-earner wives spend
nearly five times, and single-earner wives eight times, more on domestic activities
compared with their husbands. The dual-earner wives perform housework just as
much and for as long as the single-earner wives in addition to spending about 40
hours weekly at work. The question arises whether dual-earner husbands share the
housework. Findings show that few husbands in dual-earner households help with
domestic tasks in order to alleviate the stress of their wives' overload. In the case
of single-earner families, family life leans more towards maintaining traditional
values. Wives of such households view housework with a sense of purpose and
devotion. It is their predestined duty and part of their self expression (Ramu 1989,
63,136-138). Therefore, for single-earner husbands to participate and help their
wives in housework does not apply. Generally, minimal or a bit more participation
from husbands of both dual- and single-earner households is visible in selected
items of child care, going to the market and miscellaneous activities. These
activities are not considered totally feminine household activities, which supports
Sharma's (1986) findings. It is notable that about 45% of single-earner wives say
that they would like to enter the labour force but are not able to do so for various
reasons, such as disapproval by husbands and kin, and maternal responsibilities. In
this context, Ramu (1989, 63) states clearly: 'Non-domestic work was to be of
secondary importance, and, where necessary, was to remain an adjunct, not an
alternative, to their homemaker role. […] They moved according to the dictates of
their husbands or other relatives, and to the demands of maternity.'
Now the question is, what are the reasons for the differentiation of the roles of man
and woman in the family. In this regard, Ramu (1989, 138) highlights two
dominant factors: gender identity and traditional values. These are responsible for
determining the separate male and female roles in the household. Also other factors
such as physical capacity, including maternal experience, are considered to function
with or around the two factors on a broader level.
Although the overall picture of the gender roles in India seems to be very
traditional, a number of studies deal with the normative evaluation of the position
of women in society and the national reform movement (e.g. Asthana 1974; Agnew
1979; Seetharamu 1981; Chattopadhayay 1983; Desai 1985). Some other studies
concentrate on social, cultural, economic and other issues related to women's roles
and lives (e.g. Dube 1963; Altekar 1973; Kapur 1970; Kala 1976; Mukherjee 1978;
Shashi 1978; Jeffery 1979; Karlekar 1982; Chaki-Sircar 1984; Subbamma 1985;
Mishra 1985; Jain & Banerjee 1985; Ramu 1989; Tenhunen 1997). In these
studies, women's position and dependency, deprivation and exploitation are
examined in social and economic contexts. Importantly, these studies also explore
emerging issues such as role conflicts, social adjustment and the restructuring of
status power, values and ideologies related to women's roles and lives. The studies
pay attention to the role conflict of working women as they meet heavy
responsibility both in the household and the workplace (e.g. Mehta 1970; Kapur
1970; Chakrabortty 1978; Srivastava 1978; Mies 1980; Ramu 1989).
The role conflict of employed women is traced in self-image. As for self-image, the
role conflict of women as wife and mother on the one hand and as employee on the
other defines their potential and resourcefulness as regards values, emotions and
commitments to roles in and outside the family (e.g. Chakrabortty 1978; Ramu
1989; Tenhunen 1997, 146). The study by Gorwaney (1977, 220) carried out in
Rajasthan, India confirms that the self-image of a woman not only evaluates
objects of the external world, but also evaluates herself in relation to the society.
Gorwaney's content of self-image possessed by women is as such honesty,
obedience, sincerity, kindness, sympathy, cheerfulness, affectionateness, self-
confidence, good manners, good student, prestige, independence, popularity,
modernity, standing up for rights and so on (ibid, 43). Under self-image the
perception of role conflict in women and its consequence of redressing their role
decision are observed in Tenhunen's study, as she says: 'Women who have tried to
do all the household work alone in addition to working outside the home have not
been able to continue their wage work for a long time' (1997, 146).
When explaining the reasons for the unequal gender roles, researchers see the
cultural system as the determining factor of Indian women's roles and lives. The
status of Hindu women in society is determined by hierarchical values, while the
status of tribal women displays egalitarian and liberal social values. The importance
of culture in determining women's roles and lives is examined under a traditional
cultural model (Shashi 1978; Chaki-Sircar 1984; Mishra 1985). Similarly, the
status of Hindu and Muslim women in their cultural traditions is also a focal point
(Jacobson & Wadley 1977; Mukherjee 1978; Jeffery 1979). Such studies confirm
the dichotomy raised in the women's role and self perception under historical and
cultural conditioning. All of these studies explore reasons why married women
enter the working sector, the degree of support provided by them for the family,
the division of household labour, the adjustment of power and equality, and finally,
the impact of mothers’ work on children. Such studies show great similarity with
Western studies that were carried out in dual-earner families in the 1970s.
Relevant to my study are those studies that specifically handle the conflicts women
face when combining mothering and career. In this respect, Chakrabortty's (1978)
study is useful here. She informs that many university educated women from the
middle class prefer to marry and have their regular role as wife and mother. These
women seek employment so that their education can be used to raise the living
standards of their families. One result of these goals is that many professional
married women suffer in developing both their careers and domestic lives.
However, most employed married women give low priority to their careers. They
attach primacy to their role in the household. This tendency has to do with their
self-image. In contrast, Karlekar's (1982) study on the women sweepers of Delhi
reports that poor married women engaged in low wage occupations have difficulty
in escaping from their jobs. In addition, these women are hardly concerned with
role conflict. The reason for this is that they are concerned more with earning an
adequate income to support their families — even in a hostile economic situation
— than with the seemingly insignificant issues of role conflict. It proves that their
responsibility to their families and their willingness to maintain them is privatized
Srivastava's (1978) study deals with the broader issues of employed, educated and
married women of Chandigarh, a city in India. She too focuses on working women
as homemakers and mothers, and the division of domestic responsibilities (ibid, 85-
115). Her study explores the variation of the amount of time and energy spent on
housework. This depends on the family’s class and the wife’s age, marital and
working situations, and finally, the possession of labour-saving devices and
consciousness of the distribution of time (ibid, 69-85). The employment of wives
seems to have consequences on the division of labour between spouses in the
It is found that in the employed wives' families, there is a less differentiated division
of labour between spouses, in contrast to the families of non-working women,
where the demarcation of roles is clear (ibid, 97). However, the study confirms
that regardless of the working position of wives, budgeting and shopping tasks in
families are shared by spouses, though at different levels — more in working
wives' families and less in non-working wives' families (ibid, 93-93). This is also
confirmed by other studies (e.g. Ramu 1989).
1.2 The case of Western countries
After focusing on the case of India, it would now be fruitful to focus on the
Western countries and ask how family issues regarding gender roles have been
examined in Western family research. The emphasis of the examination is on
empirical results, but the interpretations are also taken under scrutiny.
Since the 1960s, one major subject of family research has been the division of
household labour in single- and dual-earner families (e.g. Blood & Wolfe 1960;
Nye & Hoffman 1963; Rossi 1964; Epstein 1971; Scanzoni 1983; Geerken & Gove
1983; Pleck 1985; Berk 1985; Hood 1986; Spitze 1986; Perry-Jenkins & Crouter
1990; Shelton & John 1993 — USA; Dahlström 1967; Fogarty et al. 1968;
Rapoport & Rapoport 1971 — EC). Generally, in order to study the division of
labour in the family, scholars examine gender role ideology, ethical values, labour
and power distributions, role overburden and conflict, time availability, tasks
(specification and amount of time spent), productive values of housework, and
family satisfaction and well-being (e.g. Becker 1950; Hawrylyshyn 1976; Andorka
1987; Fogarty et al. 1968; Rapoport & Rapoport 1971; Vanek 1974; Eskola &
Haavio-Mannila 1975; Walker & Woods 1976; Berk & Berk 1979; Brody &
Steelman 1985; Coverman 1985; Thompson & Walker 1989; Gershuny &
Robinson 1988; Hochschild 1983; Blair & Lichter 1991; Lye & Biblarz 1993;
Stohs 1994; Perry-Jenkins & Crouter 1990; Shelton & John 1993).
One of the trends of the research conducted in the 1960s in North America and
Europe concerned the impact of wives' employment on family functions and
domestic relations. Specifically the negative results of a mother's employment on
child care were examined. Also, in the case of Indian studies, Srivastava (1978)
and Ramu (1989) had a similar perspective: the studies show dissatisfaction of
mothers because of not having enough time for child care. In the early 1970s we
find a transformation in this approach by a variety of researchers (Fogarty et al.
1971; Rapoport & Rapoport 1971; Epstein 1971; Holmstrom 1972; Garland
1972). Among these, the study by Rapoport and Rapoport on professional dual-
earner families is worth mentioning. It gave new information on the nature of role
conflict and issues of reorganizing domestic relations among working couples. This
study as well as some other corresponding studies differ substantially from other
studies in the 1970s. These new types of studies note the impact of working wives
on domestic relations and seek to find whether the wives' coprovider role had
transformed the balance of power, the division of labour and maintenance of child
care. These pioneer studies examine cultural, social and psychological elements
when analysing gender roles. The role of the wife-mother is considered in terms of
'coprovider who is either facilitated or hindered by ideological and structural
conditionings' (e.g. Bailyn 1970; Epstein 1971).
The studies carried out in the late l970s, the l980s and l990s report similar findings:
the wife's coprovider role has not significantly changed the sex-segregated gender
role in the household nor the distribution of power (e.g. Bird 1979; Feinstein 1979;
Rapoport & Rapoport 1978, 1980; Pepitone-Rockwell 1980; Aldous 1982; Hood
1983; Huber & Spitze 1983; Lupri 1983; Malmaud 1984; Gerson 1985; Shelton
1990, 116-18; Ferber 1982; Meissner et al. 1975; Stafford et al. 1977; Coverman
& Sheley 1986; Sanik 1981; Pleck 1984; Robinson 1977). This contradicts the
findings of scholars showing that men's contributions in domestic work is
increasing, and that the domestic division of labour is becoming more egalitarian
(e.g. Pleck 1985; Juster 1985). Similarly, Crouter et al. (1987) show that in dual-
earner families, husbands participate more in child-care tasks compared to
husbands in single-earner families. However, this study does not clearly show how
much more time husbands spend on child care (Shelton 1990). Meanwhile, Leslie
et al. (1991) inform that wives' employment has no significant influence on the time
their husbands spend on child care.
Shelton and John (1993) note that married women spend a greater amount of time
on housework than do cohabiting women. In the case of men, marital status is not
significantly related to time spent on housework. These findings show that the
marital status of women is the determining factor in proving the persistence of
gender-based roles in the household. Men's marital status shows insignificant
association in relation to housework and time contribution. Furthermore, this study
also informs us that sex role attitudes vary according to marital status. Married
men and women observe traditional attitudes more so than do cohabiting partners.
This gender-based role stemming from attitudes in the family possibly explains the
difference in labour time. Difference in time spent confirms that the sex role
ideology is changed into behaviour after marriage (Kotkin 1983). Furthermore,
Shelton and John's investigation shows that marital status is associated significantly
with women's housework time, but correlates negatively with that of men.
Compared to married women without children, women of any marital position with
children appear to contribute more time to household labour. This implies that the
presence of children leads women to perform more household tasks and contribute
more time to them. Similarly, married women with children exhibit an increasingly
more gender-based role in contributing time and labour in the family. Also, the
study by Shelton and John shows that a husband, rather than a male partner
(cohabiting), increases the amount of labour and time of women in the family
Shelton's (1990) study presents a mixed picture of correlations between women's
employment status and men's and women's time in household labour. She informs
the reader that women's employment is not significantly related to men's absolute
time in household labour. There is also little relation between women's paid labour
and men's time contributed to specific household tasks. This is supported by similar
findings of other scholars ( Beer 1983; Coverman 1985; Pleck 1984; Weingarten
1978). Some researchers concur that there is no correlation between the job time
of wives and the time husbands spend performing household tasks (Ferber 1982;
Geerken & Gove 1983; Vanek 1980). Findings show also that employed women
spend less time on household tasks than do full-time homemakers (Berk 1985;
Pleck 1985). This accords with studies made in India (e.g. Srivastava 1978; Ramu
1989). Variations exist more in some household tasks than in others. Such
variations are seen as tasks for which men are basically responsible, and as those
for which men and women can contribute equally. Shelton concludes that domestic
labour is still clearly 'women's responsibility'. In any case it is women, rather than
men, who usually have to adjust their time between job and housework (1990,
Lye and Biblarz (1993) examine the relationship between the gender role and
family attitudes of wives and husbands using five indicators of marital satisfaction.
Their findings show that positive attitudes towards non-traditional family life are
related to less marital satisfaction. This supports Goode's (1963) observations. It
also came out that men and women with non-traditional attitudes towards family
behaviour may find alternatives to married life more successfully and give more
importance to self-gratification (Lye & Biblarz 1993). This might confirm Glenn's
(1990) observation that the purpose of marriage in present society is hedonistic.
The ideals of continuous change and search for individual self-fulfilment are in
conflict with the traditional ideals of love, commitment, attachment, altruism and
restraint (Gove et al. 1990; Swidler 1980). Some scholars note that attitudes
towards family life and gender roles increasingly place importance on personal
actualization, fulfilment and gratification (e.g. Bellah et al. 1985; Lesthaeghe &
Surkyn 1988). According to Lye and Biblarz (1993), non-traditional distribution of
housework causes less marital satisfaction.
Blair and Lichter (1991) examine the division of household labour, time and gender
role socialization in American society. In order to investigate sources of
intercouple variation in gender-based household labour, they found the effects of
time availability, family power, and gender role ideology. They confirm Schooler
and associates' (1984) assessments by adopting two conceptual dimensions of the
division of household labour: number of hours and types of tasks allocation for
each spouse in the family. In order to perceive a clear picture of the division of
labour time, Blair and Lichter (1991) stress the specification of household tasks
and the amount of time spent in them according to gender. Their results inform us
that sex-segregated division of labour in the family is symptomatic of continuing
gender inequality and gender role socialization. Details of their findings confirm
that time availability, family power and gender role ideology influence different
levels (ibid, 107-110). Power and ideology seem to be more visible in explaining
and determining the role behaviour of men and women in the family. Thus far,
Blair and Lichter (1991) confirm that female employment has a positive link with
men's absolute and proportionate contribution to household tasks. Such findings
discredit the typical findings of other scholars: wives' paid jobs are largely
disassociated with the husbands' average housework (cultural variation also in the
West as in India; see review by Thompson & Walker 1989; also Shelton 1990).
Similarly, Blair and Lichter's results fail to support previous findings that income of
wives is largely unrelated to husbands' proportionate household labour. On the
basis of such findings, Blair and Lichter confirm: 'Presumably, employment and
earnings provide a power base that enables women to achieve a more equitable
division of labour across tasks. Power-based explanations may have as much (if not
more) to offer theoretically about the kinds of work that men and women do as
about how much work they actually do' (1991, 110).
Further, Blair and Lichter (1991) state that gender and family role ideologies have
statistically important and positive results on the distribution of household labour
time in the family. Gender role is significant in explaining men's housework
contributions and in the observation of a segregated role in the family (ibid, 108).
Finally, they inform us that wives spend more time on household tasks than do
husbands. These gender-based domestic tasks confirm that wives and husbands
define their household role by sex, which supports Shelton's (1990) findings. This
leads to the fact that tasks in the family are typically defined and specified
according to men's and women's gender identity in order to reinforce traditional
gender role values, which have been perceived through the socialization process.
This supports Brody and Steelman's (1985) study.
Hilton and Haldeman (1991) examine gender role differences in time spent on
domestic tasks by adults and children in single parent and two parent, dual-earner
families. Their findings show that fathers and mothers are highly segregated in
performing their household tasks. Domestic tasks are relegated to female parents.
Compared to parents, children observe less sex-segregation in performing
housework. This raises the question: why do children exhibit less traditional gender
role behaviour than do their parents? Their study also shows that boys from single-
parent families do less female types of domestic work than do boys from two-
parent families. However, it is evident that girls from both single- and two-parent
families contribute much more time to female types of household tasks (such as
preparing food, dishwashing, housecleaning, clothing care) than do boys. Thus it is
quite clear that even for boys and girls, household tasks seem to be divided on
gender lines. Accordingly, children of both sexes exhibit traditional gender role
behaviour in performing household tasks.
In the case of dual-earner families, Hilton and Haldeman (l991) report that female
parents contribute much more time per day to household labour than do male
parents. Male parents' participation in household labour time is more visible in male
typed or less gender specified domestic tasks, like shopping and home
maintenance. Male parents also spend little time (about 7 minutes per day) on food
preparation compared to the huge amount of time female parents do (about 81
minutes). A further explanation in role justifications is needed. Males and females
from two-parent earner families observe sex segregation in performing household
tasks in order to confirm traditional gender roles in the family (p. 124).
The multinational longitudinal time budget archive made by Niemi and Pääkkönen
(1992) clearly shows that the division of labour in the family has remained quite
traditional in the Western countries.
Table 1. Time spent in domestic work by sex in selected Western countries and
in India, average hours and minutes per day.
Country Year Female Male
Canada 1981 4h 55m 2h 29m
USA 1985 4h 41m 2h 26m
India 1989 10h 18m 1h 42m
Netherlands 1985 4h 59m 2h 15m
UK 1983/84/87 4h 42m 2h 17m
Norway 1980-81 5h 1m 2h 18m
Finland 1987-88 3h 59m 2h 17m
Notes: Data for Canada, USA, Netherlands, UK, Norway and Finland is based on the
multinational longitudinal time budget archive (Niemi & Pääkkönen 1992, 66) while for India
data is based on Ramu's study (1989, 131) conducted in Bangalore, India.
The time women spend on housework is nearly double or more compared with
men. Women spend less than double time only in Finland while women from the
UK, Norway, Netherlands, USA and Canada spend more than double the amount
of time in their households compared with men.
The general outlook is that though women in Western countries live in the centre
of a great social transformation and are largely engaged in work outside the home
as their men, still they spend four to five hours per day in household tasks. Only in
the case of Finland do women have a more equal gender role in their households.
Compared to Western countries, women in India do much more domestic work
than Western women and the division of labour is more traditional. Ramu also
specifies the Indian results by stating that in the case of single-earner households,
wives spent 12 hours per day while wives in dual-earner households spend about
eight and a half hours per day (1989, 131). Such a long time spent on housework
by Indian women is much higher than the hours spent on housework by Western
Studies in India and the Western countries differ not only according to the results
on the factual division of labour between men and women, but also according to
the perspectives adopted in gender studies. It seems to be so that in India scholars
more willingly approve of the traditional gender roles, whereas in Western
countries they are more critical in this respect. But in both countries, gender role
studies have been carried out because of political reasons, i.e. to enhance gender
equality. However, even at the beginning of the 21st century, the gender issue in
the household still remains in practice on the traditional path. It has not changed in
spite of the great social transformation that has taken place in both areas. This
seems to be a great challenge in both regions, and especially in the case of India.
1.3 Theoretical perspectives
After having discussed in the previous sections the empirical results of studies of
housework in India and the Western countries I now move to examine some
prominent theoretical perspectives which have been used in the studies of division
of labour in the family. The aim of this sub-chapter is to outline additional means of
understanding the issue of gender-based housework.
In the studies of division of labour in the family, many kinds of theoretical
approaches have been developed. The key terms in these theories have been
demand / response capability (Coverman 1985), resource / availability (Blood &
Wolfe 1960; Perrucci et al. 1978), role conflict / ideology (Blair & Lichter 1991;
Berk 1985; West & Zimmerman 1987; Stohs 1994; Shaw 1988), and situational
explanation (England & Farkas 1986; Shelton & John 1993; Berk 1985; West &
Zimmerman 1987). Each theory attempts to explain family tasks and time given to
them by women and men in its own way, but none of them alone fully explain the
family issues at hand. Each theory has its limitations and advantages. They are
indebted to other theories but they may also reject one another (e.g. Parsons &
Bales 1955; Aronoff & Crano 1975; Rossi 1977; Perry-Jenkins & Crouter l990;
Nye & Gecas 1976; Turner 1970; Biddle 1979; Hood 1986; Peplau 1983; Stohs
1994; Biernat & Wortman 1991; Ferree 1987; Shelton 1990; Coverman 1985;
Hilton & Haldeman 1991; Szinovacz & Harpster 1993). In attempting to solve
such problems, some scholars have tried to apply multi-theoretical approaches in
order to examine family issues multidimensionally. This they have done by
integrating divergent theories and interpretations. In what follows I discuss first the
one-dimensional theories, their weakness and advantages and after that I take
under scrutiny some multi-theoretical approaches. I conclude the sub-chapter with
the preliminary outline of the socio-cultural perspective of which this research is
The relative resource theory stems from two theoretical perspectives: relative
power resources (e.g. Blood & Wolfe 1960; Perrucci et al. 1978) and relative
efficiency resources (Becker 1975; Farkas 1976; Geerken & Gove 1983).
According to the advocates of the relative power resource theory, the division of
labour in marriage is based on the power relation between the spouses. The more
resources the husband holds vis-a-vis the wife, the less time he will spend on
household tasks. Opponents of this theory say that the division of household labour
depends on the principal of maximum efficiency of family members' time allocated
to market work, housework and leisure. Simultaneously, they predict that
husbands' power resources (education, earnings, and occupational position)
relative to those of wives would have a negative affect on their housework time as
these resources increase the value of market labour time compared with the value
of housework time (Geerken & Gove 1983). But this explanation of time
allocation is criticized as having unrealistic assumptions (Berch 1982). Similarly,
the power perspective explains labour too simplistically as labour time in the
household (Coverman 1985).
Findings based on the relative resource theory show inconsistency and raise the
need for being modified and remodelled by other theoretical perspectives.
Coverman (1985) finds that absolute and relative accounts of resources decrease
men's labour time in the family. This is either because of the power resources or
socio-economic characteristics estimating the priority between market work and
housework values. Furthermore, the power-based explanation of Blair and Lichter
(1991) rejects the previous research findings that show women's employment as
greatly dissociated from husbands' family work (see review by Thompson &
Walker 1989; also Shelton 1990). They also reject the premise that wives' income
is largely dissociated from husbands' average time contribution in the housework
(e.g. Kamo 1988). Thus in order to conclude this power theory, Blair and Lichter
(1991) confirm that a power-based explanation enables females to achieve a more
egalitarian-based division of labour. This raises the question: how far would the
relative resource theory be able to explain domestic tasks and time allocation in
The question is, does it explain correctly the determination of women's and men's
work in the household regardless of gender segregation? We find that if both the
husband and wife are engaged in paid work and work for equal hours, the amount
of time left to them after work is almost the same. In this case, the woman and the
man are supposed to participate equally in household tasks. This would be
regardless of considering feminine household tasks according to time availability.
Such male engagement in household tasks would be expected to be performed
during the weekend or holidays, to view clearly gender role similarity or
dissimilarity. This would provide a clue to the real strength of resource theory and
in explaining domestic work distribution and time spent in it.
On the basis of several studies, it is noted that the resource theory does not provide
a deeper explanation of the definition of the man's and woman’s role in the
household. If this were to work out, the equity of division of labour could be seen
clearly. But in fact, the man usually spends a little time on a few household tasks.
The question is also how much time does a man spend on household tasks which
are traditionally seen as feminine? In the light of this question, the resource theory
fails to show competence in it’s explanation of the division of labour in the
household. Its explanation is rather superficial. If the man has available time, what
forces then restrict the husband to do all or certain specified household tasks? Thus
we see that time resource theory is not able to thoroughly explain the man's and
woman's roles in performing household tasks (see Berk & Berk 1979; Berk 1985;
Schooler et al. 1984; Blair & Lichter 1991).
Theories that ground their interpretations on ideology differ very much from the
theories examined ahead. The core idea is that ideology or attitudes decisively
explain how the division of labour in housework is organized in the family. Some
studies indeed find evidence that men with a traditional sex role ideology perform
fewer household tasks compared to men with a non-traditional sex role ideology
(Perrucci et al. 1978; Huber & Spitze 1983). This is, however, opposed by Rubin
(1976) who claims that there is no correlation between men's behaviour and sex
role ideology. But some studies show that attitudes are dependent on socio-
demographic variables, for example, the level of education and earnings of
individuals, that are likely to be linked to non-traditional egalitarian-based sex roles
in the family (e.g. Farkas 1976; Geerken & Gove 1983). All in all, the ideological
orientation (Hartmann 1981; Beer 1983; Coverman 1983) explains more than class
position behaviour, as for example Coverman's study (1985, 94) shows: if a man
has traditional sex role attitudes, his time contribution in household tasks
decreases. Also Blair and Lichter (1991) prove that traditional sex and family role
ideology and attitudes show a statistically significant positive impact on housework
hours for males and females (e.g. Hiller 1984; Cogle & Tasker 1982; Brody &
Steelman 1985; Blair & Lichter 1991).
The theory of demand and response capability is based on the assumption that the
time available for the family members determines who performs domestic tasks in
the family (Stafford et al. 1977). Coverman puts it in the following way: 'husbands'
domestic hours are a function of demands on husbands to fulfil domestic
responsibilities along with their capability to respond to these demands' (Coverman
1985, 84). Time availability does not, however, take into account the norms that
seem to be influential in explaining the allocation of housework. For instance, in
traditional families such demand pressure and available time response capability
may not be applicable. This is so because task performance in the family is based
on gender role norms (e.g. Rodman 1972; Ramu 1989; Sharma 1986). In a sense,
demand pressure works to minimize the traditionally sex-segregated division of
labour in the family, where time is considered as a response capability. Such
predictions work more accurately if the number and the age of children in the
family are taken into consideration (Farkas 1976). However, Stafford et al. (1977)
contradict such findings. They claim that there is a negative association between
work time and housework time. Similarly, the association between the wife's and
the husband's housework seems to be inconsistent according to the various
research reports (Coverman 1985). However, the findings of Coverman (1985)
overwhelmingly show that the demand / response capability theory stands at its
best to explain housework time. It also demonstrates that the number of children,
the amount of time spent at the market, and the spouse's employment status
including the age are the strongest predictors of husbands' time in household
According to Blair and Lichter (1991), time availability is related positively to the
decrease of housework segregation. But in their concluding remarks about these
theoretical implications they confirm that time availability explanations often
produce better explanations about patterns of housework division than does
research on men's crude and average contributions to household labour. Also Blair
and Lichter caution that in focusing solely on the husbands' working hours,
findings can be inappropriate or even wrong.
Some relevant theoretical perspectives have been examined above as well as
critical remarks that have been presented by opponent scholars. They have given
evidence that any of these perspectives is not fully sufficient to explain the
existence of gender roles in the household. This has led some scholars to construct
multidimensional theories to explain the division of labour between women and
men. The theory set of Peplau (1983) uses structuralism, interactionism, and
behaviourism in its approach. Peplau's theoretical model provides a significant
perspective in examining provider-role behaviour in the family and beliefs based on
that. Her role concept consists of behaviour and cognition, and the key point of her
theory is that as behaviour changes in the household, so do role responsibilities.
This point was countered by Hood (1986), who argues that family roles should be
seen as mutual expectations, which define every individual's responsibility in the
Hood and Peplau’s conceptualization of roles differ from each other. Peplau
(1983) defines roles as being constructed in cognition, affect and behaviour, while
Hood (1986) understands roles as mutual expectations, which finally explain
individual behaviour. In spite of differences in their theoretical perspectives, they
agree that beliefs and attitudes determine the performance of housework in the
family (Perry-Jenkins & Crouter 1990).
Perry-Jenkins and Crouter (1990) confirm Peplau's (1983) theoretical
considerations. They highlight the congruence of role beliefs and behaviour in the
family. According to their study, husbands' deep-seated attitudes toward provider-
role duties determine the amount of time wives have to give to household tasks
even if they are engaged in outside work. According to them '[...] rather than
stressing the importance of role sharing and equal responsibility in families, which
is so often emphasised [...] the focus must shift to emphasising the importance of
congruence between attitudes about roles and the enactment of role behaviour'
The gender role system in the family appears to be a social and cultural
phenomenon and therefore should be studied from the socio-cultural perspective.
This gives a better means of understanding the issue of gender roles and its
meanings and cultural variation in social reality. The socio-cultural perspective
provides social (i.e. caste, class, community, family organizations, demographic
compositions of the population) and cultural (i.e. religion, customs and traditions,
norms and values, attitudes and beliefs) conditionings to study the gender roles in
the family and its imperative meaning in social life. The perspective would view the
social reality two-dimensionally — historically and comparatively — to see how
social and cultural factors promote generalizations.
The perspective adopted in this study is in accordance with the recommendation
made by Singh (1986, 31-32) on the issue of studying social reality in India.
According to him, the socially conditioned dynamics of the Indian tradition are
important as a means of understanding social reality. This perspective has also been
acknowledged in the report of the National Committee of India (ICSSR 1975, 13):
'Social structures, cultural norms, and value systems influence social expectations
regarding the behaviour of both men and women, and determine a woman's roles
and her position in society to a great extent. The most important of these
institutions are the systems of descent, family and kinship, marriage, and religious
traditions. They provide the ideology and moral basis for men's and women's
notions about their rights and duties.' Socio-cultural dynamics have been also
reflected in the writings of Ahmad (1972, 172): 'A better criterion would be
whether the available literature tells us as much about the structure of non-Hindu
groups, and the socio-cultural processes that have been operating amongst them,
as it does about Hindus.' Further, as eminent anthropologists Fruzzetti and Östör,
the prominent advocates of the socio-cultural perspective, stated directly about the
adaptation of this perspective in their studies: 'Our study grows out of a concern
with aspects of structuralism [...] and a concern with the domain of culture [...].
The structural and cultural approaches converge in this as in our previous paper on
kinship' (Fruzzetti & Östör 1976, 100).
In the West, the support of this perspective has, for example, been adopted by
Stolte-Heiskanen (1971) and Eagly (1987), who are known as the champions of
the socio-cultural interpretation of gender roles. Sidanius et al. (1994, 209), who
are advocates of the cultural-deterministic interpretation, inform that culturally
determined gender role differences in the family can be transformed if mechanisms
once adopted start to change.
A number of family scholars (e.g. Abel & Nelson 1990; Manning 1992; Stohs
1994; Mederer 1993) explain the practice of housework in terms of ethics, morals,
emotion, and responsiveness, for instance, which fits well the socio-cultural
perspective. As well, this perspective is suggestive in the sense that for human
beings of any culture, biological foundation is significant only if it is interpreted and
understood by socio-cultural norms and values, habits, attitudes and beliefs. In the
light of this, Rosaldo and Lamphere (1974, 5) suggest that human biology requires
culturally defined gender role differences; such behaviour cannot be conducted
directly from biology. This is also stressed by Geertz (1962, 729). These
considerations give good grounds for the socio-cultural perspective to be an
appropriate approach in examining the issue of gender role in the family. The aim
of this study is to explore in detail in which way socio-cultural mechanisms work
for the persistence of the traditional division of labour in Indian families, in this
case, in Biharian families.
2 Data and methods
The time-use study method to collect data has been adopted in this study, therefore
it is important to examine how the time-use method has been applied in studies of
housework. The purpose is to assess the merits and weaknesses of various
measures as used in different studies in India and Western countries. I start with
studies carried out in Western countries where the time-use study method was
initiated and developed. Then I move on to corresponding studies conducted in
India. After that I describe the method I apply in this study. It is based on a
combination of three data collecting methods, including time-use diary,
questionnaire and oral interview. Each of these is used to support one another to
enhance the quality of the data of this study.
2.1 Times-use study as a method
The reliability and potentiality of data obtained by time-use study has gained
popularity in measuring the quality and way of life. The statistical importance of
generated time-use data has been rapidly recognized as beneficial in planning and
drawing up social policy. It is also seen as an excellent means of allocating human
resources to market and non-market production, lifestyles and leisure activities
(e.g. Gronau 1977; Mohan 1975; Juster & Stafford 1985; Andorka 1987;
Gershuny & Jones 1988).
Though various methods exist in time-use study, keeping a diary yields
tremendously superior data to other methods (e.g. Robinson 1985, 33-62;
Gershuny 1990). Respondents are supposed to keep a diary which records all of
their single, joint and sequential activities, their location, and the time activities
started and ended throughout the designated period of the day. For the researcher,
diaries provide a valuable scope of information for analysing respondents' various
activities and time use. By analysing this sort of raw material, the researcher is able
to accurately and comprehensively uncover the details of respondents' lives.
For calculating and analysing data, three main indexes are proposed:
a. the average duration of each type of activity during the day or week for all
b. the percentage of all persons who participated in given activities on the given
c. the average duration of the activity for those who actually participated in it on
the given day (Andorka 1987, 150).
Besides these three indexes, I would like to suggest two additional ones:
d. the frequency and duration of activity during the day, week or year according to
various participant population groups,
e. the frequency and duration of each type of classified activities during the day,
week or year according to various participant population groups.
When a researcher has to analyse data, s/he first formulates a scheme for activity
classification. Normally s/he has identified 200 or more distinct categories of
activities so that the whole diary can be coded. The diarists' original narrative
becomes a sequence of numbers: the time the first activity started and then its
classification, and similarly of the simultaneous activities and time, and their
classifications. Finally, when s/he wants to know the total time spent on a specific
group of activities, s/he traces all the activities in the narrative form that
correspond to the activity, and calculates the total duration.
This kind of diary seems a bit more complex than others. It therefore takes more
time, energy and costs more money. But if we are able to bear all these tedious and
expensive tasks, we are rewarded with data superior to that gained by other
methods. In comparing other methods to this one, they lag far behind. Their data
are both limited and rife with measurement errors.
The 'beeper techniques', 'pocket vibrators', and 'programmed wristwatches' which
are electronic machines or tools (Zuzanek 1999, 3) are pre-programmed or
randomly activated by a radio transmitter to produce a 'beep' or 'vibration' several
times a day, normally within two-hour intervals. After receiving the 'beep' or
'vibration', respondents start to fill out short self-report forms usually bounded in a
booklet and answer questions which are related to the behavioural and experiential
aspects of their everyday lives. However, these techniques are expensive and can
be useful only for small samples. There is also a definite danger of the loss of
information on respondents' activities, because the technical tools necessary for this
method are not available to everybody.
The 'telephone' techniques which are based on the recalling method for recording
respondents' past activities for one day (like yesterday ) is used nowadays in the
USA. Interviewers call the respondents and they must report their activities within
the last 24 hours.
Stylized techniques are based on stylized time periods and fixed activities that
happened the last week or last month and the information is recorded by the
interviewers. It is quite rare that the stylized techniques are used for recording time
and activities for yesterday. With this tool, it is difficult to recall exact times and
the sequence of activities. Additionally in this method, there is always a chance of
overestimating or underestimating activity information, but more problematic is
that information on time spent in each activity is given as a summary and does not
even cover 24 hours and all types of activities as does the same-day time-use study.
In stylized techniques study, respondents are either interviewed in person or
receive by mail a set of certain activities to report about. This method has been
applied for investigating leisure time activities in Finland (e.g. Niemi 1993, 236);
for instance, respondents were asked: 'How many times do you think you have
visited the library during the past six months?' Consequently, stylized techniques
differ from the same day diary in terms of quality.
Therefore, due to their limitations these techniques cannot be used as a true
alternative to the same day diary approach. For testing the validity and reliability of
same-day data, the 'beeper' or telephone techniques can be used (Juster & Stafford
1985, 5; Robinson 1985). In this case, they can be appropriately utilized and the
data can also be checked whether they are valid or not.
As an alternative to the same-day approach, the yesterday diary approach is widely
considered to be useful. A strong degree of correspondence between the data
gathered in these two different ways has been found (Robinson 1985, 42).
However, it seems to be a big risk scientifically to substitute a yesterday diary for a
same-day diary. It is believed that the latter is of somewhat higher quality than the
former (Juster 1985, 88).
As to the yesterday diary, some important questions can be raised, such as: Is it
possible for an individual to remember all types of activities, the locality and time
activities started and ended? Is there a risk of missing information on many
activities, e.g. those that are of short duration, or socially undesirable and therefore
reluctantly expressed openly to others? Is it also possible for respondents to
overestimate or underestimate their activities? All these questions may reflect the
various backgrounds of respondents, such as age, sex, and marital status, which
also may offer us clues to estimate the quality of the data (see also Juster 1985, 66-
It is true that the yesterday diary is suitable for specific population categories such
as illiterate population. In this case, the researcher makes a recording. Using this
method would save time, money and energy. But by doing so we lose the real
target of our studies. It is my conviction that the same-day diary is the only
efficient and acceptable way to capture all activities in the course of 24 hours. It
can be applied in two ways: administered by oneself or by others, as to solve the
problem of application to all types of population groups. If there is any other
problem in this method, remedies can be found. The important thing for the social
scientist to bear in mind is whether his/her first priority is to achieve a high quality
of data or to save time, money and energy.
In time-use research, it is significantly the same-day diary that yields consistent
results and that can be evenly applied as a scientific tool. But even in this case,
such questions arise as to whether a diary is technically simple or complex and
burdensome. How much time does it take to record each event? All this needs to
be considered when planning the study. Normally, many questions are posed in the
same-day diary, for example, when do you start and end your activity? What are
your main and secondary activities? What is the location of the beginning and
ending of activities? Who is with you? For whom are you doing the activity? How
did you feel? The respondent is asked to insert each activity into a fixed interval or
at a point of time in the case of an open-interval diary. In certain diary systems, the
respondent is expected to use code numbers from a pre-coded activity directory. In
other cases, s/he records a given activity on the basis of the list of activities. In this
case there is an extra burden for the respondent (Harvey l990; Gershuny 1992).
A series of questions may very likely create a tedious and burdensome job for
diarists. Therefore, framed questions must be relevant to the study and structured
under the specific dimensions of activity, such as subjective, objective, contextual,
relational, regular, irregular, accidental, and spatial. But putting all such questions
in a diary would be technically difficult because of a time and space limit.
Therefore, we must be very precise and select but a few relevant activity
dimensional questions for a particular study.
With this approach the respondent is provided a diary with a list of activities with
code numbers. S/he is instructed circumstantially either to use the activity code or
narrate each activity by looking at a subscribed list for each time slot. This system
seems to be a practical challenge; it is tedious and time-consuming for the
respondent to record the activities. It requires that the respondent be careful and
diligent while reporting her or his activities. Under such circumstances, it is quite
possible that this process will negatively affect the quality of the data.
A further question is whether the respondent is to be provided with a complete list
of activities or with a list of coded activities. Neither of these options is
recommended. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to make such a list of all
possible activities. We must rely on the provided list, albeit incomplete, knowing
that it is lacking many specific and unusual activities. Consequently, these activities
are either lost from the diary or squeezed into inappropriate codes / activities
without notice. Similarly, if the respondent records an inappropriate code due to
confusion or carelessness, or if her or his writing is unclear, it is not possible to
correct them later (Gershuny 1992, 22).
A study based on a coding system carried out in Switzerland and Britain shows the
poor quality of the data. On the basis of Lingsom's (1980) 1979 study, one can
conclude that the pre-coding approach is undesirable. Similarly, Arangio-Ruize's
study (1984) conducted in Italy proves that the application of the pre-coded
scheme is not preferred by respondents.
Awareness of these problems has yielded a recommendation to adopt natural
language for recording activities in the diary (e.g., Gershuny 1992; Harvey 1990).
This is considered to be effective while allowing the respondent to freely narrate 24
hour activities in his own language. But the data gathered in this way can be
muddied by slang, dialect, or indecipherable local reference, although the data are
quite rich. Therefore, caution is needed in the transcription of raw materials later.
There is also a need to make a list of all activities after having gone through the
natural language diaries to be sure of what sort of codes are needed. In this way
the codification and classification of activities can be easily modified or promoted
later as needed.
The significance of the diary content is to cover information on the occurrence of
joint and sequential activities. These circumstantially depend on the structural
demands of the diary, 'the ways of' and 'opportunities made for' recording activities,
and the respondent's mood, ability and efficiency. Some diary formats allow diarists
to record only one activity at a given time, some two, or even all types of activities
taking place at a given time. It is quite obvious that in many cases people do more
than one activity simultaneously. For example, some joint activities might be
cooking food, talking with somebody, listening to the radio, taking care of the baby
and looking at photos. Also many sequential activities can be noted within a fixed
time slot: e.g. 'entered the house then took off clothes', 'washed face then drank a
cup of tea', or 'put on clothes then went for a walk' and so on.
Recording all joint and sequential activities with limited space and fixed intervals
seems largely to be inadequate. It is possible that much information will be
unrecorded. This has come out in several time-use studies (e.g. Niemi 1983;
Wilson 1988; Zahl 1991; Exel 1992). With this type of diary, the amount of lost
activities varies according to the maximum scope of intervals.
With a shorter interval diary, there is a greater chance to completely transcribe
sequential and joint activities than with a diary with longer interval length. The
amount of accurate information is proportionally decreased according to the length
of the interval of the diary. Another weakness of such a diary is that it does not
indicate the actual point in time of activities which take place at different points in
time. In this type of diary, space is limited for many activities of short duration
such as those that are completed in a few seconds or minutes. They may be joint,
sequential or mixed, for example waking up, looking the clock, having a short
look out the window, cleaning one’s teeth, guiding children, making coffee,
listening to music, researching something and so on. These are equally important
compared to other activities.
Similarly, problems with reporting all joint and sequential activities depend on the
type of information required in the diary. If the diarist is expected to respond to
many questions related to activities, chances to record short duration activities are
Issues raised on informing about joint and sequential activities may be better solved
by introducing an open interval diary, not restricting it to activity codes and lists of
activities. This would lessen the burden on the diarist by not asking too many
questions. The first two types are plausible, but the other seems to be unconvincing
for researchers who are motivated to gather more and better information.
Normally, diaries contain intervals of five, fifteen or thirty minutes, or sometimes
mixed intervals. This varies according to the activity time-length disposal in
different periods of the day in the studies conducted (e.g. Niemi 1983; Wilson
1988; Zahl 1991; Exel 1992). In rare cases, the time interval has not been fixed.
Respondents are free to specify the exact start and end time of activities to the
closest minute. These diaries can be viewed as falling into four categories:
minimum, maximum, mixed and open interval.
The general problems that we meet with minimum, maximum and mixed interval
diaries are as follows.
a. There is a loss of all sequential and joint activities of short duration as chances
to record them decrease in the interval diary.
b. Recorded activities do not indicate an exact point in time, rather, they
exaggerate time in a maximum interval diary.
c. These diaries are inconvenient to carry outdoors because of their size.
The open interval diary appears to be more effective and convenient than short and
long interval diaries, because it is thin and can be carried easily anywhere. The
main significance of this tool is that respondents can record any activities, e.g.
talking for a minute or less, looking at or caring for something, thinking and so on.
It encourages the respondent to maintain it properly with maximum accuracy.
Similarly, it gives the respondent a way to concatenate and record multiple
activities at a specific point in time. Therefore, the open interval diary is technically
perceptive and potentially accurate and effective. Therefore the data from these
diaries are superior to that of interval diaries. Hence there is no argument that can
show interval diaries as appropriate for future studies (e.g. Lingsom 1980).
2.2 Time-use study in India
Thus far we have mainly referred to time-use studies carried out in Western
countries. This method has also applied in India. The first time-use study was
carried out in India in the mid-1970s by the Institute for Social Studies Trust. The
second time-use study was administered in 1981 by ILO, and the third one in 1983
by the National Council of Applied Economic Research. These studies were
intended to invent a 'new economic model' and to improve the measurement of
employment, unemployment and under-employment. The main objectives of these
studies were to investigate human resources — the combined labour force of
women and children in the informal sector (i.e. the household) — to evaluate and
translate this into economic terms so that it is equivalent to market production, and
finally to determine the value of children (United Nations 1990, 56). These studies
were clearly oriented toward certain national social problems and the nation's
policy planning. Such an approach in time-use studies is econometric and static by
nature. This is similar to the Western research model and the programme of the
The Institute of Social Studies Trust made a time allocation study in 1976/77
which covered a total of 127 households. Each household was investigated for
two days via direct observation and recalling methods. This was completed
periodically at two-month intervals for one year, to cover seasonal variation. In
recording time spent on different activities a special form was adopted with a 30-
minute interval and a slot for recording primary and secondary activities. Observers
stayed with a family for each period, recording time and activities. Thus they had
to return several times a year to capture seasonal variations (United Nations 1990,
Very similarly, a time-use study was carried out by the National Council of Applied
Economic Research in 1983. Additional techniques were also adopted such as the
use of both female and male surveyors in the observation as well as the use of
interview methods for recording data on time allocated activities.
An alternative approach to the intensive time-use study was experimented with by
the ILO in a rural area of Kerala in 1981. The ponderable methodological issues
raised from this study were a simplified activity time schedule (in which the
sequence and duration of activities were listed for a specific period), and
questioning (including time allocation) geared towards a limited number of
activities (United Nations 1990, 58). Various methodological issues emerged and
needed to be examined from the application of time-use study in India.
The direct observation and the recalling system are two separate ways of recording
time and activity. In the case of direct observation, the observer stays around the
object, watches his activities and records them. In the recalling method, the
interviewer asks the respondent to recall his or her different activities from the
past. Both ways of recording individual activities are problematic. Firstly, in the
case of the direct observation method, if an observer stays with the family for one
day, it is obvious that the presence of the observer will disturb the respondent's
Secondly, Indian society is rather traditional and tends to maintain its own social
norms, values, habits and beliefs. Such characteristics need to be taken into
account in any social research. Therefore Indian time-use researchers have to be
aware of these social and cultural specificities, otherwise the collected data would
be in danger of losing its correspondence to reality. It can happen that when the
observer stays in a respondent's family, observing and recording the family
members' time and activities, s/he may confront hostility (Krishnamurthy 1985). To
prevent this, the observer should be tactful, committed and patient. Even this may
not work if the observer is an outsider. Usually in an Indian family, an outsider or
stranger observing the family is highly unusual. Indian people are suspicious
towards strangers because family privacy is strongly protected.
Thirdly, an observer who is an outsider often fails to record certain activities if s/he
is unaware of the local ways of life, language and expressions and disregards the
affinity between the observed and their surroundings. Unawareness can also lead to
misunderstandings. Similar problems also arise when applying the recall method.
Fourthly, although the time allocation study made by the Institute of Social Studies
Trust put great emphasis on the direct observation method, 40-45 per cent of the
time recorded was based on the recall method. There is a good reason to assume
that these recording methods give different results, which have serious
consequences for the quality of the data (e.g. Krishnamurthy 1985, 254).
Krishnamurthy also assumes that 'the observation-recall ratio would be lower for
men than for women and would be higher for inside-household activities compared
to outside household activities' (ibid). Furthermore he argues that 'if the results are
invariant with respect to whether observation or recall is used, then there is no
reason at all for replacing recall by observation' (ibid). However, in reality these
two methods are basically different by nature and, therefore, they do not
necessarily provide similar results. If both results are compared, the variation
would be clearly visible. Better results would most probably be gained by the
observational method than by the recall method.
Fifth, the application of the recall method has also a negative side which has
already been discussed. The quality of the data greatly depends on the memorizing
skills of a person. Even a person with a superior memory may not easily remember
all his or her past activities as to exact times. Also the quality of memory depends
on the types of locality and distance of time (e.g. Krishnamurthy 1985, 254; Juster
The Indian time diary used by the Institute of Social Studies Trust contains a 30-
minute interval and a slot for recording primary and secondary activities (United
Nations 1990, 57). As we discussed earlier, any interval diary, especially with
longer intervals, has technical problems. It is difficult to encompass all activities of
short duration activities in such a long time slot. In the case of the Indian time-use
diary, the half hour interval certainly would cause a loss of information on a great
number of activities, as is the case in studies carried out elsewhere.
It is doubtful that this type of time survey can truly substitute the same-day diary.
In the survey-based studies on scheduled activities and time, respondents usually
estimate their activities and time spent on them for specified periods rather than for
a single day. Such an estimation-based method is termed a 'stylized' time-use
estimate. The real potential of this method might be to provide an opportunity to
capture our past irregular activities within a longer period. This information would
therefore contain background and attitude information. Obviously this method
provides an opportunity to obtain longer public participation in the study and it
also saves time, money and energy. But at the same time, this method deserves
strong criticism. Basic questions have been raised on the reliability and validity of
This type of method does not provide exact knowledge on the frequency, duration
and time of past activities. Accuracy in this respect is doubtful as it depends on the
length of the recall period, the respondent's good memory, the mode of techniques
adopted, the types of questions and social desirability. As well, accuracy is ruled
out because of the chances of either overestimating or underestimating
information. There is also a lack of information on all 24 hour activities that is the
major essence of time-use study. Besides, this survey system is not informative
about simultaneous and sequential activities and contains information only on a
limited number of activities.
2.3 Data of this study
Bihar, the place where the data of this study were collected, is one of India's states.
The area was selected for the following reasons. Firstly, because I live in Bihar
state, the data collecting process could be carried out most effectively and with
minimal costs. Secondly, Bihar was selected as I am familiar with the cultural
values of the region.
At the time of the research (1988) Bihar was undivided, an eastern Indian state
bounded in the north by Nepal, in the east by West Bengal, in the west by Uttar
Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa to the south. Presently, after the division
in 2002, the border of this state changed on the western and the southern sides.
The present name of the state of Bihar originates from Vihar — a wanderlust land
for attaining spiritual enlightenment which also relates to Vihars, built by Lord
Buddha (around 500 B.C.) who was wandering in this land and finally attained
spiritual enlightenment there and preached the doctrine of the causes of pain and
misery, immortality and nirvƗQ̞ a (Dasgupta 1951, 1, 81), which define love, peace
and tolerance. Bihar is also a land for protecting and helping the growth of Sikhism
which took place especially in Patna. The former capital of Pataliputra of Emperor
Ashoka is the present-day state capital, Patna. Bihar gave birth to Buddhism and
The inhabitants of Bihar are called Biharis. Biharis [plural of Bihari] are Vedic
Aryan people. By religion in 1991, the majority of inhabitants were Sanatan
(Eternal) or Sanatan Hindu whereas Muslims (15%), Christians (1%) and others
(2%) form minorities (Census of India 1991a, Table 28). Biharis are said to be
confident, calm and sociable by nature. The major languages are Hindi, Magahi,
Maithili, Bhojpuri, Angika, Santali, Mundari and Kuru.
Places of religious and cultural interest abound throughout the land. Nalanda is the
seat of the ancient and celebrated Nalanda Buddhist University. The Chhau dance
which pays tribute to Bihar's cultural folk traditions are based on classical modes as
detailed in the ancient treatises. Bihar is also famous for Lorikayan or VirahƗ (an
epic song based on the heroic story of Beĕa Lorik and Samvar — two brothers of
the Yadava family). In addition, this state is also famous for celebrating many
religious festivals. Chaĕhi MaƯ PǌMƗ (the ritual of Chaĕhi Mother) is the most
famous in this respect. Other religious festivals such as Vasant PancăPƯ / SarasvatƯ
3ǌMƗ, HolƯ, DaĞahrƗ, Dïvalï, Jet̞ KƗn, JƯtiyƗ, 7Ưj, KarvƗ, Rakđabandhan are
uniquely celebrated in Bihar.
In Bihar, the survey site Patna is on the saāgam (confluence) of the river Ganges
and Sona. Patna is a sprawling metropolis that hugs the south bank of the Ganges,
stretching nearly 15 km. However, this has changed little since the time of
Ajatasatru (491-459 B.C.) who moved the Magadha capital here from Rajagriha
(meaning king's house), called by the modern name Rajgir (e.g. Majumdar et al.
1981, 56-59). The majority population in Patna is Yadava. Until the 1970s the city
area of Patna was inhabited mainly by a Yadava population. After the 1970s and
especially after the 1980s Patna started experiencing great migration from outside,
which reduced the size of the Yadava population sharply. (Map of Patna, Bihar and
The capital city of Bihar, Patna, is a great historical city. The present name Patna
evolved from Pataligrama, Kusumapura, and Pataliputra. Patliputra was the capital
of Magadha, a kingdom which dominated and influenced the politics of India for a
long time (e.g. Majumdar et al. 1981, 56-95). The most memorable rulers were
Ajatasatru, Nanda, Chandragupta and Ashoka. Patna is also famous for Harmandir
— the birth-place of ĝhri Guru Govind Singh (one of the spiritual leaders of the
Sikhs) and Golghar (a grainery built to store a surplus against possible famines).
The saga of the glorious past of Patna is still memorable. In present times, Patna is
full of hectic political activities and it would not be surprising if it were called a
place of demonstrations, strikes and rallies although certain political powers
succeeded in dividing Bihar to serve their petty political interests and make Bihar
politically weaker. Patna is located by a national highway. By road, rail and air,
Patna is well connected to most of the towns of Bihar and important Indian cities
Bihar is geographically the ninth largest state in India and has the second largest
population with nearly 86 million out of India's total population (846 million in
1991) (Census of India 1991a, Table 2). Overall dependency (including young and
old people) in Bihar is 91 per cent which is higher than in India (80 per cent)
(Census of India 1991a, Table 9). The literacy rate in Bihar for females and males
is 23 per cent and 52 per cent respectively which is lower compared to literacy
rates in India for females and males (39 per cent and 64 per cent respectively)
(Census of India 1991a, Table 20). The literacy rate in rural Patna for females is 27
per cent and for males 61 per cent, whereas in urban Patna it is 65 per cent for
females and 82 per cent for males (Census of India 1991b, Table 16).
The population of Patna is about 3.6 million (Census of India 1991b, Table 6). The
birthrate in Bihar per thousand is 31 (30 in India) (Census of India 1991a, Table
49). In Bihar, the structure of population by age groups is in a pyramid shape. This
means that people below age 15 comprise 41 per cent whereas people 60 years and
older comprise nearly 6 per cent of Bihar's population (Census of India 1991a,
The data of this study was collected using three different methods: same-day time-
use diary, questionnaire and oral interview (Appendix A, B and C). Among these,
the time-use diary is the most essential tool for obtaining information about one's
activities but the other two methods are also important tools for providing
information about housework activities. Oral interviews in particular provide the
researcher with richer data, which give a good opportunity to really understand
A structured diary was provided with detailed information on who will fill time-use
diaries and how. Respondents were asked to complete their own diaries for two
days: Sunday and Monday. They filled the questionnaire themselves. They also
informed about their background, such as, name, sex, age, religion, occupation,
marital status etc. In the case of disabled respondents, their diaries and
questionnaires were completed with the help of suitable neighbours. This was
applied in the case of four rural females. In the diary no fixed time intervals were
used, instead the respondents were free to put their activities in the diary as they
actually performed them. Thus the framed diary begins with the questions: 'At what
time did you begin? What is your activity? Is it your main activity? At what time
did you finish it? What was the location of the activity when started, and the
location when it ended?' (Appendix A). The diary also provided the diarist with a
list and codes of activities so that the respondent could choose according to his or
her convenience. In the case of the framing questionnaire and oral interview, the
questions were asked in order to get deeper qualitative knowledge on activities and
their times in a family context. Such a method was considered to be a good way to
expose social issues and to provide in-depth knowledge with reliability of collected
materials. The questionnaire and oral interviews were used to make the time-use
studies more informative, thereby improving the quality of the data.
The fieldwork of the study was conducted both in rural and urban areas to examine
in depth the considerable amount of the time spent on housework by the selected
groups of the population. The fieldwork was completed in 1988.
The data includes two types of socio-economic categories (see also Sourabh
(a) peasant households, i.e. those households that are basically dependent on
agricultural production, land ranging from 8 to 12 begha (1 begha = 5/8 acre). This
group comprises also those peasant households that include pensioners as well as
people with other sources of income both from private and public sector jobs, if the
income was lower than the income from the agricultural holding.
(b) employees' households, i.e. those households that are basically dependent on
monthly salaries. The range of their monthly basic salaries is from 700 to 4500
Indian rupees. This group of households also covers those households that include
people with income from pensions, house rent, agriculture and other kinds of jobs,
if the income was lower than the income from salary work.
The data do not contain families in which any member works on his or her own
outside agriculture, for example runs a shop, bakery, bar or restaurant. The same
holds for families in which any member is a professional in the private sector, e.g. a
practitioner of law, medicine, or a contractor.
The size of the sample was very much dependent on the resources of project
funding and time. In addition, because the time-use study takes a lot of time, it
was not possible to collect a large amount of data. A sample of 80 households was
targeted both in rural and urban areas. If family members refused or were unable to
participate in the time-use study due to any reason, the household was substituted
for another household of the same category. Every member from the selected
households between the age of 15 and 60 years was to participate in the study.
This sample was selected to carry out both the time-use diary study and the survey.
I started my fieldwork by contacting and observing the research areas before-
hand. My two visits to Dinapur (Danapur) and Maner along with the help of the
local people made me select Dinapur, Maner and Bihta as the rural areas for the
study. The factors that determined the selection of areas were, for example, the
chances of getting the best co-operation with the inhabitants of an area, the
chances of finding competent volunteers easily, and a large number of families
fitting my designed sample category. In addition, the idea was to select people who
were typical countryside inhabitants. Familiarity with the language of the people
was also seen as an important criterion.
After making a short observation of the location of the inhabitants' settlement,
land, crops, language, culture, religion, nature, habits, beliefs, and patterns of
domestic and farming life, I visited the rural areas three times. I selected competent
volunteers with the help of some influential local persons. I trained the volunteers
thoroughly and provided them with detailed instructions and knowledge of the
research process. For example, knowledge was needed on who would and would
not be able to participate in the research programme and which categories of
household should be chosen. Other items of the instruction included how one
should behave with respondents in various common situations, the general
protocol for behaviour with respondents, how different kinds of respondents
should be contacted and convinced, how fieldwork materials should be distributed
and collected, a suitable strategy for providing proper guidance to the respondent's
family regarding the completion of the time-use diary and questionnaire, and how
the completeness of the time-use diary and questionnaire should be checked
(Pictures 1, 2, 3 and 4).
With the help of appropriate and influential associates, I was able to contact
households that were exactly suitable for the survey programme. While consulting
potential respondents, I first let them know about myself and my research
programme. Finally they were asked to participate in this programme by filling out
a consent form on behalf of their families. Thus their names, total number of family
members, ages of family members and other details were written in the survey
notebook. All terms and conditions were strictly followed and maintained in
making the selection of household respondents.
Before starting the actual fieldwork I tried to create a positive view towards the
research by making sure that the inhabitants of the area were fully aware of me in
terms of knowing who I was and what I was doing, and the purpose of my
research programme. I also tried to prevent any odd feelings or doubts about me
and my work. People's curiosity about knowing more and more about the
programme was supposed to encourage participation in the research programme.
In this way, people were assumed to become more open-minded and not hesitate
to take part in the programme. People would also have a better chance to evaluate
the importance of the research programme by exchanging ideas and talking among
Every family member between 15 and 60 years of age had to keep two separate
diaries. One was for Sunday and one for Monday. After getting back the first
round of diaries, I realized it was useless to give out two diaries for different days.
So in the next round of diary distribution, every adult family member was given
only one diary to record the activities of two days: Sunday and Monday. This
reduced the burden for the surveyor and the respondents. It eased the process
technically in many ways, for example, in keeping the recording of activities regular
and in eliminating the need to provide background information twice.
When it was time to get the time-use diaries back, respondent families were given
questionnaires to complete and requested to return them by a given date. After
conducting the survey of the teachers' families, other groups of rural-selected
families were given diaries and also requested to complete their diaries by certain
days. Among these households questionnaires were also distributed after the return
of the diaries. These people were watched by me and by the volunteers during the
period of diary keeping.
In this way, all diaries and questionnaires were returned by the respondents. It was
found that only 4 per cent of the diaries and questionnaires were completed by the
volunteers. Among the diaries returned 95 per cent were completed by the
respondents and were valid. In the case of questionnaires 98 per cent were of good
quality. This was because the questionnaires were distributed only to those
respondents whose diaries were already completed.
In the rural area, before the distribution of time-use diaries, a trial was conducted.
It was directed to a few households. The trial revealed some difficulties in keeping
the diary and affirmed the validity of recording time use by activity in advance. In
the same way a trial for the questionnaire was also conducted. It also showed
difficulties in its completion and the validity of the responses. Finally, these
difficulties were thoroughly discussed with the volunteers and other relevant
persons. Some of their suggestions were taken into account as these were quite
helpful in processing the fieldwork. By this time, the volunteers were fully aware of
the fieldwork problems and techniques.
In the case of the urban area the process was similar to that of the rural area. Patna
— the biggest city in Bihar ranked as a metropolitan area —was chosen as the site
for the urban study for the following reasons. Historically, it is a centre of religion,
culture, education, power and politics as well as transport facilities. Patna is close
to Dinapur (Danapur), Maner and Bihta which were selected as rural study areas
(Pictures 5, 6, 7 and 8).
Therefore, familiarity with the place, people and language also implied the co-
operation of people, and more convenience in understanding the society.
In the urban area it was decided to select the families of college and university
teachers to take part in the survey programme. The decision to select these
households was affected by the following considerations: teachers' families were
well suited to my sample category, and these families were very approachable.
The plan was to consult the teachers' community and to write down the names
of the participating families in my survey notebook. However, I could not
contact many teachers' families because of their summer vacations. Finally, I
gave up my idea of approaching them at that time; instead I decided to consult
them after the reopening of the schools and universities.
Soon after the reopening of the college and university, I started to consult the
teachers again in order to complete the fieldwork in the urban area. I visited
their departments, laboratories, teachers' rooms and residences. When
consulting them, I first introduced myself and my research problem by giving
them a letter of introduction and the consent forms. Those who wished to
participate in the programme were requested to give their consent by filling in
these forms. After returning the completed forms, I wrote some background
information in the survey notebook. After completing all this, I gave them
diaries with pens in a bag. Finally, they were provided with instructions on how
to keep their diaries and requested to return them after recording the activities
and their times for the mentioned days.
While consulting the teachers' community and requesting them to participate in
the research programme, the situation was actually more difficult than I had
anticipated. At many times I suffered great humiliation, and my time and energy
were wasted. Among the people consulted, only some of them agreed to
participate in the programme and most of them refused either because they
disapproved of my work or they wanted not to be bothered with the
unnecessary burden of taking part in the research.
Those who agreed to participate in the programme had good questions to ask
me about it. Generally they asked a few questions related to me and my research
work. Overall, such people seemed to value my work.
The return of the diaries and questionnaires from the teachers' families became
problematic. It was extremely tiring, and both time- and money-consuming.
Finally I gave up the idea of getting back any diary either complete or
incomplete and was very disappointed. Only some (20%) of the teachers'
families tried to complete their diaries and questionnaires and return them to
It was the critical period of my fieldwork. I was also quite worried about
whether I would succeed or not in completing it. However, I was patient and
dedicated to completing all the field-work. I was constantly in search of some
alternative ways, tricks or formulas to help with any possible obstacle or
Soon, with the help of an assistant, I got a new idea in order to solve my field-
work problems and decided to approach banking staff as they also fit my sample
category. This time, I was rather tactful in selecting participant households. It
became quite a socio-psychological phenomenon. For the second time the
diaries and questionnaires were distributed with the help of some other genuine
and competent associates whose households experienced close social contact.
They were observed to be ready to complete the field-work items punctually
according to the exact instructions provided. This kind of observation was made
by looking at peoples' ways of talking, certain remarks, and facial expressions
In spite of all this, completing the fieldwork items took more time than expected
because of various reasons. There was continuous interference by many
religious festivals during the research period. There also arose some difficulties
in contacting the respondents' families while they were busy watching TV
programmes on Saturdays and Sundays (Pictures 9, 10, 11 and 12).
All redistributed diaries and questionnaires were finally returned successfully. Of
the total number of diaries returned in the case of the first and second distributions,
94 per cent were valid and complete. Among the questionnaires 93 per cent were
useful. All diaries and questionnaires were completed by the respondents.
An interesting observation is that women in both rural and urban areas showed
more interest and accuracy in completing the diaries and questionnaires than did
men. This was in accordance with Krishnamurthy’s hypothesis (1985, 254).
To start the oral interviews, a certain number of the households had to be
reselected. I had plenty of households who were enthusiastically interested in
participating in the oral interview. I selected only those households which were
more competent to participate in the interview and convenient to approach.
A maximal effort was taken to complete the oral interviews in a free and normal
atmosphere. The interviews lasted for about 30 minutes and were all conducted by
me. Questions were modified according to the family context without detracting
from the real content of the interview. The interviews were conducted in 15
families in both the rural and urban areas; this meant that 30 families all in all were
In the oral interviews, participants had no age limit and therefore family members
under 15 and over 60 years of age also took part. In the rural oral interviews, the
number of those who were under 15 or over 60 was respectively 5 and 2. In the
oral interviews in the urban area the respective numbers were 3 and 1. The purpose
was to engage all family members regardless of their age in order to generate
deeper information on family work and life.
Except in certain cases it was more difficult to interview women than men due to
many social desirability factors. When conservative, women do not usually like to
present themselves openly before any stranger. This prevents them from taking part
in an interview. Shyness can be another reason. It was the first time for them taking
part in this kind of interview. Consequently, there was hesitation about what could
be asked and how to answer the questions.
Some errors were committed in a village called Amhara. In one family, women
were interested in making a tape of their songs. So, at their request, I accidentally
gave them the same cassette which had already been used for the interview. Almost
the entire interview was wiped out. I compensated for this by interviewing another
household of a similar type.
Another incident took place in the urban area. While interviewing one family, I
realised ten minutes after having started the interview that the pause button of the
tape recorder was still on. In this situation, I quickly repeated all lost questions
without letting the interviewees notice it.
The fieldwork of this research was conducted already in 1988. This means that the
results cannot be applied to the current situation in India. Assumably some changes
have taken place during the last twenty years. Yet it can also be expected — due to
the still effective cultural traditions and their tight connections to the spheres of
economy and work life — that the changes in the division of labour between
women and men are rather slow. Thus this research has some relevance concerning
even the present situation in India.
Biharian society is in transition as seen from the results, however it has not yet
achieved modernity significantly. Biharian society still seems to be rather traditional
because it is very slow in modernization in terms of adopting modern attitudes and
beliefs in spite of certain social transformations in opportunities for education and
work. On the other hand, all empirical studies, whenever they have been
conducted, are useful. To justify my own case, I take up Maume (2006) as an
example. He published his article 'Gender differences in restricting work efforts
because of family responsibility' in the Journal of Marriage and Family, even
though the data was fourteen years old as it was collected in 1992 in the USA.
Although the USA is still experiencing rapid social transformation, the freshness
and usefulness of the data collected by Maume in 1992 makes it valid still.
Reasons for the delay in completing this study are partly personal; I have
experienced a series of crises since 1989 up till completing this work. In addition,
funding throughout my dissertation project has been a problem. Actually, the first
draft of the dissertation was ready in 1999.
2.4 Description of the respondents
The actual total number of families in the survey was 162 of which 48 per cent
were living in the rural area and 52 per cent in the urban area. The final total
number of respondents was 474, whereas in the case of the time-use study the total
number of families was a bit higher comprising 171 of which 48 per cent were
living in the urban area and 52 per cent in the rural area. The total number of
respondents was 497 which is also a little higher than projected on the survey. The
differences are due to the decision to collect time-use diaries from more family
members than was done in the survey. The mean age of the respondents was 31 in
the case of the survey while in the case of the time-use study 30, and as decided,
the age range for both was from 15 to 60 years. In 1991, the average number of
family members in Bihar households was 7 to 8, which is higher than the average
number of family members in India (about 6 to 7). In Bihar, rural family size is 8 to
9 members whereas urban family size is 6 to 7 members, as family size is expressed
in Indian statistics (Calculation is based on the following formula: Family size =
Total fertility rate + 2 working adults + 1 to 2 dependents) (Census of India 1991a,
Table 53). Table 2 shows how the respondents were divided according to sex and
Table 2. The distribution of female and male respondents in rural and urban
areas in the survey.
Areas Female Male All
N (%) N (%) N (%)
Rural 105 (46) 122 (54) 227 (100)
Urban 111 (45) 136 (55) 247 (100)
Table 3. The distribution of female and male respondents by age in the survey.
Age Female Male
N (%) N (%)
15-20 49 (23) 81 (31)
21-40 144 (67) 106 (41)
41-60 23 (11) 71 (28)
All 216 (101) 258 (100)
The number of women is lower than that of men in the sample, which is mainly due
to women's higher illiteracy, shyness and way of living in parda (this does not
allow women to appear before others). Table 4 shows the marital status of the
Table 4. The distribution of females and males by their marital status in the survey.
Marital Status Female Male
N (%) N (%)
Unmarried 50 (23) 94 (37)
Married 165 (77) 160 (63)
All 215 (100) 254 (100)
Note: One female and four males are missing.
According to custom and tradition, girls generally get married at an early age,
while boys do this later. If there are boys and girls in the family, parents and
relatives decide first their daughters' marriages. Education and career may also be
a reason for delaying sons' marriages. These reasons explain the gender differences
seen in Table 4.
If we then look at the division between housework and work outside the home,
differences between females and males become obvious as Table 5 shows.
Table 5. The distribution of females and males according to their work in the survey.
Work Position Female Male
N (%) N (%)
Housework 128 (57) — (—)
Housework and outside work 50 (23) — (—)
Outside work 42 (19) 258 (100)
All 216 (99) 258 (100)
This reflects the prevalence of traditional norms and values which makes men non-
existent in the housework category.
The other set of data is based on recorded time-use diaries which provide an
account of 24-hour activities encompassing categories like market-oriented work,
housework and leisure. The time-use diary was directed to all those persons who
participated in the survey. In order to estimate the quality of the data it is important
to examine the scored hours recorded by the respondents. As Table 6
demonstrates, about half of them were totally correct in their recording, as the sum
of hours amounted to 24. Under-recording was not, however, so radically
significant as to make the recording seriously biased.
Table 6. The distribution of scored hours in the Sunday and Monday time-use diaries.
Scored hours Sunday Monday
N (%) N (%)
121 (24) 118 (24)
23-23.9 148 (30) 122 (25)
225 (45) 247 (51)
All 494 (99) 487 (100)
Note: Three persons did not fill in the Sunday time-use diary whereas ten persons did not fill in the
Monday time-use diary.
Table 7. The distribution of scored hours in the Sunday and Monday time-use diaries
among females and males.
Scored hours Sunday Monday
62 (28) 59 (22) 52 (24) 66 (24)
23-23.9 61 (28) 87 (32) 51 (24) 71 (26)
98 (44) 127 (47) 114 (53) 133 (49)
All 221 (100) 273 (101) 217 (101) 270 (99)
Note: Two women and one man did not fill in the Sunday time-use diary and six women and four
men did not fill in the Monday time-use diary.
In addition to time-use diaries, questionnaires and oral interviews, photographs
were taken to illustrate the living conditions of the families and the situations
where the fieldwork was carried out. When taking pictures, attention was paid to
people as they worked and lived in their natural surroundings. The aim was to take
shots as authentically as possible. However, the photographs are not analysed in
this study, instead they are used as an additional illustration of the interviewees' life
As the previous discussion asserts, the same-day diary is comparatively more
reliable and practical than the other types of diaries, in the provision of better
quality data. This was the way the diary method was applied in this study. The
merit of the same-day time-use diary is that it is simple and open, without
readymade intervals, convenient to use anywhere and covers any number of the
given day's activities. It enabled the recording of all joint and sequential activities
of an individual. It contains additional information on main and secondary
activities, and their location with the background information of respondents.
Additional information was received from the questionnaires and oral interviews.
Combining information from different sources improved the quality of the time-use
Apart from the adopted tools, the study greatly depends on other means of
knowledge gained in the field, such as social contacts, which help to explore the
quality of the time-use data. The advantage was obvious when studying an illiterate
and conservative society. These contacts made it possible to explore any norms,
values, attitudes and beliefs that came out in these contexts. Thus the qualitative
and quantitative data can be gleaned hand in hand.
In the course of this study several methodological issues emerged. I experienced
problems at various stages of carrying out the fieldwork, problems that need to be
taken into account in future research. As examples of problems I would like to
mention lack of social desirability, full awareness of current change in people's
attitudes and beliefs, better estimation of how to gain co-operation with
respondents and awareness of technical errors in oral interviews. A vagueness of
some questions in the questionnaire was also observed. Furthermore, it was noted
that the activity listing must be structured according to a particular social context.
If this is not done, it raises confusion among respondents. For example, baking and
cooking in an Indian context are not separate; instead, baking is an activity of
cooking. In Western society baking and cooking are seen as different activities.
Another significant lesson was that the respondents should not be asked
specifically not to pay attention to 'five minute activities'. This request had a
psychological effect on the respondents. It encouraged them to leave out not only
five-minute activities but also activities of longer duration.
Notable also was that it was difficult to respond exactly to the location of the
activity question. Such a question contained certain vagueness. It needed specific
clarification provided in the instructions. Similarly, responding to the main activity
section showed us that the response was linked to the personal beliefs and value
judgements of the respondent. For example, eating can be the main activity, but on
certain occasions like having snacks, cold drinks or tea (while they are engaged in
other activities such as cooking or helping children in studies) respondents did not
consider it to be the main activity. All of these are lessons from this study and need
to be taken into account in future studies.
In spite of these problems which emerged when gathering the data, they
nevertheless give a good means to analyse the gathered material. The decision to
combine three types of data: time-use diary, questionnaire and oral interview
proved to be fruitful. They support each other while giving additional information
about the gendered housework in Biharian families. The time-use diaries provide a
detailed picture of the division of labour in housework. In measuring the total
amount of average time spent in specified household tasks by females and males in
a family, the tasks were divided into nine major categories: kitchen work,
processing of produced food, care of house and garden, rearing and caring for
children, caring for elderly persons, caring for animals, handicrafts, shopping and
other associated business, and cultural and religious activities. To get more exact
information, each of the major domestic tasks were further classified into specific
tasks, for example, kitchen work into cooking food, baking, washing up dishes and
utensils, cleaning the table or eating place and other activities.
The purpose of the questionnaires was mostly to show the opinions of the
respondents about housework and how it was divided between women and men.
The opinions as expressed in the questionnaires were then examined in the light of
the oral interviews, which gave much more information about the ways people
articulate their views and beliefs. Thus, three types of materials have jointly
strengthened the empirical findings.
3 Division of labour in housework
The study starts by showing how the housework was shared by women and men in
the survey sample. As Table 8 demonstrates they shared many domestic tasks quite
Table 8. Mean time spent per day (in minutes) on major domestic tasks by sex and marital
Major domestic tasks * Sex Marital Status
Female Male Female Male Female male
N=218 N=270 N=47 N=98 N=171 N=172
Kitchen work 296 37 171 27 326 40
Processing of food and other items 46 22 56 26 45 20
Care of house and garden 61 37 72 30 59 42
Rearing and caring for children 98 94 69 75 102 96
Caring for aged persons, guests and the unfit 35 33 54 40 32 29
Caring for animals 39 78 — 65 39 88
Handicraft 68 2 84 — 63 2
Shopping 72 73 73 66 72 76
Cultural and religious activity 58 60 18 20 62 76
All 773 436 597 349 800 469
Note: * Five females and four males did not fill in the time-use diary. ** Among the unmarried, one man did not fill
in the time-use diary. ***Among the married, five females and three males did not fill in the time-use diary.
In particular, this holds true with rearing and caring of children, caring for elderly
family members, shopping and going to the market as well as cultural and religious
ceremonial activities. However, the division of labour was clear in some other
household tasks. Women were in charge of kitchen work and handicrafts, whereas
men were the principal care takers of animals. But even in these cases, it is worth
mentioning that though these household tasks are mostly performed on gender
lines, the division of labour is not fully put into practice. More clearly this comes
out in care of house and garden and processing of produced food. As to the total
time spent on housework per day, it was 13 hours for women and nearly 7 hours
for men. The difference proves to be in accordance with gender studies (e.g. Ramu
1989; Jain 1985; Sharma 1986) showing that most housework falls upon women,
but as Table 8 shows this is mostly due to kitchen work, which takes a lot of time
for women to perform. In the study by Ramu (1989, 131) the total amount of time
in domestic work is, however, less than in my study. This is due to the shorter list
of household tasks in Ramu's study, including only cooking, cleaning, laundry,
shopping and child care, whereas caring for elderly family members, caring for
animals, care of house and garden, handicrafts, and religious activities were
missing. The selection of household tasks may thus affect the results obtained for
the division of labour between women and men.
It is common to assess the amount of housework only according to gender; this
holds true especially with Western studies but many Indian studies, too. Because
Indian families are frequently joint families with several women and men, it was
reasonable to look if the division of labour was also affected by the status of family
members. This was examined by marital status and age.
Table 9. Mean time spent per day (in minutes) on major domestic tasks by age and sex.
Major domestic tasks
* 15-20 ** 21-40 *** 41-60
Female Male Female Male Female Male
N=45 N=81 N=152 N=119 N=20 N=70
Kitchen work 188 25 325 38 278 45
Processing of food and other items 40 30 39 16 63 23
Care of house and garden 56 29 59 46 81 32
Rearing and caring for children 63 75 104 87 80 110
Caring for aged persons, guests and the unfit 46 42 28 36 65 19
Caring for animals — 68 40 58 38 146
Handicraft 84 — 60 — 90 2
Shopping 50 62 77 86 58 63
Cultural and religious activity 18 20 69 59 24 81
All 545 351 762 426 777 521
Note: *In age group 15-20 one male did not fill in the time-use diary. **In age group 21-40 five females and one male
did not fill in the time-use diary. ***In age group 41-60 one female and two males did not fill in the time-use diary.
As the tables show, the marital status and age do not essentially change the basic
character of the division of labour between females and males. Unmarried women
more or less follow the pattern married women have adopted and the same holds
true with unmarried men and married men. However, there seems to be some
domestic tasks that fall more upon married and older family members than upon
those who are younger and unmarried. Compared to Western families the most
significant difference is that in Indian families young family members participate in
housework to a remarkable extent (e.g. Evertsson 2006, 431).
Thus far the division of labour has been assessed by using quite a rough
classification of domestic tasks. In this study a more detailed specification of tasks
was also carried out to see whether it brings such new information that somehow
forces a change of the picture of the division of labour as given in Tables 8 and 9.
The more accurate results are seen in Table 10.
Table 10. Mean time spent per day (in minutes) on specific domestic tasks by female and male.
Specific domestic tasks
warming prepared food
setting the table
serving / feeding food
washing up dishes and utensils
cleaning the table /eating place
tidying, washing / cleaning kitchen etc.
Other related tasks
Processing of food and other items
threshing .3 3.7
winnowing 18.9 —
boiling — —
drying / washing 11.7 1.9
storing 3.2 .9
making dung cake (goïĕha [for fuel]) etc.
milking animal .5 6.7
Other related tasks 3.7 3.0
Care of house and garden
cleaning 29.3 8.9
repairing .4 1.4
construction and decorating house 3.8 7.9
making land for garden .1 1.0
sowing — —
planting — 1.2
watering .2 —
pruning garden — .4
Other tasks / travel related to house and garden 9.2 11.7
laundry work: washing, drying and folding 17.3 4.1
cleaning lamp and bicycle, lighting lamps .5 .5
Table 10. Continued
Female Male Specific domestic tasks
Rearing and caring for children
feeding 14.0 1.1
washing 11.8 1.2
dressing — —
nursing / caretaking / massage 8.0 2.0
helping in work and study 10.0 5.2
Being and sharing together with children 4.5 6.9
health care / putting to sleep 7.8 .8
socializing .8 2.1
teaching 22.8 71.8
Other related tasks 18.8 2.6
Caring for aged persons, guests and the unfit
feeding 1.7 3.7
washing 1.9 1.3
dressing .7 —
nursing 9.0 1.7
essential chatting 9.6 2.7
Other related tasks 12.5 19.4
provide service for other .2 3.7
Caring for animals
feeding 9.5 31.6
washing animal's food pot / place — 1.6
cleaning the animals — 1.1
cleaning the place of animals 3.4 2.5
collecting grass, fetching water for animals — 1.4
storing husk and other things for animals — 3.9
cutting grass / other things for animals 9.5 8.6
shifting / moving animals — 1.2
health care journey — —
Other related tasks 16.2 26.5
sewing 32.9 2.1
knitting 25.4 —
making toys — —
Other related tasks 9.7 —
post office — 5.6
shopping 70.8 54.0
Other tasks related to shopping — .4
travel related tasks .9 13.0
Cultural and religious activity
Work related to marriage in the family — 15.4
celebrating cultural and religious activities 31.9 30.3
Other rituals related to the house: praying etc. 26.2 9.7
travel related to cultural and religious things .8 5.0
Note: Five females and four males did not fill in the time-use diary.
It is not necessary to go through all specified household tasks; instead it is more
useful to examine those details that clarify the nature of the division of labour
between women and men. The most important general result is that women tend to
participate in those domestic tasks that are carried out inside the home and in the
same way men tend to perform those tasks that are done outside the home. This
makes it possible for women to also perform those domestic tasks that are mostly
done by men. In the same way men can perform tasks that are mostly done by
women, if these tasks are done outside the home. This did not come out as clearly
in Table 8, in which the domestic tasks were classified on quite a general level. But
Table 10 also shows that the scope of women's domestic tasks is not fully limited
to inside the house, but includes tasks outside as well. Correspondingly, men do
housework also inside the house.
In addition to the general rule, some details are worth taking up here to explain
why the division of labour between women and men is not as categorical as it has
been claimed to be. The first example is about rearing and caring of children, which
is equally shared by women and men. The significant factor for this is that men are
mostly responsible for children's education at home. The reason is that women are
still educationally less qualified than men. Women are instead in charge of nursing
children, i.e. feeding and washing them, putting them to bed and other nursing
tasks. This is what is most often understood as care. As to cultural and religious
activities, the determinant factor is that some of such activities are assigned only to
men or to women. For example, women perform KarvƗ, TƯj, Jet̞ KƗn, JƯtiyƗ,
Devut̞ KƗvn and Chaĕh [religious festivals] (Pictures 13, 14 and 15).
In the marriage ceremony certain rituals are strictly divided on gender lines; for
instance, women have to apply ubt̞an (a paste rubbed on the body of a bride and a
groom), whereas men have to do mandapƗ chƗjan (erecting a shed and decorating
it for marriage rituals). Although there would be a strictly gendered division of
labour in performing ceremonial tasks, it would appear as equal if both men and
women have an equal number of tasks. In this specific case however, women and
men also perform some rituals together.
All in all the survey gave relevant knowledge about the division of labour in
housework; in certain tasks it was put into effect in a traditional way but in other
tasks this was not as apparent. To cast more light on this variation the oral
interviews were used. They were very useful for this purpose as they contain, in
addition to the descriptions of the division of labour itself, arguments and
justifications for it. These were used here in order to give a more accurate picture
of the allocation of domestic tasks. At the same time the oral interviews show that
when telling the researcher about housework the interviewees tend to put more
emphasis on the traditional division of labour, which is somewhat contradictory to
the survey results.
A woman (age 28) from an urban nuclear family, who was a mother of two and
who introduced herself as a housewife formost, although she was academically
engaged, is a typical example of the orientation that emphasizes the traditional
division of labour. When asking who in her family does housework she replied: 'I
do it all. I mean that my husband has to do only his job, earn money and bring it to
home. If people from the mother-in-law's family or my parents' family or any other
persons visit us or there are any kinds of problems — all these I have solved thus
far. One thing is that he (husband) lives here quite seldom. Although he is available
at home, my contribution is greater — to my understanding.' [Q: Who does the
shopping, you or your husband?] 'Not my husband. I do all kinds of shopping. I
had done most of the purchasing of clothes for my husband and my children.
Nowadays, I give this job to my brothers.' [Q: Who brings vegetables from the
market, you or your husband?] 'I bring vegetables myself from the market. If my
husband is available, I ask him to go. I tell him that you go as long as you are here
because I do it so often.' [Q: Does your husband make food sometimes?] 'Yes, he
makes food himself where he lives (at the workplace). He does not make food at
home.' In connection to performing housework, her old mother said that 'I don't do
it. I'm not physically capable. My daughter does most of the housework. I only
look after the children when my daughter has to go to the university.' (UHN-L,
IRN 012, 021, 040, 050, 054, 056, 061)
Although household tasks do not take all of the women's time, they still do not
engage in those family tasks which are mostly performed by men. Similarly, men do
not take part in those household tasks which are mostly performed by women,
although they may have nothing to do. Elderly women in particular are absolutely
rigid in that respect: according to their opinion, women and men must have
'specified roles'. If gender role in the household is violated by any one of the family
members, it causes 'a big shameful matter' in the family and outside it as well. The
study by Ramu (1989) based on an Indian sample supports the result obtained in
my study. According to Ramu: '[...] the roles which women and men play within
and outside the home prevent men from doing anything that is even vaguely
feminine. [...] Crying and cooking are defined as essentially feminine attributes
which no 'real' man would try to cultivate: if he did he would be stigmatized' (ibid,
A discussion that occurred between housewives in a traditional, rural farming joint
family illustrates well how specific domestic tasks are assigned to women and how
men are prohibited from doing domestic tasks which are seen as women's work.
The discussion was started by the grandmother (age 48) who described her own
mother-in-law's role in the family. 'She [her 70-year-old mother-in-law] takes care
of the children if they need to attend the toilet and wash after. She also removes
animal dung and cleans certain places in her bending position. Now she cannot
thresh rice but dal (splitted beans or lentils).' Asked by great-grandmother who is
seventy year old, 'Why don't you ask your grandsons to thresh rice and lentils?' she
replied: 'How can I ask my grandsons for that? They should do farming work. […]
Now, my time is over, although I can't live just looking around [to see that
something is undone]. Then I also clean utensils [if seen unclean] bending down.'
Telling more about the great-grandmother, the grandmother says laughingly: 'She
likes cleaning [utensils] now.' The great-grandmother reacts over what her
daughter-in-law said: 'Do you think I like to do it [cleaning utensils]? It's true that
nobody asks me to do it but I can't tolerate just seeing [that something is undone]
— and then I feel that I have to do it.' The grandmother continued to talk about
her daughters-in-law: 'Daughters-in-law do kitchen work where my task is to make
dung-cake (goïĕha) for fuel. Mostly we [women] look after the children. Males not
so much. Other elderly women and I look after the girls, while my husband looks
after the boys. My eldest son is busy in farming work [therefore he can't look after
the boys].' [Q: Who in your family gives oil massages to young kids?] In reply to
this question the great-grandmother said: 'I give oil massages. Sometimes the
daughter-in-law [grandmother] also gives oil massages to the kids. The women's
job is in the house. Well, they should make good food and do good household
management. They should keep everything clean and tidy. If there are guests in the
house, they [women] should treat them nicely and keep the tradition and prestige
of the family.' (RHN-C, IRN 016, 043-047, 055-056, 061-084)
It does not matter whether women are employed outside the home, they
nevertheless perform housework. They do it before they go to work. If some
domestic tasks are left undone, other female members of the family discharge them.
The male family members do not perform them although they are present. A
schoolteacher (age 45), the mother of adult children in higher education is taken as
an example of this. She explained: 'I'm a teacher and therefore, my main work is to
do teaching in the morning. After preparing breakfast and doing certain types of
housework, I go to the school to teach at ten o' clock in the morning. My two
daughters cook food. Sometimes he [the eldest son] makes tea. If we [females] are
not available at home, he manages to make breakfast and food. In our presence, he
has not to do any cooking. He [the second son] makes food sometimes as a hobby.'
[Q: How do men and women participate in housework?] 'Males also do certain
domestic tasks but most housework is done by females, like kitchen work, cleaning
the house and utensils, supervision of the house, rearing and caring for the children
and so on.' [Q: Who washes the family clothes?] 'Everyone has to wash his or her
own clothes. Sometimes if I feel, I wash others' clothes — as it is so. But in
general, everybody has to wash their own clothes. Even their father [indicating her
husband] washes his clothes himself. He is not dependent on others. I don't wash
their father's clothes. It is like a system that everyone should wash their own
clothes.' The daughters reported on their preferences: 'I [the eldest daughter, 20
years old] prefer cleaning house. I also like doing knitting and weaving.' The
youngest daughter, 16 years old, commented laughingly: 'I like to make food. I
enjoy doing it. I don't feel any burden in it.' (UHN-N, IRN 004-011, 043-044, 066,
Men do mostly those domestic tasks which fall outside house such as caring for
cattle, going to the market, making or knitting beds and making rope, and major
house repairs. The division of labour is so strict that if somebody were asked
whether a man is doing kitchen work in his family it would be immediately felt as
strange and as a laughing matter. A person who would pose such a question might
even be thought to be crazy. However, men can admit that feminine tasks like
kitchen work can be done by them in crises, i.e. when no women are available. A
male (age 16) high school student from a rural nuclear family, who was the eldest
child in the family and whose both parents were schoolteachers is an example of
this kind of view. To convince me he said: 'Actually my main job is to study.
However, I do certain tasks related to domestic work like bringing in vegetables,
getting flour from the mill, and gardening. I mean that I do those domestic tasks
which are done outside.' [Q: Do you also do kitchen work?] 'No, I don't do kitchen
work [laughing a bit]. Of course if there is a need, it can be done.' [Q: Does your
sister do housework?] 'Yes, she does [kitchen work].' (RHN-O, IRN 003-007)
Domestic work that is solely performed by men is, for example, connected to
animal care such as managing and fetching food, fodder and grass, feeding,
moving, taking out and caring for the health of the animals. Women may look after
animals only if men are absent or under specific circumstances. The situation is
similar to men, who can do kitchen work if women are not available. This is how a
male school teacher (age 51) from a rural joint family informed about his situation:
‘Whatever outside work there exists, men are doing it. Generally, men do tasks like
feeding animals. This is considered the men's task. Only sometimes, women can
also feed animals.' (RHN-D, IRN 004-006, 048-051) A daughter-in-law (age 23)
who was a housewife and a mother of small children from a rural joint family
mentioned: 'The females can also feed the cow, but if males are available in the
house, we women don't do this task. If a male is not present, we give water to the
cow to drink and serve fodder also. Giving water to the cow is usual although
males are available.' (RHN-L, IRN 019-025, 040)
Gardening is men's work, when it is done in the field while women can do
gardening when the garden is in the surroundings of the house. In this case
gardening most often concerns flowers and latar (creepers / greenery).
The division of labour between women and men in the case of caring for guests
depends on who they are, i.e. whether they are females or males and how they are
related to the host family. Generally, guests are male guests, while female guests
are rare or occasional. If a married daughter visits her parents’ house (naihar), she
may be treated as a guest for a while but actually not for long. After all she is seen
as a daughter of this house and she also likes to enjoy full rights as a daughter,
hence she does not prefer to be treated as a guest. Her husband, who is called a
son-in-law (GƗPƗd) of this house is instead treated as a guest of the highest rank
with all comfort, regards and respect. In general, for other male guests who are
not sons-in-law or otherwise closely tied to the family (e.g. on the blood basis), it
is the males who are responsible for caring for them, for example in making the
bed, getting bathed and attending the toilet, taking food and drink, or visiting
places and people. The women's role is to prepare food and drink. But if a son-in-
law is a guest, all family members regardless of gender are enthusiastic about being
responsible for caring for him.
In caring for sick persons in the family there are gender rules. Also, here the
decisive factor is who is sick and how s/he is related to other family members. For
example, if an elder brother-in-law (bhaisur) is sick, a younger brother's wife
(bhabbhu) cannot perform such services as giving a massage, bathing and changing
his clothes, or helping in attending the toilet. She cannot even be close to his body.
The shadows of bhabbhu (younger brother's wife) and bhaisur (husband's elder
brother) should not touch as it is strictly prohibited. This is a cultural taboo.
Similarly, if a younger brother's wife (bhabbhu) is sick, the role of an elder brother-
in-law (bhaisur) is limited in providing care and services to her for the same
reason. But if the father is sick, all family members, i.e. mother, son, daughter and
daughter in-law provide services to him. If the mother is sick, she is provided with
services by all family members, except the father. He cannot take care of her in the
same way as the mother takes care of him. For example, the father does not give
her massages and such services which are culturally restricted. However, in
general if a male is sick, other males take care of him in bathing and changing
clothes and other hygienic matters. Similarly, sick females are provided with
services for calls of nature, bathing and changing clothes, and other hygienic
matters by other female family members.
As to caring for old family members, men are really seldom responsible for it.
Traditionally such a job is women's work, especially daughters-in-law consider it as
their prime duty, as a housewife (age 31) from a rural joint family reported in the
interview: 'Also, in our Indian culture, it is the duty of the daughter-in-law to
provide comfort for the old father and mother-in-law.' (RHN-B, IRN 024)
Males participate in child care nearly equally with females but this does not hold
so much in the case of minor children, as a schoolteacher who was a grand father
(age 51) from a rural joint family informed: 'Mother is more responsible for rearing
and taking care of young kids. She does oil-massage for the child.' (RHN-D, IRN
In the case of younger children males may hold the child for a while usually if their
wives / women are either absent or engaged in other tasks. A housewife cum
schoolteacher (age 32) from a rural joint family is an example of such a situation.
When asked: 'Who mostly takes care of the children, you or your husband?' she
replied: 'I mostly take care of the child. If my husband is available, he also
sometimes takes care of the child. My eldest daughter helps me more in caring for
the child compared to my husband. But on Sunday, my husband takes care of the
child more than me because the whole day I have a lot of housework to do. It is
very normal that we have some guests on Sunday. I have to make breakfast and
other things for my husband and his friends in the morning and evening too.'
(RHN-F, IRN 025-027, 062)
A grandmother (age 48) who was a housewife from a traditional joint family
provided additional details when asked: 'How in your family is child care done?'
She replied that although mostly the women of her family looked after the children,
there was also contribution here from her husband: 'He bathes kids and washes
their clothes also. If young kids have come from the latrine, he washes them also.'
About the mothers of her grandchildren she said: 'The mothers do such things for
their kids but it is less and not equal.' Interrupting here, the great-grandmother, 70
years old, said: 'You see my young great-grandsons, if I am not available, then they
[indicating the great-daughters in-law] wash these kids when they come from the
latrine.' [Q: Who is doing most of such things for the children?] The grandmother
said: 'Mostly the great-grandmother does such things for the young kids.' About
her sons she said in general: 'No, none of them are doing such things [laughingly].
Only the grandfather [her husband].' (RHN-C, IRN 016, 043-047, 055-056, 061-
The child care in more modern families is also maintained traditionally along
gender lines. If women in such families are employed outside the home, they have a
long maternity leave for child care. This generally does not apply to men. Men's
participation in child care is rather limited. In the house, men may occasionally take
care of the children, for instance, by feeding them. Generally, child care if it is
performed outside home is left to men. Yet females can do such a job in exception
cases. A female schoolteacher (age 42) from an urban nuclear family whose
husband was also employed is taken here as an example of this kind of situation.
She said: 'So far, I take care of bathing and feeding children. When the children
were young and if they had to be dropped at and picked up from school, my
husband did it. Also, if the children had to go for a walk or to visit some place, my
husband used to take them. I could also drop my children off at school and fetch
them back home but from an economic point of view it would be expensive. I had
to hire a car while my husband carried the children on his scooter. Another thing is
that at that time I had also to be ready to go to school for teaching. Therefore, my
husband took care of the children so that they could go to school and then come
back to home. My husband still does it. Sometimes he also feeds the children.
When my children were small I was on a long leave.' (UHN-G, IRN 011)
In socializing young children, i.e. in teaching them proper manners and conduct,
the contribution of females is much greater than their male partners. The reality is
that small children spend most of their time in the company of females. This is how
a housewife (age 28) with a higher education, who was a mother of two from an
urban nuclear family replied when asked: 'In your family, who is socializing your
children?' She said: ‘Mostly it is the mother's job. Mainly it is the role of the
mother to socialize the children because they stay longer with the mother. Also
other family members have a certain contribution in socializing the children. You
see when a child is one or two months old, s/he is totally with the mother. You can
also see that my children spend most of the time with me.' (UHN-L, IRN 012, 021,
040, 050, 054, 056, 061) A rural housewife (age 38) from a large joint family
mentioned also: 'The mother is mostly in charge of teaching manners and conduct
to male and female children until a certain age.' (RHN-H, IRN 040)
However, after a certain age the role of males and females in caring for children
gets divided on a gender basis. Females look after grown-up girls and teach them
proper manners and conduct while males educate grown-up boys. This was told,
for example by a housewife (age 38) from a rural joint family in this way: 'After a
certain age, it is the father's duty to teach the sons while the mother continues to
teach the daughters the manners and conduct. In case of the daughters, it is always
the mother who guides them, whether they are young or adults.' (RHN-H, IRN
040) A man (age 38) from a rural joint family had similar experiences as he said: 'I
also generally take care of the children regardless of their gender up to a certain
age. After this, taking care of girls and boys changes. The mother continues to
teach the female children manners and conduct while the father educates solely the
male children.' (RHN-K, IRN 049, 068-071) Generally males are educationally
more qualified and therefore it is their job to teach children at home regardless of
their gender. This is also caused by the fact that males have more free time while
women are often busy with other domestic tasks, especially in nuclear families.
In cultural and religious activities which are related to housework, the
participation of women and men depends on the types of activities. Compared to
females, males take more part in cultural and religious tasks. For instance, in
SatayăQƗUƗyan̞ pėja (ritual of the God SatayăQƗUƗyanҚ), gĵhavƗs (new house
entrance), and marriage, birth and death ceremonies the female's and male's roles
are divided on gender lines. In these ceremonies males participate more than
females especially in organizing and collecting things from outside the home.
Females are mostly responsible for arranging and preparing what is inside the
house. Certain rituals can be performed either by females or males only — it
depends on the ritual substance.
In case of a family manautƯ (vow to propitiate [a deity] by worship) to a deity
located at a distance, usually the males of the family go and fulfil such a ritual.
Under certain circumstances or if distance does not matter, females can also
perform the manautƯ ritual. On certain occasions, it is also so that both females and
males together attend to perform manautƯ. If manautƯ is with any family god or
goddess, then females usually do it. However, only females practice certain rituals
such as 7Ưj, KarvƗ, Devut̞ KƗvn. Also Chaĕh PǌMƗ, which is a rather popular
religious festival in Bihar, is mostly celebrated by females and quite seldom by
In Indian JƗrhasthya jƯvan (household life) domestic work is not only organized on
gender lines but also profoundly justified in that way by people regardless of their
gender. A woman (age 32) who presented herself as a housewife cum
schoolteacher, is an example of this kind of view. When justifying the gender roles
she said: 'Women must do housework.' (RHN-F, IRN 025-027, 062) An employed
man (age 44) from an urban nuclear family whose wife was a housewife gave more
details, as he said: 'You see, the division of labour between males and females in
the family has continued through generations. Although a woman is educated, still
she has to do cooking and other housework. The concept of the division of labour
in our family dictates that one has to do specific tasks along gender lines. And
therefore, the female is uttardƗ\Ư (responsible) for performing domestic tasks in the
family life. Such a division of labour between females and males is practiced, and
so it goes on.' (UHN-H, IRN 034-036) A woman (age 43) confirmed this by
saying: 'Yes. This has continued since the beginning that the female has to do
inside housework whereas the male outside work.' (UHN-D, IRN 059, 085 -087)
As the extracts presented above show, there were many common ways to describe
and justify the division of domestic tasks in one's own family and in families more
generally. Several interviewees started their stories by telling how strict the division
of labour between women and men is and also should be, but in the course of
discussions it appeared that men too participated in performing those domestic
tasks that were first mentioned to be solely women's tasks. Their statements
indicate the prevalence of traditional value orientation, which is, however, given up
if need be for practical reasons. Availability was frequently mentioned as this kind
of reason; if women are not available for one reason or another, men can perform
the task. The same rule concerns crises. For example, if the mother is sick, the
male family members can take charge of housework. These situations were
expressed as if they were exceptions to the prevalent rule. It was not possible to
obtain this sort of knowledge from the survey and the time-use diaries, but it
explains partly the astonishingly weak gendered division of labour in cases of some
domestic tasks as manifested by the survey.
The oral interview also showed that though the division of labour in housework
appeared quite equal in some domestic tasks, it proved to be stricter in other tasks
that were divided between women and men. Child care and care for elderly and
sick family members are good examples of this. Small children are taken care of by
mothers, but when children grow up, mothers continue to rear daughters whereas
fathers rear and educate sons. This kind of gender division holds also in the case of
caring for elderly and sick family members as well as hosting guests. Both women
and men are involved in these activities, but on gender lines. The rules determine
quite in detail who is responsible for whose care and also who is and who is not
allowed to do it. The division of labour in housework is thus not only ruled by
gender so that duties of domestic tasks solely fall either upon women or men,
instead the division of labour is also determined within the domestic tasks by sex.
As a consequence, the division of labour appears quite equal in some household
tasks as is seen in Table 8. This chapter thus shows that there are two basic forms
of division of labour along gender lines: (1) certain tasks only for women or men,
and (2) within certain tasks, a more detailed division even if the task in general is
possible for both sexes.
4 Housework as responsibility
To understand better the nature of the division of labour in housework more
questions were posed to the respondents. The aim was to get such information that
helps to see what actually made the respondents follow such a division of labour as
they did. Two questions were presented, the first tries to find if the respondents'
behaviour is based on personal preferences in the same way as in Western culture
where people are supposed to individually ground their behaviour on personal
choices. The question in this survey was formulated in the following way: 'What
are the housework tasks you prefer to do, if you could make a free choice?' The
distribution of opinions is seen in Table 11.
Table 11. What are the housework tasks you prefer to do, if you could make a free
Domestic task Percentage of 'yes' response
Food making 65 9
Processing of food and other items 12 4
Care of house and garden 31 31
Rearing and caring for child 38 29
Caring for aged persons, guests, sick and the unfit 14 15
Caring for animals 1 18
Fuel and grass management 2 6
Handicrafts 14 —
Shopping 8 37
Cultural and religious activity 9 18
Although there are some differences between women and men with regard to their
preferences, the main and astonishing result is that both tell that they do not prefer
to perform housework, if they could have a free choice in this respect. The only
exception is food making among women. The discrepancy between preferences
and the actual housework performed makes us conclude that the respondents are
ready to perform housework, although they do not like it. The readiness to work
hard at home may then be caused by pressure family members put on each other.
This was asked by the question: 'What housework tasks you are asked to do?' The
distributions of opinions are presented in Table 12.
Table 12. If you are not given freedom to choose, what housework tasks you are asked
Percentage of 'yes' response
Food making 64 9
Processing of food and other items 9 5
Care of house and garden 25 21
Rearing and caring for child 20 27
Caring for aged persons, guests, sick and the unfit 15 14
Caring for animals 2 19
Fuel and grass management 6 13
Handicrafts 10 1
Shopping 10 56
Cultural and religious activity 5 11
The percentages in Table 12 show that the respondents are quite rarely asked to do
tasks except in the case of food making and shopping. The results give good
reason to conclude that performing housework is not dependent on one's personal
preferences and direct request by other family members. Yet the table shows
clearly that there is a gender difference in this matter: preparing food is required
more often from women and doing shopping more often from men. If this table is
compared to Table 11 (what housework one prefers to do), it also can be noticed
that men would not like to go shopping as frequently as they are asked to. Both
women and men would like to take care of the house and garden more often than
they are required to do. Women and men seem thus to have differences that are
seemingly based on the cultural traditions in India more than on their will.
In spite of the fact that the respondents replied that they do not much prefer to do
housework and that they are not even asked to do it, the majority of the
respondents were of the opinion that housework is important for the family. This
came out when asking the respondents whether housework has a significant role in
maintaining family life. The question was presented in the following form: "In your
opinion, has housework an important role in maintaining family life?" The
distribution of opinions is seen in Table 13.
Table 13. In your opinion, has housework an important role in maintaining family life?
Importance of housework
N (%) N (%)
Not at all 1 (1) 4 (2)
Somewhat 17 (8) 30 (12)
Quite a lot 56 (26) 93 (36)
A lot 142 (66) 130 (51)
All 216 (101) 257 (101)
Note: One male is missing.
As Table 13 demonstrates, the majority of respondents agree that housework has
at least quite a lot of importance for the maintenance of the family. Similar
attitudes came out in the oral interviews. For example, a city woman (age 28) who
was a student, a mother of two children and a housewife reported: 'Obviously,
housework is of great significance. Without housework a person cannot prosper in
life.' (UHN-L, IRN 001) Even those women who were employed outside the home
firmly believe in the significance of housework in the family. Typical of this kind of
women was a schoolteacher M.A. (age 42) who explained: 'In order to run the
family, no doubt housework is significant. Without [food] there is no praise of
God. I understand that housework is not only significant for my family but for
every family. Without doing housework, the vehicle of our lives cannot run.'
(UHN-G, IRN 001, 009)
Both females and males frequently used such terms, as 'obviously', 'definitely',
'actually', 'really', 'no doubt', when justifying the significance of housework in their
lives. This asserts their firm recognition of the significance of housework that is
undeniable in reality. A married male schoolteacher (age 55) from a joint family,
who was a father of adult children and whose wife was a schoolteacher said:
'Definitely, it [housework] is significant.' (RHN-M, IRN 001) When commenting
on the value of housework a male bank employee (age 41) whose wife was also
employed said: 'Look, housework is very significant for us.' (UHN-B, IRN 001)
Another man (age 30) from a rural joint family who was a schoolteacher as was his
wife, estimated the value of housework by saying: 'Housework is of great
significance in order to run the family.' (RHN-F, IRN 001) A schoolteacher (age
40) from a rural joint family whose wife was a housewife expressed this still more
convincingly: 'Housework is of extremely great significance in family life.' (RHN-
J, IRN 001)
There were, however, some people among the respondents who did not give much
significance to housework. For them both housework and outside work were
equally significant. An instance of this type of orientation was an urban male bank
employee (age 28) with a housewife and one-year-old child. He said: 'Definitely,
housework is significant but if somebody considers that the housework is too
significant, I would say — not too much but it is significant.' (UHN-J, IRN 001-
003) An urban woman (age 45) and mother of four adult children is another
example. She was a schoolteacher while her husband was an engineer. She said: 'It
is significant more or less.' (UHN-N, IRN 015-019) When informing about the
significance of housework, a high school teacher (age 38) from a rural joint family
who had a housewife stated: 'Yes, housework is quite significant.' (RHN-K, IRN
In the oral interviews, not a single woman equated the significance of housework
with outside work. This is a clear manifestation of gender disparity in defining the
significance of housework. In the following sub-chapters I shall examine in detail
what makes housework significant. The attention will, first, be paid to housework
as responsibility. This was the term adopted here to express the very nature of the
orientation the respondents showed when performing housework which they do
not very much prefer to do but which they nevertheless consider to be significant in
maintaining family life. The aim of this sub-chapter is to show how the respondents
had internalized the responsibility with respect to their role performance in the
family. This overcomes the attitudes the respondents expressed when saying that
they do not prefer housework, if they could freely choose. Housework is
performed, not so much because of personal preferences, but because it is
perceived as a responsibility to be fulfilled by family members mostly on gender
To understand the obligatory character of responsibility we sought from the oral
interviews such elements which could be interpreted to form a kind of foundation
for a strong feeling of responsibility. The first element is the power of tradition. It
has not yet faded as in many Western countries, where, for example, the principle
of equality has weakened the power of tradition. The second element is that the
cultural roots which define the pragmatism of life keep the tradition firm. Finally,
educated and employed women are taken under scrutiny as they show how elusive
modernity still is in India, at least in the traditional area.
4.1 Obligation of responsibility
UttardƗyitvă is the responsibility that women and men are culturally assigned in
discharging housework. When asked why they do housework, they generally
respond: 'UttardƗyitvă hai na', 'Maiٝ uttardƗ\Ư hǌٝ', or 'GƗrhasthya jƯvan meٝ
uttardƗyitvĠ hotƗ hai' (It is a responsibility, I am responsible, or in household life
there is a responsibility). The uttardƗyitvă in housework has been also examined in
other studies (e.g. Greenstein 1996, 587; Doucet 2001; Ramu 1989, 55, 65, 97-
138; Sharma 1986, 69, 91). By uttardƗyitvă in housework the respondents mean
their responsibility in discharging housework. To examine this the respondents
were directly asked: 'To what extent do you think you are responsible for
performing housework?' The distribution of opinions is seen in Table 14.
Table 14. To what extent do you think you are responsible for performing housework?
N (%) N (%)
Not at all — (—) 4 (2)
Little 14 (7) 31 (12)
Responsible 40 (19) 94 (36)
Very responsible 61 (28) 59 (23)
The most responsible 100 (47) 70 (27)
All 215 (101) 258 (100)
Note: One female is missing.
Table 14 shows that females consider themselves to be 'very' or 'the most
responsible' for housework (75%) more often than males (50%). This is in
accordance with the division of labour between women and men as discussed in the
previous chapter. However, it is also worth mentioning that men too see
themselves as responsible for housework although to a lesser extent. But as we
shall see, women and men view their housework as different.
When stressing their responsibilities for housework the respondents say, for
example: 'Our culture is such that it makes us responsible for housework.' In this
respect women and men are equally vocal. For example, a young mother (age 28)
of two small children from an urban nuclear family who was a housewife but at the
moment was doing a Master's Degree and whose husband was an engineer
confirmed domestic responsibility by saying: 'Yes, I do have more social activities
while my husband has less. Inside the home I have social activities like entertaining
guests and solving others' problems.' When informing more about intensive
responsibility in housework, she narrated: 'Now for example, one of my daughters
has an entrance test and for that I have to make her prepare for the test. Soon
after this I also have exams for which I must prepare thoroughly. Apart from this I
have a lot of housework to do every day. After making food I have to send
children to school and when they come back I have to look after them again.'
(UHN-L, IRN 013) These respondents manifested their responsibility by using
expressions 'I have to ... '.
As already seen, responsibility for housework is segregated on gender lines. This is
confirmed by other studies, for instance, made by Ramu (1989, 97-138) and
Greenstein (1996). Greenstein states: 'The idea that wives and husbands do gender
by allocating housework responsibilities unequally, combined with the assumption
that gender ideologies, although socially determined, vary across individuals, leads
us to new insights concerning the allocation of domestic labor on the basis of
wives' and husbands' gender ideologies' (ibid, 587). The responsibility of women
for discharging housework persists, even though women are engaged in education
or outside work (see Hilton & Haldeman 1991, 115). Women and men commonly
confirm that although women are alone, busy or overburdened with housework,
still they must every day do all domestic chores that are assigned to them as
feminine jobs. Such domestic responsibility does not bother men. Although there is
an urgent need for doing housework, men still are not doing it. They think such a
task is not for them as it is seen as a feminine job. If men do such a job, it can
impair their masculinity in the family and in society. Also, if women are engaged in
outside work or studies, they still have to adjust their time in order to maintain
daily necessary housework. An old woman (age 72), who was the mother of the
aforementioned young mother is taken here as an example. She described how her
married daughter, a mother of two, in spite of the fact that she was engaged in her
higher studies, was solely responsible for discharging domestic tasks in her family.
In her nuclear family, she was the only adult woman. Although her husband was
available, she could not get any help in domestic tasks. When talking about her
daughter and son-in-law she reported: 'He [husband of her daughter] does not care
for anything. Although he knows, for example, that the vegetables are burning he
cannot move to turn off the gas.' (UHN-L, IRN 013)
After the old mother had presented her comments, the married daughter (age 28)
elaborated more about her situation regarding her domestic work on gender lines.
She said that this sort of sex-segregated responsibility in housework left her alone
to manage and adjust domestic responsibility with a future career. As she
illustrated: 'I mean that in which way can I find time for my studies — this I have
to think about alone and no one can contribute to it by showing that somebody will
take care of the children so that I can study. In this respect no one has helped me
yet and it would not be possible for any-body to do so either.' (UHN-L, IRN 013)
Why are women mostly responsible for domestic work? People ground their views
culturally by stating that the 'nature of domestic work is such', as did a full-time
housewife (age 39) with a schoolteacher husband from a rural joint farming family.
To the question 'Why do you stay at home and why are you not employed outside?'
she replied: 'No. I stay in my home. The whole domestic work is as it is ...
[laughingly].' (RHN-A, IRN 081-082)
To understand the persistence of the division of labour in housework and the view
that it is a responsibility, the study continues by taking under scrutiny two factors,
tradition and socialization, which together constitute the foundation of the present
gendered division of labour in housework. Among these two, tradition is
understood as the first vital force to make the interviewees internalize housework
as responsibility. Through the process of socialization traditional views are
maintained. These two constitute the strong foundation of gendered responsibility
which tends to persist as long as they function in accordance with each other.
Tradition and socialization together fix the role patterns as they have existed since
long ago. In them, internalized attitudes, beliefs, norms and values are expressed.
These two factors are examined in the following sub-chapters in more detail as
they emerged in the oral interviews.
4.1.1 The power of tradition
To start the assessment of the influence of tradition on the gendered division of
labour in housework two tables are presented. Table 15 demonstrates women's and
men's opinions about sharing household tasks.
Table 15. Do you think that both women and men should share housework equally?
N (%) N (%)
No 89 (42) 135 (53)
Yes 123 (58) 121 (47)
All 212 (100) 256 (100)
Note: Four females and two males are missing.
The table shows that differences of opinions between women and men do not
greatly differ from each other, as about half of the respondents agree with the
statement that domestic tasks should be shared equally. However, women favour
this opinion more. This tendency is visible in Western countries, too. This is an
important result, but just as important is to note that so many men agree with the
equal sharing of housework.
Those who think the sharing of housework is desirable can be called modern or
innovative. They look at their lives from the perspective of a changing society.
They are not so much tied up with tradition. In discussions, they arguingly say that
there is nothing wrong if men share housework with their wives. The co-operation
is seen as a moral duty and it is legitimized by fairness. When clarifying this they
say, for example, the wife must be as tired as the husband after coming back from
the job, therefore both of them should be in charge of domestic chores. Their views
are grounded on the ethics of equity, which demands the sharing of housework
between women and men on equal terms. An innovative schoolteacher, a mother
(age 42) of three from an urban nuclear family demonstrated this view clearly:
'Nowadays, under the changing circumstances, both husbands and wives are
employed outside the home. Therefore, if husbands help wives a little bit by doing
housework, it is not so that they loose their dignity or their peace.' (UHN-G, IRN
Respondents were also asked: 'How far do you agree with the statement that
experiences and inspirations of our traditional life with certain norms and values
(such as customs) and women's potential for motherhood restrict women to
domestic work?' This question refers directly to the power of tradition by
measuring how much the respondents think tradition still influences people's way
of life. The former question (Table 15) measured the respondents' own opinions.
The opinions concerning the social and cultural pressure on the traditional division
of labour in housework are seen in Table 16.
Table 16. How far do you agree with the statement that experiences and inspirations of our
traditional life with certain norms and values (such as customs) and women's
potential for motherhood restrict women to domestic work?
N (%) N (%)
Not at all 35 (17) 41 (16)
Somewhat 51 (24) 72 (28)
Agree 60 (28) 76 (30)
Totally agree 66 (31) 67 (26)
All 212 (100) 256 (100)
Note: Four females and two males are missing
Table 16 shows that the differences between women's and men's attitudes are again
not so great, but now the majority in both groups more or less agrees with the
statement that traditions restrict women's activities to the domestic sphere. Those
who totally disagree that tradition and motherhood restrict women's life spheres to
domestic work can be categorized as the most innovative in the sample. They
justify their attitudes by saying that they are living in a modern world with its new
values. They see that modern values promote a better and progressive life. They
also say that women’s life differs now from earlier life as it is no longer restricted
to domestic work only. A young urban woman (age 28) with a career and two
children is an example of this innovative attitude. In discussion with her I asked:
'But to what extent does a domestic career hold true in your life at the beginning of
modernity?' In her reply she said: 'In my life [...]. However, I'm free in my family
to decide to do housework or not. Also, I'm continuing my studies according to my
choice. No pressure is put on me, neither was it so earlier. I stayed together with
my brothers, sisters and parents [...] at that time I used to do all domestic work
happily which was expected from me in my parents' house. Along with that, I was
also doing my study work.' (UHN-L, IRN 008-011, 022-031, 058-060)
Another example is an urban well-educated and employed woman (age 42) and
mother of three. People especially in her surroundings knew her as a modern
woman. She was against the traditional way of living and being a housewife, as
most women did in her surroundings. Many times she emphasized that especially in
her case tradition had not restricted her life to domestic work. In child care, she
believed in an alternative option. Such child care did not restrict her to domestic
work. She justified her solution as follows: 'No. I think that all women may not
agree with my opinion. However now, the world has changed a lot, and therefore,
any educated woman if ambitious would not like just to live inside the house. She
can't be satisfied with that. Those women who are just housewives spend their
leisure time visiting their neighbours and gossiping with them so that they can pass
their time in entertainment. But I can't be satisfied with such things because I have
certain ambitions. Though I'm ambitious, still I give fifty per cent importance to
our family life and its progress. The other half I give to my ambitions. Therefore,
it's a sort of compromise between our family progress and my own ambitions.
Another thing is that my children have already grown up enough. When I'm out
from the home, the children are also at school. If I decided to leave my job and stay
at home, I couldn't be with them because they would be at school. Now, if I do my
work outside home, it does not affect my children. Housework takes only half an
hour or one hour. It is not so that looking after my children gets disturbed if I'm
teaching in the school.' (UHN-G, IRN 013-016, 019)
Such innovative women very much resemble the non-traditional wives studied by
Ramu (1989, 58-59) who are not willing to fully commit themselves to domesticity
only. Also Chakrabortty's study (1978) supports the results presented above.
Women with a university education from the middle class both prefer to marry and
have their regular domestic work as a wife and a mother and to have a job as well.
Men too refer to change when justifying the employment of women, as the
following example proves. One subject (age 40) is an employed man from an urban
nuclear family whose wife is a schoolteacher cum housewife. When asked 'whether
tradition and motherhood restrict women's work to housework' he replied: 'I'm
convinced that motherhood does not restrict women to do only housework.'
Commenting further on tradition that had restricted women to housework, he
added: 'The existing tradition is breaking down slowly. Nowadays, women are not
limited only to work in the house or men only outside the home. These trends are
especially seen in the metropolitan areas and even in a city like Patna but they are
still very rare. Nearly twenty years ago, very few women were employed outside
the home. Actually, it was not considered socially good that women should go out
and work in an office. But nowadays, if a girl is unmarried and employed in any
office, a man wants to get married to her. It's very much the economic reason that
compels them into this situation.' (UHN-M, IRN 034-037)
I have started this sub-chapter with examples that are against tradition, in spite of
the title of the sub-chapter being the Power of tradition. The purpose of this was to
see if tradition has any obligation in housework responsibility in cases where the
pressure of tradition is totally denied on the opinion level. As seen already,
although actually half of the respondents preferred to share housework equally
between women and men on the grounds of the ethics of equity typical in a modern
society, still most of them accept the statement that traditions work in the
background to restrict women's lives to housework. Also, the citations above show
that although some respondents appear to be innovative in their thoughts their
behaviour was not totally in accordance with their attitudes. They often confess
that tradition made them see domestic work as their responsibility.
If we then turn to those who agree with the statement that tradition and
motherhood restrict women's lives to housework, we find clear differences in
justifications compared to those respondents who are here called innovative. These
interviewees recognize themselves as SanƗtan Hindu (Eternal Hindu). According
to this tradition, women and men need to do their respective responsibilities in
gĵhasth jƯvan (household life). This reflects the Vedic role and life of ancient India
(e.g. Altekar 1973, 90-114). This compels women to take care of 'hearth and
home' or as Ramu (1989) puts it: 'The cultural belief that males and females have
'natural' propensities that make them competent in segregated spheres of activity is
deeply rooted in the minds of Indians' (p.99). There is also a pragmatic reasoning
in SanƗtan Hindu tradition. The fact that women give birth to children compels
them also to take care of their children, which in turn makes it natural for them to
stay at home and discharge most housework. Similar findings have been observed
in other studies (e.g. Sharma 1986, 63-64; Ramu 1989). Ramu states: 'Wives
believe that being a good, essential woman cannot be divorced from being a good
domestic. An ideal wife and mother demonstrates her competence by maintaining
an efficient household that meets the expectations of other family members,
especially husbands' (p.102). A housewife (age 31) from a joint family whose
husband was employed, confirms that this kind of stand towards tradition is true
even today: 'Yes, it is in a custom and a tradition of Sanatan Hindu life where
women have to do hearth and home and not men. It is universal. Another fact is
that women are mothers. In this situation they are compelled naturally to stay at
home and carry out the domestic work simultaneously. I consider that it is good
for women to do housework.' (RHN-B, IRN 067-071)
In a changing society although women enjoy having an opportunity to be
employed, they still discharge domestic work and see it as uttardƗyitvă
(responsibility). When describing this, people refer to women’s natural essence and
social setup that they think correspond to each other. This corresponds to what
Ramu (1989, 118) observes: 'It is a women’s physical make-up to cook, clean, and
be a good mother and wife.' In this context, a male rural schoolteacher (age 38)
from a joint family whose wife was a housewife added: 'There is some physical
weakness in women so they can't do outside work. Especially in the countryside,
there is such a social atmosphere that it is much more important for women to do
housework. Though some educated women are in outside service, they still
perform housework.' [Q: So, do you think that our traditions with certain norms
and values and the potentiality of women for motherhood — all these restrict
women to domestic work?] 'Yes, the first thing is tradition and the other
motherhood which restrict women to domestic work. You see it is a natural
compulsion or ability that women have to experience and work for. Therefore, I
have to say that women possess certain physical conditioning and potentiality for
motherhood that make them stay more at home. Similarly, men have a different
physical constitution; therefore they do outside work more compared with women.'
(RHN-E, IRN 008-015)
As inspired by their tradition, these women actualize their way of life as expressed
by Indian satƯ (true and devoted wife) and pativratƗ (faithful and devoted to the
husband) doctrines (e.g. Mies 1980, Dhruvarajan 1990, Ramu 1989). In a case
study conducted in West Bengal, Tenhunen (1999, 106) informs that women like
to work in their households like Laks̞ PƯ (the Goddess Laks̞ PƯ). This also applies to
many modern women.
A male schoolteacher (age 40) with a housewife also grounds his view on old
traditions: 'These are old traditions which have continued since the very beginning
of society. People consider that traditions are the base from which to conduct their
way of life and therefore, housework is considered women's work while work
outside the home is the men's duty.' Pointing out 'motherhood' he continued by
saying: 'Yes, especially, you see, if women would not have to experience
motherhood they could be as free as men. Potential motherhood is really forceful,
because it makes women realize that one day they have to be married and
experience motherhood that will bring them to domestic work and life.' (RHN-J,
IRN 021, 038-039) This supports Ramu's (1989, 63-65) study which informs that
culture and maternity direct women to the domestic jurisdiction.
A schoolteacher (age 42), a mother of three from an urban nuclear family,
explained why traditions have been working throughout the ages. She said: 'Partly
the induction of our Smĵti period [A.D. 500 to 1800] and partly Islamic and
English colonial experiences are responsible for confining women to the household
only. This provides a position for men to take responsibility for work outside the
home. For example, the pardƗ prathƗ (the custom practiced by women to cover
their faces and bodies so that they should not be seen by others) in our society has
come from Islam. But nowadays, such a system is disappearing slowly from our
Hindu society. [...] Also, certain things are accepted as values (PƗnyăWƗ) in our
society. The old women say: "Ah that is a boy, you are a girl, see what is your
position?" Therefore, such prevailing things in the society grant different working
sectors for women and men. [...] On the basis of the previously formed social
structure people lead their lives. Men consider that their working field is outside
while women's is inside the home.' (UHN-G, IRN 013-016, 019)
Old family members provide a specific and unique opportunity to observe the
power of tradition in allocating housework. A great-grandmother (age 70) from a
joint family is taken as an example to illustrate this. The woman worked according
to her capacity, although none of her family members asked or expected her to do
any tasks. Because of her old age she was unable to supervise and administrate
over the entire housework; she had passed this responsibility on to her daughter-in-
law who was the second most senior woman in the family. However, she still
maintained her position as 'the chief of her family'. If any crisis arose in domestic
care, a woman like her could not sit and wait until someone solved the crises;
rather, she used to act with sincere uttardƗyitvă (responsibility) to solve the crisis
by herself. In order to find out her uttardƗyitvă as a great grandmother, I asked
her: 'If females stop doing housework then what would you do?' In her reply she
said: 'What will I do? Whatever is possible. According to my capacity I will do
housework. If nobody cooks food in the family I will cook food for my son and
feed him. Because I bore him and reared him. I would also feed my grandchildren.'
(RHN-C, IRN 057-060)
As the above-cited extract shows, family blood relations, which are constituent of
emotional culture and traditions, awaken uttardƗyitvă (responsibility) towards the
family. Among women it means taking care of domestic tasks. Hochschild (1983)
and Erickson (1993) see this kind of responsibility as a feeling which they call
emotional housework in the family. The interviewees of my study distinguished
quite clearly their family responsibility from outside family responsibility.
According to their views responsibility as it is felt outside the family is based on
sympathy, justice or humanity, which do not determine the feeling of responsibility
arisen in family blood relations. Housework responsibility is basically grounded on
family blood relations which also gives birth to the feeling of love and affection.
Some people offered deeper insights. According to them, the traditional way of life
as such promotes a specific and strong family blood relation role under dharma
(moral principle) that inspires and makes them feel uttardƗyitvă (responsibility) in
discharging housework. With this, they realize the real meaning of their JƗrhasthya
MƯvan (household life). The practice of housework under uttardƗyitvă is felt to be
their right to do it and not a pressure imposed on them from outside. A male
interviewee (age 28) told about this in detail. He was a married high school
teacher whose joint family was from a rural area. In his family, women used to stay
at home although they were educated. He reported: 'Yes, it's quite right. We family
members consider everything in the form of responsibility and duty. Traditionally,
that is part of dharma. The main goal is to attain the truth — maximally. The truth
here means that we must realize everything in the true sense.' (RHN-I, IRN 015)
Another male member (age 40) of the previously mentioned family whose children
went to school and college and who himself was working on his own land added
the following: 'There is something more to say, for example, as you said that the
mother has dharma (moral principle) to make food and feed her children or the
wife to cook food and feed her husband — these are considered as her dharma.
She is so much attached to her children and husband — there is natural love that
you cannot separate them from her. She does not think that doing all for her
children and husband is her task [work that she has to do]. She actually feels apnƗ
adhikƗr (own right) that all such things for her children and husband must be done
by her. Also, she thinks that she has her right to receive love from them. She even
beats her child — for fighting, she fights with her husband — but in spite of all this
she will do everything in time, and for that she has no kind of pressure from any
sides. No member of the family says to her either in the morning or in the evening
to cook, still she cooks food. Does anybody in the family say to the woman that
you wake first in the morning and make a cup of tea for all family members, clean
the whole house, and take care of the door. If she likes, she could leave all the
homework undone and go out. But it is not so here, because of our social system;
there is such a family atmosphere that she understands and feels that all members
of the family belong to her. If she does anything for them, it is her dharma
associated with uttardƗyitvă (responsibility).' (RHN-I, IRN 015)
Traditional people completely disagree with the idea of sharing housework
between women and men. They are fully inspired by tradition. In this regard their
attitudes correspond to their behaviour. Traditional people are sharp and clear with
their views on how to lead JƗrhasthya jƯvan (household life) and to maintain its
housework in this sam̓ VƗUƗ (world). This is how an old woman (age 70) from a
rural joint family, a great-grandmother of several children reflected it well when
asked, if she could have asked her grandsons to do housework (on pages 77-78).
Another old woman (age 72) from an urban joint family, who was a grand-mother
of many children further illustrates the traditional view. One of her sons who was
an engineer used to live separately from his own family. His educated wife made
him participate in housework on equal grounds. This was intolerable for the old
mother and made her feel pain and disgust. Sharing housework with men was
shameful, immoral and unjust for her. She often asked her son: 'Why do you do this
[housework]?' In her world, the whole idea of sharing of housework between
spouses was disliked and against the lok-lƗj (the regard for public opinion). All of
this was reflected when I asked her: 'What do you think if any male starts looking
after hearth and home?' In her reply she expressed her pain and feelings that had
perhaps been suppressed for long but now burst out: 'Yes, one of my sons does
[housework], and it does not look nice to me. [...] Though I'm not physically well,
still I do not allow my sons to clean dishes after eating food.' [Q: Why?] 'Why? —
Because they are my children and I'm their mother. Either their sisters will do
housework services for them or me.' (UHN-L, IRN 008-011, 022-031, 058-060)
People from younger generations may also be traditional in their thoughts
concerning housework. They even show intolerance of men's participation in
housework with women. They say: 'It wouldn't look nice.' Males are not supposed
to do even simple domestic activities, if females are present. For example, if a man
needs a glass of water, a woman has to bring it to him. This is considered as the
lok-lƗj (the regard for public opinion) and the mƗnmaryƗGƗ (bounds of decency) of
family and society. An unmarried daughter (age 18), a B.A. student from a rural
joint family revealed how she was occupied with traditional thoughts and beliefs
when doing housework in her family life. She presented a true picture of how
traditionally housework is maintained in her family. I asked her: 'Has your father
ever done kitchen work?' She said: 'No, never. He does not even take water to
drink [laughingly].' [Q: What would you think if your father started cleaning the
house?] 'It wouldn't look nice. It would be odd and against traditions. You see,
these are not the jobs of men.' (RHN-K, IRN 044-056, 072-073, 081-086)
A young housewife (age 28) and mother of two from an urban nuclear family was
of the same opinion. As a reply to the question 'What kinds of feelings and
situations would erupt and cause concern to the lok-lƗj (regard for public opinion)
and the mƗnmaryƗGƗ (bounds of decency) of the family if her husband started
cooking?' She said: 'It's true that in the family people will not feel good. They will
not feel happy. They will think, I didn't cook and serve food for him, therefore he is
cooking.' (UHN-D, IRN 020, 060-062) Another housewife cum employee (age
34), a mother from an urban joint family with two children and an employed
husband described the persisting attitudes and beliefs on housework inspired by
tradition: ‘If a husband starts doing kitchen work, immediately he will meet harsh
criticism from others. It is so that being a male one is not supposed to enter the
kitchen. In the presence of a woman, a male can’t even take a glass of water to
drink. The woman must do it for her husband and he would be just sitting.' (UHN-
C, IRN 034)
A young unmarried man (age 20), who was a college student from an urban
nuclear family and whose father was a bank employee and mother a housewife was
quite informative in this respect. He said that Indian culture is not recent or new —
it is thousands of years old. Domestic work as maintained by women has been part
of Indian cultural traditions through generations. According to him if there were a
need for any change in it, it would have already happened in the past, but there is
no evidence of that. There is no need to change traditions. Such a change
especially in the Indian case would neither 'fit' nor 'look nice'. With these words he
justified his thoughts about the change: it is unlikely that the traditional division of
labour would transfer between women and men. All this came out in his reply to
my question: 'Would it be possible to change the roles of men and women? I mean
that the man should take care of housework and vice versa, the woman should take
care of work outside home like going to the market and farming?' This is how he
answered: 'It is our tradition since very ancient times. If there could be such a
possibility, people would have noticed it already and they would act accordingly. If
our forefathers would have done something like that already, we would also go on
the same track nowadays, as for example, in the hilly area, a bride does not go to
the groom’s house, but the groom goes to live in the bride’s house. It is so because
they have this sort of tradition which seems to us awkward. That kind of tradition
may not be followed in our society.' (UHN-A, IRN 035-038, 059)
According to a traditional man (age 51), who was a schoolteacher and grand-father
from an educated joint family and who had a housewife, 'giving up housework is
impossible' for women. Reacting to my question related to the transforming of
domestic gender roles he stated clearly and sharply: 'It is not thought to be so,'
referring to roles on gender lines, 'such things are continuing from forefather to
father and to children ... as a trend. People are engaged in that. It is so, whether a
woman stays in an in-law house or a parents' house, everywhere the atmosphere
is the same for letting women engage in housework.' (RHN-D, IRN 030)
An unmarried son (age 18) from an educated rural joint family, who was a college
student told of causes and concerns in relation to changing domestic roles between
women and men. 'There are customs and traditions. We are not yet at the stage of
transformation. Although in the big city, this sort of change can be found, it is still
rare. We live in the countryside and in this social atmosphere it is not possible to
change gender roles. If our [...] if we [men] are not available, my mother goes to
the bank and does the shopping sometimes. Generally, we [men] are doing such
things. Sometimes, our mother also goes to mail letters. The main thing is that we
have to do everything according to our existing traditions. If my sister-in-law
[brother's wife] starts going out for shopping, immediately this would be a big
topic to be discussed among other people. They will say, "family members [men
who are in charge of carrying out outside tasks] have become either lazy or have
encouraged the bride to show herself in public." They will not consider it to be
positive. They will comment, "They [our parents] encourage their bride. She goes
out shopping." In addition his father (age 55) referred to typical social issues which
are concerned: 'You see, there was a girl's side party to negotiate a marriage with
one of my sons. One of my colleagues of this colony tried to poke at the girl's party
saying, "Don't get your daughter married to his family. She [indicating my wife]
shifts the cow dung and makes dung-cake [laughingly]. She feeds cows." The
social norms and values that exist are bad. These are social evils — which the
society must get rid off. To a certain extent we have achieved success in finishing
our evil practices in the society.' (RHN-M, IRN 028-030)
Similar thoughts inspired by tradition which cultivate the women's role in the
household have also been found in the studies of other scholars (e.g. Sharma 1986;
Ramu 1989; Tenhunen 1997, 130). Sharma (1986, 63) observes that women
consider it unrealistic in the first place and in the second place, a cause of serious
shame, for men to be engaged in the domestic domain. In the study by Ramu
(1989, 120), one of the respondents stated it very well: 'It is not only shameful for
a wife to let her husband get into the kitchen but that would be humiliating for him.
[…] My husband would be called an ayah, a henpecked husband. His friends would
make comments like "why don’t you wear a VƗU̞Ư (a long cloth females wear) and
bangles too". I would be just as ashamed as he.'
Shifting domestic roles between women and men means changing and challenging
traditions crudely. Speaking from the perspective of reality, people find it
impractical and difficult to change domestic gender roles. According to them,
social transformation is not yet on such a level that it would be natural to live
against tradition, although this was considered to be possible in big cities. When
talking about their own way of life they said that people must lead their lives
according to tradition. This makes them find life easy and joyful and gives them
prestige in society.
Differences between personal attitudes and perceptions about how traditions still
have an influence were quite great. The respondents would like to have more
egalitarian practices in housework, women more than men, but the majority of the
respondents supposed that the influence of traditions prevented this pattern from
being fulfilled. This generated a discrepancy that many respondents solved by
yielding to the traditional division of labour. The reasons for this were sometimes
practical, but often also inspired by traditions. They were referred to when
explaining their housework practices, which obviously appeared as traditional.
The power of tradition was of course most visible in utterances presented by those
respondents whose opinions were traditional. They most eagerly appealed to
tradition when explaining housework practices in their families. The very nature of
tradition is to maintain the way of life as it has been throughout the ages. The next
sub-chapter describes in more detail the roots of the tradition that the interviewees
so often referred to.
4.1.2 The cultural roots of housework
The roots of tradition ultimately lay in the Vedic principles: karma (activity),
dharma (moral principle), NƗma (lust), artha (economy) and purus̞Ɨrtha (objective
of life). These are significantly seen as being fulfilled by housework. Regardless of
the gender, many interviewees used the Vedic terms when they wanted to stress the
significance of housework. For instance, a full-time housewife (age 35) from a
nuclear urban family, whose husband was a bank employee, reported: 'Obviously,
the housework is associated with [karma, dharma, artha, kƗma and purus̞Ɨrtha].'
(UHN-E, IRN 016) When talking about the association of housework with the
Vedic principles, a rural male interviewee (age 28) used a similar expression. He
was a schoolteacher while his spouse was a housewife. (RHN-J, IRN 014-018,
020) Other females and males expressed the significance of housework in relation
to the Vedic principles by saying 'yes', 'certainly' or 'completely'. All these
statements demonstrate that Indian people are still aware of the Vedic principles
and that they connect them to housework.
When giving more details about the connection of housework to the Vedic
principles some interviewees interpreted it in a religious sense. According to this
view, women's housework is not simply seen as 'work', but women do it because of
dharma (moral principle) which defines their role and makes them finally attain the
meaning or objective of life (purus̞Ɨrtha). Women generally view dharma in a
spiritual sense. For instance, though they do not feel good in cooking food for the
family, still they do it. They think in this way for two reasons: first, if they forsake
fulfilling the need of the families like food, their families would suffer; and second,
simultaneously they would also suffer themselves as they would feel guilty.
Consequently, dharma would be in danger. They therefore note that housework
that is one type of karma is interwoven with dharma. This is why people also think
of housework in a purely dharmik (having to do with dharma) sense. However, at
this point they know that karma is VƗdhan (means / agent) whereas dharma is
VƗdhyă (achievable by certain means to be maintained). In this way, housework
becomes significant as an agent in manifesting dharma and purus̞Ɨrtha (objective
of life). To illustrate this, a bank employee (age 40) is taken as an example. His
wife was a schoolteacher. He said: 'Yes, completely. The right conceptual terms
are chosen in this context. Because of what we have in Indian social structure,
there is a lot emphasis on them. […] It seems to me that it has been constituted as
a dharma. For them [women] it is not simply duty [work] but it is dharma to make
food for their husbands. Thus, people already consider things in such a way in this
type of society. Though they do not feel well, still because of considering dharma
they think: "Oh, if we will not cook food, our husbands will not eat — will be left
hungry, this will cause me to sin also."' (UHN-M, IRN 026)
For some interviewees, whatever karma (activity) human beings perform it is for
the manifestation of dharma (moral principle) and that must be maintained. If they
do not engage in karma their dharma would lead to crises. They experience it as
immorality. This is how a bank employee (age 28) from a nuclear family whose
spouse was a housewife with a newborn baby put it: 'A person's karma is dharma.
In daily life we think it is our dƗyitvă (liability [under dharma]) towards the family.
[…] As you seed, so you will reap. I would like to emphasize the necessity to
perform our duty [assigned task or work]. If we don't do so we feel that we are
doing an injustice […] or crime – that is what we think inside ourselves.' (UHN-J,
The interviewees were of the view that social laws are formulated with the aim of
maintaining social order. This indicates clearly that cultural objectives are
objectified and the meaning of life (purus̞Ɨrtha) is attained. This is how a male
bank employee (age 33) from an urban nuclear household whose spouse was a
housewife staying at home with two children expressed it: 'The definition of
dharma in my mind is, performing activity according to the principle of dharma.
So if I do any work that is my dharma (moral principle). The principle of karma
(activity) is so [...]. Without doing karma we cannot achieve rights. Then what we
have is kartavyă (duty) towards the family — after performing kartavyă our rights
will be gained in the family — and not before. Social laws are formulated with the
aim of discouraging social evils and practices in the society. For instance, to
protect one's wife is the husband's duty. The reason is that women are physically
weak compared to men and therefore men have been given the burden of
protection. And to the wife, so far, she has to be conscientious (kartavyăparƗyan̞a)
towards her husband and family. Housework is associated with karma, dharma,
artha (economy), NƗma (lust) and moksa̞ (liberation). Dharma is only, […] if
karma is performed under the principle of dharma.' (UHN-D, IRN 030, 040-041)
Some other interviewees stated that karma (activity) is a process necessary to
achieve dharma (moral principle). Simultaneously, the other Vedic principles are
also fulfilled and maintained, and this finally gives the sense of life: objective or
meaning in this Sam̓VƗUƗ (world). This is how one of the rural male interviewees
(age 40), a schoolteacher whose spouse was a housewife illustrated it. 'The
housework is associated with the Vedic principles: karma, dharma, artha
(economy), kama (lust) and purus̞Ɨrtha (objective of life). […] karma is our
dharma and when karma is carried out in the right sense, we obey our dharma.
[…] In family life, it is the mother’s kartavyă (duty) […] this makes her perform
housework in the family.' (RHN-J, IRN 014-018, 020)
Vedic principles are observed also while performing housework according to the
rules of the social hierarchy. The interviewees made specific reference to dharma
(moral principle) that is in the form of kartavyă (duty). Under this feeling, the
performance of housework makes them free from spiritual fear. Instead, the
progress of the soul is also attained, which is related to the very meaning of life.
This is how a 55-year old man (he and his wife were schoolteachers) highlighted
this when saying: 'Yes. This is a fact. Indirectly kartavyă is our dharma. This is
why, for example, being a mother and a wife, a woman thinks that she has to make
food and feed her children and husband. In family life, dharma is the pure sound of
the soul. Obeying dharma helps in the soul's development. Dharma wakes up
kartavyă for every individual. It helps to think what kind of kartavyă the mother
has and what kind of kartavyă the brother has. Dharma develops NƗma (desire /
passion) in the family members to do housework [a kind of karma]. Dharma [in
accordance with what one needs to perform activity — karma] is traditionally
maintained […] some people also follow it out of fear.' (RHN–M, IRN 016-021)
How does a pativratƗ (a faithful and devoted wife to the husband) protect herself
and progress with dharma (moral principle) in conjunction with other Vedic
principles, when she ideally discharges the household duty assigned to women
traditionally? In Indian society, women traditionally maintain dharma as satƯ (true
and devoted wife), pativratƗ (a faithful and devoted wife to the husband) to satisfy
mentally, physically and spiritually. Thus their fate is to emphasize self-sacrifice,
asceticism, ramification, selfless honour, eternal love and devotion, obedience and
loyalty to husband, children and other family members. A pativratƗ must follow
this idealism in her life till her last breath. It is sanctimonious rather than just a duty
for an ideal wife to wait until her husband comes to eat. Her time is to eat only
after feeding her husband. But when the ideal wife is teased for her spiritual duty as
pativratƗ by her patideva (lord husband), she may reply to him in an ironical way,
reminding him about sanctimonious duty. A wife (age 35) from a nuclear family
can be seen an example of this. She was a schoolteacher and her husband a bank
employee. It is interesting how she emphasizes her household life and the
significance of housework in terms of the Vedic principles and at the same time
views ironically her husband’s hypocrisy with regard to these principles: 'It is not
the dharmik (having to do with dharma) point of view if the lord husband
(patideva) comes back home at twelve o'clock at night and I'm just sitting and
waiting for him — if he eats first, then I will also eat. If he doesn't eat at all it's
impossible for me to eat.' [Q: Can't you eat if your patideva does not eat?] 'All the
other members eat but I don't.' [Q: Is it so that those who are daughters-in-law or
wives can't eat?] 'No. Not being able to eat food is not bandhan (compulsion). This
is antahbhavna (inner feeling) which does not allow me to eat first [means husband
must do it first].' (UHN-M, IRN 026-028)
Even modern, educated and employed women are influenced by tradition which
dictates that women must take responsibility for housework. An example of this is
a schoolteacher (age 42), a mother of three from an urban nuclear family. In the
course of the discussion she flatly agreed that 'social tradition and motherhood are
significant elements which inspire women to engage in housework with no
exception'. Confessing the truth she cited herself as an example. 'Every society or
community has its own traditions according to which people choose their way of
life. I'm also living within certain social traditions. It is not a matter of being
modern: if I am modern and only do my job outside then I neglect paying attention
to my housework. I pay attention to housework and then after that do my outside
job.' (UHN-G, 013-019)
The objectives of the JƗrhasthya jƯvan (household life) are as follows. First, to
discharge pitĵ-ĵQ̞a (debt owed to the ancestors) or VƗP̓ VƗrik ĵă (worldly debt) to
who gave birth to them. This is only possible through establishing family life based
on marriage and having children. Second, to go through the experience of VƗP̓VƗrik
MƯvan (worldly life) to enable it to get rid of the VƗP̓VƗrik vƗVăQƗ (worldly passions:
lust, desire or greediness) once and for all. This is to attain higher spiritual
development. This leads mukti mƗrga (path of liberation) or detachment from this
worldly life and attachment to the true worldly life. Third, to maintain the
continuity of culture that defines the ordained way of life. All this demonstrates
that JƗrhasthya jƯvan deals with physical and non-physical elements of worldly life.
Thus, gĵhasthasana (household stage) sublimates the synthesis of material and
spiritual aspects of life that we may call 'material spiritualism'. Such cultural
objects come into reality only if housework is practiced. This is why regardless of
gender, women and men commonly are of the view that housework is significant in
order to run the family (see Table 13). Additionally, they note that in the absence
of housework, individuals cannot prosper. This directs prosperity in every sense,
dealing with the individual's physical and spiritual, sam̓sarik (worldly) and
parlaukik (belonging to the next world) life.
As this sub-chapter shows, the interviewees were quite conscious of the old Vedic
principles. Their statements also prove that the Vedic principles are still influential:
they were used to explain the significance of housework and the traditional division
of labour in performing it. In this, Indian people differ from Westerners, who quite
seldom refer to traditions when explaining traditional behaviour, and if they do,
they actually have no references to named traditions in the same way as the Vedic
principles functioned among the Indian interviewees of this study. It seems to be
that in Western societies the connections to tradition have broken as these societies
have already passed through modernity and entered post-modernity experiences
and features, to be described as 'hedonistic self-fulfilment' (Glenn 1990, Jallinoja
1994, 4), 'the free floating couple', 'the amoebic social unit' (Shorter 1975, 263-
272; Stacey 1990; Giddens 1992, 14, Jallinoja 1995, 252) and 'the new sense of
identity' (Giddens 1991,12). In this context, Giddens (1992, 12) states openly: 'It is
beyond dispute that [...] developments [...] are happening throughout most
Western societies.' Whereas in India traditions are still alive. The evidence of this
were a great number of explicit references to the Vedic principles. In Western
societies, traditions if mentioned are perceived as more abstract. The difference
between these two types of societies is also that in India the attitude towards
traditions is still positive to a great extent, while in Western societies traditions
with regard to the division of labour in housework are considered to be assessed in
most cases negatively, as came out in sub-chapter 1.2.
As seen in the previous sub-chapter, traditions were still influential in Bihar when
the fieldwork of this study was carried out. Traditional attitudes were strong even
among those respondents who were categorized as innovative on the basis of their
attitudes on a general level. The aim of this sub-chapter is to give more information
on the mechanism which make the traditional attitudes and practices persist in
India. In this respect socialization to housework seems to be significant. This was
examined by first asking respondents: 'At what age did you start learning
housework?' The results are presented in Table 17.
Table 17. At what age did you start to get training for housework?
N (%) N (%)
Under ten years 85 (40) 128 (51)
10-14 years 102 (48) 85 (34)
15-20 years 21 (10) 25 (10)
More than 20 years 6 (3) 14 (6)
All 214 (101) 252 (101)
Note: Two females and six males are missing.
The majority of women and men learn domestic tasks when they are under 14 year
of age. There are some differences between women and men, but these are not
very significant. Instead, the differences between India and Western societies seem
to be considerable. In India, children's socialization to housework starts at an early
age, while in Western countries, though this holds true (e.g. Coltrane 2000, 1212,
1225; Evertsson 2006) it is not put into practice with similar intensity as in India.
On the basis of interviews carried out for this study we can get more information
on how housework is learnt and how it is divided between girls and boys.
Learning household tasks starts when children are capable of understanding things
better. This happens when they are about five years old. In many cases children do
domestic tasks on a regular basis already at this age. For example, a male bank
employee (age 40) from a nuclear family put it in this way: 'You see, it's quite a
fact that everybody starts doing work since his or her childhood […] at the age of
five years.' (UHN-M, IRN 042) According to another employed man (age 35) from
a joint family, 'children regardless of their gender start learning minor tasks in the
family when they are five-six years old.' (UHN-C, IRN 013-014)
Gender disparity came out clearly when talking with the interviewees about
housework. Children learn only those domestic tasks which are culturally
prescribed for them on gender lines. A male (age 40) from a joint rural farming
family is an example. Other family members also participated in the discussion. I
asked him: 'Does the teaching of household tasks differ on gender lines at the time
of the training period?' In reply he said: 'There are differences, for example, girls
are asked to cut vegetables, boys are asked to bring some goods from the shop or
asked to go to call somebody. Or it happens sometimes that animals are standing
and there is a lack of someone to take care of them, so they [boys] are asked to go
and give a basket of husk.' Another family member (age 28) who was a teacher
added: 'Boys are given mostly tasks that are done outside.' The farmer's son (age
15) reported: 'I pick up vegetables in the field. I clean outside but not inside the
house. Also I sometimes clean the cattle house. [...] Feeding cattle and cleaning
their place, generally my grandfather asks me to do that.' [Q: Does he ask your
sisters to do the same jobs?] 'No. He does not ask my sisters, he asks me because
I'm a boy.' The teacher clarified: 'In our family, it harms the prestige that women
work outside the house. It is against the tradition and way of life.' (RHN-I, IRN
016-21, 050-053, 098-107)
An employed man from an urban joint family told more about the disparity that
exists in learning housework tasks between boys and girls. He had a rural
background, but because of his job, he lived in a city. According to his knowledge,
since early age girls learn most tasks that are related to hearth and home, while
boys learn tasks that are done outside. Girls are even strictly prohibited from
learning certain outside tasks. For example, females are not allowed to touch a
plough, not to say that they can plough land. It is a social taboo. A man (age 35)
described: 'In the family, the attention of the female children is drawn to keeping
hearth and home. In this sense particularly, the mother wants her daughter to pay
more attention to doing housework since her early age. Respectively, the boy's
attention is drawn to the outside work. For instance the boy is asked to go to the
market to bring vegetables or move the cow a bit. If he is grown up he is asked,
"Go with the cattle and make them graze — otherwise, go to plough land." In this
way, the division of work continues between boys and girls. [...] In our area it is
so that there is a lot of paddy farming — to that we pay more attention. Usually we
plough the field, and do dhƗn daunƯ (paddy threshing). I mean all that is required
for the paddy from beginning to end — we do mostly that. And likely taking out
the cow and ox for grazing — these are small jobs.' [Q: How far do young girls
participate in paddy farming work?] 'In our society, the female is not allowed to
touch the plough. […] In the countryside there is no tapwater facility in the
houses, as is the case in every house in the city. So, in the rural areas people have
to fetch water from a distant well. Then girls are given small pots and asked to
bring water from the well. These are the tasks.' (UHN-C, IRN 001, 008-013, 035)
Learning housework on gender lines is socially justified by referring to 'practice'
which is synonymous to 'custom' and 'tradition'. People also say that girls must
learn housework as it has been prescribed for them. This actualizes and justifies
their role as regards housework uttardƗyitvă (responsibility) in JƗrhasthya jƯvan
(household life). To illustrate this, a male bank employee (age 44) from an urban
nuclear family is taken as an example. Commenting on female children's housework
learning he said emphatically, but dogmatically: 'Actually their [indicating female
children] lives are somehow prescribed for learning housework. […] Even my
daughter is acquiring some knowledge [of doing housework].' [Q: Why is it so that
only girls have to learn housework and not boys?] 'It is practised, nothing else.' In
order to get more information on gender practices in learning housework I asked
him: 'Do you also train your son in housework as you train your daughters?' He
replied: 'Housework is the major role of women.' UHN-H, IRN 037-041, 056)
Gender disparity in learning housework between boys and girls is pervasive even
among highly educated men, who are intellectually innovative. They can be
intolerant and feel insulted or embarrassed about their masculinity, if they are asked
whether in their childhood they had been asked to learn kitchen work. A male (age
40) bank official from an urban nuclear family is an example of this. His wife was a
housewife cum high school teacher. When he heard the question: 'Were you also
asked to do kitchen work or clean house in your childhood?' he felt quite hurt and
embarrassed. In his immediate reaction he said: 'No, no. Not these tasks.' (UHN-
M, IRN 042-046, 052-054)
Especially old and traditional females are extremely harsh and intolerant of
teaching housework to boys. Their innermost feeling is that housework is
prescribed for women and therefore learning housework must take place strictly on
gender lines. If they are asked: 'Why do you not ask boys to learn housework?'
they are immediately shocked and surprised. The reason is that such a question is
against their cultural norms and values. Such a thing is not expected and therefore
it is felt as strange. A great-grandmother (age 75) from a rural joint farming family
is an example of such a discussion. She was a traditional woman. I asked her: 'Did
you train your master [her son] to cook food?' In reply she said: 'For making food!
... [She felt completely shocked and surprised when hearing my question] I was
cooking myself all varieties of foods — and feeding.' [Q: Did you train your
daughters in housework?] 'Yes, yes [...] all kinds of work — sewing, knitting and
weaving — all kinds of fancy work [She meant that she had trained her daughters
in all tasks that were needed by her]. At a very young age [She started giving
training in housework], when she [the daughter] was enrolled in school at the age
of five.' (RHN-K, IRN 081-084)
A girl (age 20), who was a B.Sc. student from an urban joint family confirmed the
strict rule of learning housework on gender lines. She felt not only odd but agitated
when asked: 'Are boys in your family also taught housework like girls?' She said: 'It
is not applied in our family [laughing] that the boy should do the girl's job like main
domestic work.' (UHN-N, IRN 036, 041-049, 061-063, 080) A woman (age 32), a
schoolteacher from a rural joint family added more when speaking about social
reality. In her reply to my question: 'Why are females asked to learn housework
and not males?' she said: 'Because they [males] can't do it. […] Because born as
girls, since the beginning we [females] are being trained in housework – boys are
not.' (RHN-F, IRN 028-033, 063)
Even well-educated and innovative women appear to have similar thoughts and
beliefs as more traditional women about learning housework on gender lines. My
observation and interviews confirm that although innovative women may share
domestic tasks with their husbands — not extensively but to a limited extent —
when they are asked if they ask their sons to do housework their attitudes change
completely. They say firmly that they will not train their sons in housework. It is
true that they like their sons to adopt the masculine role in their lives. To teach
them housework would threaten their masculinity. A woman (age 42) from an
urban nuclear family, who had a Master's Degree, a teacher by profession who was
famous for her modern and innovative mind was a special example of this. She
shared certain domestic tasks with her husband. However, for such a woman it was
unacceptable to teach housework, especially kitchen work to male and female
children equally. She appeared to be rigid in this respect when telling: 'Only girls
need such learning and not boys'. She justified this by referring to customs and
traditions. In the course of the discussion I asked her: 'But, do you train your
daughters in housework?' She replied: 'Yes, I train them [...]. When they entered in
the third [or] seventh — [grade of school], I told them, "take a bit of uttardƗyitvă
(responsibility) for doing housework like decorating the house, taking care of the
beds." They manage to do these tasks.' [Q: Now your son is little but do you think
in future you will also train your son in housework?] 'Certainly I will not teach him
cooking because it is not necessary for him to make food [in the future]. There is
no such necessity.' (UHN-G, IRN 021-025)
Gender disparity is culturally so deeply grounded in the society that even children's
games are divided on gender lines. Generally, separate games actualize and
legitimize children's future roles. In their games, they become gradually familiar
with their masculinity and feminity, and accordingly their thoughts and beliefs are
built on this binarity. In this way male and female children are ready to enter the
world of work in a traditional way. The socialization starts in their families where
they learn their respective tasks. A female schoolteacher (age 32) is an example of
the discussion of the importance of games as preparation for gender roles. In reply
to my affirmative question: 'Can it be so that learning takes place spontaneously
among the children: one has to do "this and this" because of being a girl and the
other has to do "that and that" because of being a boy? And the performance of
work is actualized according to the gender basis so far, being a boy one thinks that
he should do similar tasks as his father, brother or grandfather have done, and
similarly, the girl thinks also that she should do similar tasks as her mother, sister
or grandmother have performed.' She agreed with this opinion by saying: 'Yes,
yes. What is it — whether it is a natural gift of God in girls? When the girls are
three-four years of age, their games are also separated from boys' games. Look,
the younger daughter of four years — what will she do, buy a VƗU̞Ư (long cloth for
the females to wear), decorate the bride [doll] with that, in her ear put an earring,
and celebrate her marriage. If there would be a boy of the same age in her place,
he would play football, play music or make a football and bow and arrow. Look,
there is a boy [showing a boy], he does similar things. Carrying a football, he will
play with that, he will play a match. When a little [four year old] girl calls him,
"come here," in reply what he will say, "I'm playing a match." [...] If a girl wants
to take part in that game, then that boy will say, eh, does a girl play football? You
go there and play with kanyƗ guriyƗ (bride doll). Accepting this she says, "I go
away brother." "You go there and play with kanyƗ guriyƗ (bride doll) — Suman
— [the boys asserts to say again], on this side I will play a match. I'm a boy, you
are a girl." You see, from here on, activities become separate from the age of four
years.' (RHN-F, IRN 034-035, 039-043, 064)
The punctuality in learning housework is regulated by the girls' age and in
accordance with the level of domestic tasks. An innovative mother (age 45) from
an urban joint family, who was a schoolteacher illustrates this. As she was
innovative, she should teach housework to her sons and daughters equally
regardless of their gender. However, this was not the reality in her family. In the
discussion it came out that although she was innovative in her mind, in reality it did
not work. She took her family and her parents as examples. By them she illustrated
the question about training sons and their mentality in doing housework. As she
said: 'Yes, it can be so but I don't know what kind of mentality they [boys] have? I
was thinking that everyone should do [housework]. Now if they don't desire [...].
Also this [housework] could not be done by them. And also I was not serious at
that time.' [Q: At what age did you start doing housework?] 'I started doing
housework very late [laughing], because in my family I was the youngest daughter.
Therefore, I grew up within a lot of family affection. This is why I was not doing
any work. This is a fact. But all my sisters have done housework since a very early
age and especially my eldest sister started performing household tasks at a much
earlier age.' About teaching her daughters in housework she informed: 'I trained
them myself in housework. At about ten years of age they learnt themselves how to
do housework more or less.' (UHN-N, IRN 036, 041-049, 061-063, 080-091)
The above-cited woman is an example of another rule that determines girls'
socialization to housework. If there are many girls or adult females in the family,
the youngest ones or even girls more generally may not be taught housework at an
early age. This is what a female schoolteacher (age 32) from a rural joint family
said when I asked her: 'At what age did you start doing a little housework?' She
replied: 'When I was fifteen-sixteen years old I started doing light housework.
Because my parents' family was a joint family. My mother had two gotnïs
(husband's brothers' wives). However, light types of housework like serving food,
bringing and giving clothes to the father, giving water, I started to do since I was
seven-eight years old. I started ironing my father's clothes since twelve years of
age. [...] When I entered the eight grade, I started to participate in doing
housework little by little in special cases.' (RHN-F, IRN 034-035, 039-043, 064)
A housewife (age 35) from a similar type of family added: 'At a very young age, at
the age of ten-twelve, housework training was started to be given to me. [...]
Since the age of fourteen-fifteen, I have started doing housework as a main job.'
[Q: Do you think it is essential for girls to do housework?] In reply to this
question, both the mother and the daughter (age 18) said together: 'Certainly, it's
necessary.' (RHN-K, IRN 036-043, 066-077)
Learning housework is so rigidly practiced that women must learn housework
sooner or later with no exception, even though they are studying or living in an
innovative family. This is seen clearly in a discussion with a female school-teacher
(age 42) from an urban nuclear family. When talking about her housework learning
she mentioned: 'So far as I'm concerned, in my family, before my age-maturity I
didn't even see the hearth [She meant that she had not taken part in kitchen work
and any other housework]. After completing my school and college [B. A.], still
my mother had to say: "Well you learn [housework] more or less but don't sit
much near the cǌlhƗ (hearth) because you may get burnt by chance — then what
about the marriage? Before marriage, I will not allow you to make food much.
You have to learn just so much that after going there [husband's house] no one can
tell you that you don't know cooking. However, you don't have to do regular
kitchen work at both times [morning and evening]."' [Q: Then at what age did you
start doing housework?] 'After growing up [about at the age of 16 years]. [....] It
was because my father was a railway employee, and at home there were many
servants, who used to do all kinds of housework. Therefore, I did not have to do
any housework and it is likely that my situation differs in this sense.' (UHN-G,
Although the main rule is to follow the gender-based division of labour in
socializing children to housework, there were interviewees in the sample who told
about the implementation of the equity principle. For instance, child care and
shopping are such domestic tasks that both boys and girls do, as an employed man
(age 35) from an urban joint family with a rural background told when replying to
the question, 'What else had you been doing in your childhood?' He said: 'You see
I have done a lot of housework in the family. I'm the eldest child in my family. So,
naturally in one or two years, a new child was born in the family. Therefore,
generally my parents asked me to look after little children and something else too.
So I tell you while I was a young boy I was taking care of my brothers and sisters.
[This] also [applies] to girls.' (UHN-C, IRN 001, 008-013, 035)
Some people underline their pioneer position by referring to the social change that
causes similarity between girls and boys in learning housework. A male high school
headmaster (age 40) who lived on a rural school campus with his wife and children
is an example of this type of orientation. He mentioned among other things:
'Slowly certain changes are coming. For example, our daughter, she goes outside
for shopping and purchases domestic items, like vegetables and other goods. [..]
And the boy — who does outside work and also sometimes domestic.' (RHN-J,
IRN 032, 046-051)
The strict division of labour between boys and girls is also broken by special
circumstances. This is how a housewife (age 44) from an urban nuclear family
described her compelling situation which forced her to train her son in main
domestic tasks although this was completely against her inner feelings. When she
fell ill, she could not get her housework done. Therefore, after recovering, she
started to train her son in cooking. This happened of necessity, as 'Now, since four
months he [her son] does not clean house. When I have become ill, he has started
making vegetables and so on.' (UHN-A, IRN 017, 030-031, 041-048) Another
housewife (age 31) from a rural joint family mentioned other types of necessities
that compelled her to train her son in housework: 'I'm telling to my son — it is
necessary to learn [housework] — if he goes far away from home and there is no
means to eat, no restaurant or hotel, then he can cook and eat. Learning is very
necessary. You see, my son, he makes food. He is now ten years old. [...] My son
makes food for all members [in the family]. When I fell ill, there was only the son
who did everything, no one else. Two daughters are still little.' (RHN-B, IRN 045-
To clarify the socialization mechanism more in detail, the respondents were asked
'When you were asked to do housework, was it a kind of force, order, request,
request under pressure or just asking you.' Under the mechanism of 'force', young
members of the family are compelled or coerced by elderly family members to do
housework if they are unwilling. This mechanism is used as the last means in cases
where the young ones are unwilling to learn housework. The mechanism of 'order'
means that girls and boys get an authoritative direction from their elderly family
members to discharge domestic tasks. To get girls and boys to perform housework,
they are also requested in a gentle and humble way. In a request under pressure,
girls and boys are requested by using persuasion or intimidation to discharge
familial tasks. This mechanism has nothing to do with force and order.
Table 18. When you were asked to do housework in your childhood, how was it asked?
Response Female Male
N (%) N (%)
Just asking to do 81 (38) 82 (33)
Request 34 (16) 54 (21)
Request under pressure 22 (10) 26 (10)
Order 57 (27) 81 (32)
Force 18 (9) 9 (4)
All 212 (100) 252 (100)
Note: Four females and six males are missing.
As Table 18 demonstrates, various mechanisms have been adopted in socializing
young ones into housework. Although there are some gender differences, the
overall impression is that the respondents have experienced pressure to perform
housework in their childhood more or less in the same way. Half of the women and
men recalled that no strong pressure was needed, whereas the other half
remembered that stronger pressure was needed to get them to perform domestic
tasks. These strategies are illustrated in the discussions with the interviewees.
To start the illustration, asking and enquiring are first taken under scrutiny. They
represent milder pressure on children to make them perform housework. This can
be seen in a discussion with a male bank employee (age 40) from an urban nuclear
family, who was a father of three children: 'Somebody asks, well brother! do a little
favour and bring this thing to me. Bring a glass of water. We also say to our
children, do a little favour — give me a glass of water. In this way they learn
domestic tasks. When a child is very little, we oil and massage him. Soon he is five
years old, "O son, climb on my body and press with your feet [the child is asked to
do this]." In this way, we are asking children to participate in performing certain
activities and we may ask, "O my son [also used to address daughters occasionally
or more affectionately], where is the towel — bring it to me." It is like these
children have to be trained, and they should be [...]. No, it's necessary to train
children; otherwise they will not be able to learn anything.' (UHN-M, IRN 042-
Another male schoolteacher (age 28) from a rural joint family added: 'Without
asking, seeing others, they feel lalak (craving) that they must do this work. For
example, I remember and still see the small children in my family, when asked to
fetch water, they start to compete with each other, each one claiming, I will fetch
water. Although no particular child is asked individually to bring water, each of
them is eager to say that I will carry the water, I will give it.' Another member of
his family who was farming said: 'The children have the feeling of dekhƗ-dekhƯ
(blind imitation), they imitate.' The teacher continued by saying: 'and it is so strong
that they will stop eating and drinking — why? Because they were not given a
chance to fetch water.' (RHN-I, IRN 016-21, 050-053, 098-107)
In the process of learning housework, the development of certain feelings, such as
the enthusiasm for imitation among girls and boys takes place on gender lines. For
instance, a father (age 38) of small and grown-up children from a rural joint family
who had been teaching in a high school expressed the way socialization takes
place: 'Practically, as for example, while I'm working in the field, children see and
take part in that.' [Q: Do you think girls also participate in that?] 'Girls do the
housework, for example cooking food. The girls see their mother doing housework
and learn — cleaning of utensils, lightening FǌlhƗ (hearth) and so on.' [Q: Are your
children taught to do housework or not?] 'She [his daughter] does. For example,
she brings things from this place to another and brings a glass of water. Say this
now and she will bring water to you [appreciating the efficiency of his daughter].
She carries utensils and water from this place to that place.' (RHN-E, IRN 004-
Imitation is so strong a mechanism of socialization that if asked, whether they have
been trained in housework, the interviewees become surprised. A housewife (age
44) from an urban nuclear family answered in her reply to my question 'Who in
your family were responsible for giving you training in housework?' 'Training! [She
felt surprised]. No one tries to teach — we learn ourselves just by seeing. [Her
expression showed that learning takes place spontaneously, like naturally].' (UHN-
A, IRN 017, 030-031, 041-048)
Under the pressure of persisting gender role disparity in JƗrhasthya jƯvan
(household life), girls are meant to learn primarily domestic duties. To succeed in
this respect, the members of the family adopt a certain strategy in order to
encourage and inspire their girls to learn housework and to get them engaged in it.
A highly educated woman (age 28), who was a mother of two from an urban
nuclear family reported: 'When I began doing housework, it was in a joint family.
The family members fixed Sunday as a day to celebrate together in a picnic for
which the food was made at home. All this was done because the family members
wanted to create a certain atmosphere. They may say, well, this Sunday we like to
have picnic food from her — prepared by her hands. In this way the family
members inspired me to do cooking in the name of celebrating a picnic. So that I
would think it pleasurable rather than as work. Because I enjoyed it, I started to
make something [food items] — in that way I learnt [cooking]. Then also my
brother started giving me training. Also, in times of crises, I had to learn cleaning
utensils and so I became trained in that.' (UHN-L, IRN 045-049)
Force is applied to girls when teaching housework if they are unwilling to do it.
Particularly, the females of the family are responsible for practicing force. It is
legitimized by saying that being a girl she must learn housework. A female
schoolteacher (age 32) from a rural joint family put it in this way: 'In this sense, the
mother is giving training. The father does not ask her to make food. It is the job of
the mother, the grandmother and the elderly women in the family. These people say
that now the girl is young, so little work is to be done by her. Slowly teach her
more how to make food.' [Q: Is there any kind of force applied to get her to do the
work?] 'Yes. It is so, for example, if the girl says, she will not do it. In this
situation, she is forced to work.' (RHN-F, IRN 036-038)
Force is mainly practiced with girls in the domestic work sphere. Boys can also be
forced, but this is limited to those family tasks that are assigned to them because of
their gender. To apply force in teaching housework is commonly justified by the
respondents in the way a male high school teacher (age 28) from a rural joint
family expressed it when replying to the question: 'Is it sometimes so that if some
children are not willing to do work, they are, in that case, forced to do it by
others?' 'Yes. Yes, in that case there is a matter of applying force — the tasks
which my family members understand to be good [for children] — it should not
be so [realizing it is not right], then to a certain extent they will be forced to do it,
so that they can learn little by little. They [children] have no sense of what is right
or wrong. Then the members of the family understand it as their kartavyă (duty) to
mould the children’s lives in the right directions so that they can be better human
beings. So children are forced to work, but when they choose to do tasks, they are
then not forced.' (RHN-I, IRN 016-21, 050-053, 098-107)
A girl (age 18), who was the eldest child and from a rural joint family replied to my
question 'Could you tell me how you learnt to do household tasks from the
beginning?' by saying: 'Yes, because it was Ğauq (a hobby) in childhood. At a very
young age it is a bar̞Ɨ Ğauq (great eagerness). There is also a lot of dekhƗ-hiskƯ
(blind imitation) in childhood [this means children imitate others by doing the same
things]. Then there is force behind that, "you have to do this task" and children
then do it.' [Q: How did you get inspiration in doing housework?] 'From mother
and grandmother. Especially by seeing mother [doing housework].' (RHN-K, IRN
036-043, 066-077) The respondents were also asked whether they consider their
participation in housework to be important or not. The results are seen in Table 19.
Table 19. In your childhood, when you were asked to do some housework tasks, did you
get the impression that performing housework is important?
Response Female Male
N (%) N (%)
Not at all important 17 (8) 21 (8)
Fairly important 82 (39) 77 (30)
Important 75 (36) 112 (44)
Very important 37 (18) 43 (17)
All 211 (101) 253 (99)
Note: Five females and males are missing.
Although there are some differences between men and women with regard to how
important they considered performing housework to be in their childhood, men and
women quite unanimously think it is at least fairly important to participate in
domestic duties already in childhood. If we then move from general attitudes to a
more detailed consideration, we see that here again the gender differences are
obvious, but they do not come out when posing a general question. For example,
for girls learning housework is important because of their future life, which means
JƗrhasthya jƯvan (household life), while for boys, this is not seen as relevant.
People commonly think that girls when getting married are given to other families
where they have to use their domestic skills. Therefore, engaging daughters in
domestic work is a conventional social necessity that cannot be avoided.
Domestically, skilled girls are entitled as nice girls and socially up graded to bring
fortune to their husbands and their families. They also highlight that girls who are
skilled in domestic work are needed in the social class they belong to. To be
domestically skilled is so important that it is inquired about by a boy’s party at the
time of contracting their marriage. To be sure of the competence of a girl in
domestic work, they may turn to those girls whose families are familiar to them.
However, in exceptional cases it is difficult to know girls' skills in domestic work
as some families like to hide it. This causes a problem for a girl's marital life and
her parent's family as well. Thus their claim is that it is a traditional set-up which
makes girls engage in domestic work and learn it. A female schoolteacher (age 45),
who was a mother of adult children from an urban joint family revealed this when
asked 'Why are girls after all are trained in housework and why not boys in your
family?' by saying: 'What should I tell about this? [Hesitating to say and laughing]
Look, the boy has to stay with me, while the girl has to move to an other's house
[husband's house]. We have to arrange her marriage and she will move there
[husband's place]. If she will not do anything [any housework] there then we will
be criticized about what kind of mother she had, who has not taught her anything
[any housework]. This is also a problem [laughing]. Well, let's do so, it is much
better to train her. There is a necessity, because one day the girl has to move
another's house [in-laws' house] after marriage and there, she needs to use her
housework skills gained at home.' (UHN-N, IRN 036, 041-049, 061-063, 080)
A housewife (age 44), who was educated but unemployed from an urban nuclear
family added: 'Yes, when people will go to see a girl in order to contract marriage,
then they will ask about her [skill in housework].' [Q: Why?] 'After marriage when
she goes to the in-laws' house, then how will she carry out her NƗm-kƗj [indicates
assigned domestic work]? It can be so that servants can do that, but even they will
turn their backs sometimes by neglecting doing housework, then?' (UHN-A, IRN
017, 030-031, 041-048)
An employed man (age 35) from an urban joint family provided still more details
in relation to the significance of housework for girls: 'Yes, [agreeing with his wife
in the discussion] in our society there is no dowry system. We just pay more
attention only to domestic skills. In any of the families, we want to see the girl's
skills in housework and her manners. […] The girl's skills in housework are
monitored especially at the time of negotiating her marriage.' [Q: How far are a
girl's skills in housework decisive in deciding her marriage?] 'According to me, if
the dowry is eliminated, then the first preference is given to housework, and
generally it is so. People don't give the first priority to a girl's educational
qualifications. People give priority and pay most attention to her skills in
housework. They inquire how far the girl is skilled in housework. Also, we see, for
example on TV or in plays that when aguƗ (mediator for marriage) from the boy’s
side visits the girl's house, they are sitting comfortably around and, they are served
juice and tea. After a while the girl to be married is presented before the aguƗ.
Soon after that, the girl's mother starts to speak by saying that my daughter has
prepared herself these items by her own hands [although that girl has not made
herself those sweets]. The meaning of this saying is that the mother wants to show
her daughter's domestic expertise in cooking and by this she welcomes the boy's
party for fixing a marriage with her daughter. If a qƗOƯn (carpet) is put on the floor
and a cloth on the table, the mother draws the attention of the guests by saying,
well, she has made these things. Also a tape is put on and the mother says, [the
name of the daughter] she sings very well and also knows dancing. These things
are happening and you see also. These things also appear in the cinema. Then, if
the dowry is separated from the demand, the girl's skills in housework play a
unique role in determining her marriage — until now.' (UHN-C, IRN 001, 008-
People are deeply sincere in their thoughts and beliefs as they view the significance
of learning housework in the case of girls. According to them, the social reality is
that men irrespective of their age choose brides from among those girls who are
skilled at least in basic housework. Girls' skills in housework are considered as a
necessity, which is viewed under the domain of culture and tradition. This is how
an employed man (age 44) from an urban nuclear family put it: 'Generally, men
irrespective of their age, when they select a bride naturally feel that the basic things
[basic knowledge in housework] should be known by the girls. Also in normal
families such a thing [girl's housework skills] is necessary. And you ask, why it is
necessary? then this matter is to be thought, why after all does such a tradition
continue? Why is there no change in it?' (UHN-H, IRN 037-041, 056)
When universalizing the reality in society, people confirm that there is a socio-
cultural expectation for girls to be skilled in housework. It is nearly impossible to
escape this. A rural male high school teacher (age 40) from a joint family put it in
this way: 'Everyone expects that a girl is skilled in housework. All people desire
this. After her marriage when she reaches her in-laws house, the in-laws and other
family members certainly expect that she has these [housework] skills. It might be
that at the time of fixing the marriage, the people from the groom's side have not
inquired about the girl's skills in housework, but she is expected to have these skills
and she will be asked about that by the in-laws' family. [...] But it is not normal
[that the bride would not have skills in housework].' (RHN-J, IRN 032, 046-051)
The information that has been presented in this sub-chapter shows that
socialization is a significant factor in sustaining traditional attitudes and beliefs in
housework. For children, socialization to housework which takes place at an early
age continues from generation to generation on gender lines in the family.
Differences between women and men are mostly insignificant. To learn housework,
girls and boys are asked to participate in housework in various ways by either just
asking or requesting them to do it, or by placing more pressure on them or even
ordering or forcing them.
The findings of this study also suggest that gender-based play separates girls from
boys at an early age, which supports the sustenance of the gender role pattern as it
has existed in previous generations. This determines their future courses in life. The
study by Tognoli (1979, 599) is in accordance with the results of this study:
'Children are socialised into fairly rigid sex typed roles regarding their play
activities and the way they are expected to relate to their environment.'
This study also informs that elderly family members, especially parents who are
responsible for socializing their girls and boys in the family, define, guide and
demonstrate family tasks for them on gender lines. Girls are assigned to traditional
female-oriented tasks, such as cleaning, washing, ironing clothes, making beds, and
cooking and serving food, while boys are assigned traditionally masculine-oriented
tasks, such as shopping and caring for cattle. Similar to this, the study by Cogle
and Tasker (1982) based on Western society also proves the existence of gender
role stereotyping in tasks assigned to girls and boys.
The socialization pattern is strengthened by the perceptions the interviewees had
about the role girls will have when getting married. Tenhunen's (1997, 96-100)
study supports the findings of this research: learning housework is to adjust Indian
girls to marital life and in a broader sense, culturally women's housework learning
is considered with maintaining their own sam̓ VƗUƗ (household) and in any case,
none would like to fail in it. My study shows that for this reason family members
consider it their true responsibility to socialize their girls in housework. The
respondents were strongly of the opinion that after having gotten married, girls
must be competent in discharging their domestic responsibility as ideal and
sacrificing women. They consider that domestic skills are practically important for
girls to secure a happy and successful marital life. While negotiating marriage of
the girls, their domestic expertise is inquired about or taken for granted by the
groom's party. During the period of housework socialization, girls become
generally aware of its importance in their lives after marrying. The respondents
commonly note with few exceptions that women by nature participate in
housework which has to be done also because of their sam̓skƗra (inherited from
ancestors and cultural rites which become part of one's being) and self awareness.
If only girls participate in housework and not boys, it is not considered as an
inequality and unfairness but as responsibility inherited from culture and tradition.
Kalakdina (1975, 91) and Jeffery (1979, 69) confirm this by stating that in Indian
society, culture and traditions benefit females if they are competent in the domestic
The persistence of traditions is dependent on the socialization of children to
housework on gender lines. The power of tradition also rests on this. Through
socialization, children internalize the division of labour in housework as it has been
through the generations. This makes people see it as natural. The orientation also
concerns those respondents who on a general level declared themselves to be
innovative, as the survey showed. In the oral interviews, they proved to be more
traditional. Tradition mediated by socialization generates a gender role pattern,
which solidifies the ways how women and men see themselves and each other. This
is examined more in the following sub-chapter by taking under scrutiny those views
that manifested opposition to the traditional division of labour.
4.1.4 Elusive modernity: The case of educated and employed women
As sociologists have stated, the division of labour between women and men is
manifested in gender roles, which direct women's and men's behaviour and
attitudes in accordance with these roles. This may also give 'the deepest sense of
what one is' (Goffman 1977, 315). Thus the role may become a vital element of
one's identity. We can also state that for tradition to be efficiently sustained, in
addition to socialization, it needs the favourable influence of role identity. In this
case, one has internalized the role as part of one's identity. In this study this was
examined by the question, 'How far do you agree with the statement according to
which a woman's career must be identified with hearth and home?' The distribution
of attitudes is seen in Table 20.
Table 20. How far do you agree with the statement that a woman's role must be
identified with hearth and home?
N (%) N (%)
Not at all 85 (40) 104 (41)
Agree somewhat 59 (28) 66 (26)
Agree 25 (12) 42 (17)
Totally agree 45 (21) 43 (17)
All 214 (101) 255 (101)
Note: Two females and three males are missing.
Interestingly, women and men do not differ from each other in their attitudes. A
significant result is also that about 40 per cent of women and men do not agree
with the traditional role expectation, which determines a woman's role to be related
to hearth and home. This result is in accordance with the results presented in
Table 15; housework does not seem to be women's work. This is also directly
related to the results manifested in Tables 11 and 16. Table 11 shows that many of
the women do not prefer doing the majority of domestic tasks in cases where they
have the freedom to choose. Similarly in Table 16 many women and men (nearly
17%) disagree with the notion that tradition and motherhood restrict women to
domestic work. However, the majority of women and men still more or less agree
with women's traditional role expectation.
Those who believe in the sharing of domestic tasks equally between women and
men and who do not agree with traditional views and with the statement according
to which a woman's role must be identified with hearth and home, can be seen as
innovative or modern. By such opinions, the modernity of Indian women appears
on a similar footing with Western women's modernity as it appeared in the 1960s
(Jallinoja 1989, 107; 1995, 246, 252-253). It is now time to place modern persons
under a more detailed scrutiny. The main question then is: how is it possible that
the respondents who were modern by their personal attitudes on a general level
proved to be quite traditional when discussing these views more deeply.
The examination of this question starts with the utterances that coincide well with
the attitudes according to which a woman's role must not be identified with hearth
and home. These respondents have adopted a favourable attitude towards women's
'outside work and career' as many of them stated. They also say that those who
identify women with hearth and home are wrong. A student (age 20) who was
unmarried and from an urban joint family is an example of this attitude. I asked her:
'How far it is true that women's work is only to do with hearth and home?' She
replied: 'No. It is not so. Only hearth and home is not women's work.' (UHN-N,
Not only young but also middle-aged people were innovative. For example, a
housewife (age 40) of an urban nuclear family who had only one daughter doing
her Master's Degree at university while her husband was teaching at the university
was asked: 'Generally people say, women are identified with hearth and home —
what do you think about it?' She answered: 'Yes, people say so. If people say so,
it's wrong. Now, a woman's career is not just about making food and staying in the
house. I mean that women's situation is not like before. Now, every woman wants
to study and find a job outside the home.' (UHN-O, IRN 045-048)
Some older women who have earlier been traditional in their thoughts and beliefs
have become innovative in a certain sense. They have started thinking that women's
identity is not based only on hearth and home but on the outer world as well. A
very old woman (age 72) is an example here. She was from a joint traditional
family in an urban area. She used to live with her youngest daughter who was a
housewife cum higher academic careerist. The daughter's family was basically an
urban nuclear family comprising, besides her, two children, a husband and her old
mother who was temporarily living in this family. First the very old woman reacted
to the question surprisingly: 'Hearth and home! Nowadays, girls are studying and
employed outside the home.' The housewife cum careerist (age 28) informed about
her mother: 'Now, my mother has become very progressive in her mind. [...]
Earlier, my mother thought that women's work is only hearth and home. This was
why my four sisters couldn't make progress in their lives. They only completed
their matriculation. When I got an opportunity to live with my mother, at that time
all my sisters had moved to their husbands' houses. I was alone, doing all
housework and studying also. When my mother noticed that I was greatly devoted
to my studies in spite of doing all domestic work, suddenly my mother's mind was
changed. She came to realize that it is not only hearth and home that women do.'
(UHN-L, IRN 036-049)
In spite of modernity many respondents expressed, when talking about women's
right to work outside the home, that a dilemma arose that made it difficult for
women to concentrate on careers in the same way as it was possible for men. It is
true that in a changing society women find work and careers outside the home, but
still they may not avoid carrying out their traditional domestic responsibility.
Ramu's (1989, 138) study confirms this: 'Women, regardless of their employment
status, performed such crucial domestic tasks as childcare and housework.' This
also came out in my interview data. As an example I take an innovative college girl
(age 18) who was from a traditional rural joint family. She was the eldest of all her
brothers and sisters. Her mother was a housewife and her father a high school
teacher. In her response to 'How far it is true that women's work is only to do with
hearth and home?' she said with no hesitation: 'No, how is it true that women's
work is limited to hearth and home only?' By this she expressed a contradictory
opinion to what her father has said. [Q: Isn't it that housework is the main job for
women?] 'Yes, it [housework] is the main job of women but they are not restricted
to the household only. I mean ahead of it.' She meant to say that besides
housework, women also have careers outside the home. 'I'm studying in a college,
and after completing my studies I may find a job to do outside the home, but still, I
know that I would also have to do domestic work, that is certain. Men's situation
differs from women's. If men are working outside the home they don't have to do
domestic work while if women are employed outside the home, still their
uttardƗyitvă (responsibility) is to carry out all domestic work.' [Q: ... Then could
you say that women are still identified with hearth and home though they are
employed outside the home?] 'U hu (laughingly). Yes.' Somehow, she thought, it
is better to confess the reality. (RHN-K, IRN 031, 061-065)
The double work burden women have to bear is actualized and legitimized by
statements in which the top priority is given to domestic work regardless of their
outside job engagement. This supports the studies of Hilton and Haldeman (1991,
115) and Shelton (1990). Shelton states: 'Clearly, domestic labour is still "women’s
responsibility"' (p.132). According to Dube (1988, 180): 'This role (housework)
contribution to women's self-esteem, offers them a genuine sense of fulfilment, and
is central to the definition of many feminine kinship roles.' They have been
culturally brought up in a way that they find as if by their nature to associate
themselves wholeheartedly and primarily with 'hearth and home'. A housewife (age
28) cum academic careerist is a specific example of this orientation. She was from
an urban nuclear family and a mother of two. Her husband was an engineer while
she herself was a student at university. In the course of the discussion she was
asked: 'But still hearth and home is important in girls' lives, isn't it so?' In her reply
she said: 'Yes. Girls are thinking that it [housework] is their job. Our first priority
is said to be ... [housework].' [Q: Do you think now that your first priority is
housework?] 'Yes, now my first priority is domestic work. Because I have studied
along with doing a lot of domestic work which gave me a natural weakness. I feel,
certainly, it is my job, therefore, people draw my attention towards doing domestic
work.' (UHN-L, IRN 036-049)
Some innovative women also directly admitted the social reality. They confirmed
the existing proverbs — women's housework responsibility with no alteration. A
dual working urban wife (age 45) from a joint family is an accurate example here.
She was a schoolteacher while her husband was an engineer. All her children were
grownup and getting an education. While discussing women's identity with hearth
and home she said: 'Yes, it's a proverb — though women might be highly educated,
still they have to light the cǌlhƗ (hearth). It is definite and true. So much as you
may have education, go out to work, you have to do hearth work. And if you don't
do it, you keep a servant for cooking.' (UHN-N, IRN 076-077)
Innovative men may sharply reject traditional views according to which women can
only be identified with hearth and home, but still they speak also about reality: 'No
matter if women are from traditional or non-traditional families, with education or
employment outside the home, anyway they have to do domestic work.'
References to reality make them confirm that women must be identified with hearth
and home. The following extract from a male bank employee's (age 40) interview
illustrates this. When I asked 'Isn't it so, though women are working outside the
home, still they have to take care of hearth and home and this is especially visible in
traditional families?' he replied: 'Traditional or not, in every family with no
exception so far as we know, women are responsible for discharging domestic
work, whether they are employed outside the home or not.' [Q: They have to play
double roles — isn't it so?] 'At least they have to manage the affairs of the kitchen.'
(UHN-M, IRN 038-040)
Although innovative and educated people are of the opinion that housework should
be shared, this stand seems to be theoretical rather than practical. After all, these
people are not sure whether women and men should share housework. In the
discussions, regardless of gender, they presented opposite views on sharing
housework. Confessing to the reality, they like to maintain housework as it has
always been. Here they refer to tradition. This makes them to feel happy. Their
thoughts and beliefs coincide with the pragmatic way of life in the sam̓ VƗUƗ (world)
that continues to be the same through the ages. They think sharing of housework
means that finally they would meet social shame and loose their masculine or
feminine gun̞a (quality). Their social lok-lƗj (regard for public opinion) would get
challenged and this would bring shame to them. Especially women with such a
frame of mind are sensitive in this matter. In their JƗrhasthya jƯvan (household life)
they like to be devoted and willing to serve, which defines their gun̞a (quality).
This conceptualizes them as ƗdarĞ nƗUƯ, patnƯ and mƗWƗ (ideal women, wife, and
mother) or pativratƗ (faithful and devoted to the husband). They are quite afraid of
loosing their gun̞a. A married innovative woman (age 28), doing her M.A., a
mother of two from an urban nuclear family was a special case in this respect.
When her mother expressed her view that men should not participate in housework
as it is women’s work and therefore should be discharged by women alone
according to tradition, she opposed this by saying: 'However, I'm against these
things'. But the same young woman took a different stand when talking of her own
brother, whose wife had made him perform domestic work. She said her brother
was 'like a woman' as he was doing housework. She admitted that 'Nowadays,
many changes have taken place. Among my five brothers, this brother was the one
who we could never imagine to change so much. He is an engineer. When his wife
fell ill, he managed to do all kinds of housework, like a woman.' (UHN-L, IRN
008-011, 022-031, 058-060)
The matter of sharing domestic tasks with husbands touches the innermost feelings
and awakes wives' consciousness. Even just talking about sharing domestic work
with husbands is like committing a kind of sin or doing an injustice. The woman
cited above was no exception in this respect. She appeared as a devoted and
sacrificing wife and mother in her JƗrhasthya jƯvan (household life). Her inner calls
complied with the fact that she still firmly believed in doing housework although
she was highly educated and working outside the home. This appeared at once
when she was asked: 'If your husband starts performing hearth and home, then?'
She said: 'He cooks at his working place because he lives there alone.' [Q: But, if
he cooks here in the family?] 'Then I will not tolerate it.' [Q: Why? Why is it so?]
'No. I don't know why. It might be that my philosophy does not say that ... or
otherwise, my inner consciousness does not say that he should do any kinds of
housework in my presence.' Here the respondent does not like to disclose her
secret and sacred feelings for her husband. 'Even if I'm ill [...]. You say, "What
would happen?" I ask him sometimes to make food, so that, I would taste his
food. Yes, he has made it once when he taught me how to use the pressure
cooker. So, on that occasion he made food [laughing]. Only once in my life have I
eaten food he has prepared. However, it is not so, if I'm ill, he will not make food.
But even in that case, I could feel unpleasant while my husband would do
housework. I would be thinking to get better immediately.' (UHN-L, IRN 008-011,
A male bank employee (age 44) from an urban nuclear family described well the
double work burden women have when employed. He had a housewife who was
typically traditional though educated. To explain why women are primarily in
charge of housework and not men, he said: 'In our office, there are many
colleagues who are women. Generally they are widows. Soon after their office
hours are over, they rush straight to their homes while we men hang around first
here and there and then go home. Actually their main attention is on the house.
They have their belief that if they will not keep their house in order their children
could get spoiled, and other things would be also upside down. Their main inner
call is very much working for domestic care. They think, how should their house be
maintained beautifully? If the house is neat and tidy, visitors to the house are
satisfied in a certain sense and will carry away the impression of a very good
house.' [Q: But what about men, whether they give first priority to housework or
outside job?] 'If I'm at home I do some housework a little. But if I go out, I forget
home matters. And to be honest, I have my main uttardƗyitvă (responsibility)
outside the home.' Further, his son (age 19) studying in a college said: 'It is not so
that men should not do housework. If there is the occasion, they should do it. But
it should not be so that they should forget the outside uttardƗyitvă of work and
consider housework as the first priority. If there could be such traditions like
housework identified as a male's work since the beginning, we [men] would have
already made up our mind according to ... .' [Q: As women have a compulsion to
take care of the domestic work, men don't have it — isn't it so?] 'I feel so.' (UHN-
H, IRN 046-047)
The examination of this special situation of employed educated women revealed
that although these women expressed modern attitudes towards women's
employment and other activities outside the home they still admitted that their role
in the family was more or less in accordance with traditions. This came out in
detailed discussions on housework as it was arranged in their families. Higher
education and employment made them modern but at the same time they were
mainly responsible for housework. This is contrary to how Western women
experience their modernity. The fact is that Western women experience their
modernity to mean the denial of domestic labour as their main responsibility, and to
consider it to have a negative effect on their modernity and being successful
As a consequence of responsibility in housework, Indian women have a double
work burden to bear. This has been shown in many Western studies too (see Table
1), even though the burden has eased off in recent times while men have taken
responsibility for part of housework. In India, as the results of this study and other
studies prove, modernity is still elusive in the case of women. This has not been
found in Western studies; however, on the other hand, this is not denied as
witnessed by a double work burden among many Western women (see Table 1).
But because of a greater rate of modernity in Western societies (Jallinoja 1994;
1995, 251-254) than in Indian society at the end of the 1980s, it is assumed that
modernity is less elusive in the case of Western women than among Indian women.
However, Indian women have obviously taken the first steps towards
modernization and have thereby joined the process of modernization which was
seen in Western countries in the 1960s (Jallinoja 1989, 107-109; 1995).
4.2 Housework as an expression of affection
Traditions, socialization and gender roles as described ahead are more or less
external by nature when thinking of one's way of life. They structure people's lives
as a kind of obligation which makes them see housework as a responsibility. The
interviews, however, showed that housework has also a more personal aspect or an
aspect which is experienced in a more personal way. This came out when the
interviewees talked about the affective side of housework. To examine the
significance of love and affection the respondents were asked: 'Does participation
in housework result in increasing love and affection among the members of your
family.' The opinions are summarized in Table 21.
Table 21. Does participation in household work result in increasing love and affection
among the members of your family?
Degree of opinion Female Male
N (%) N (%)
Not at all 1 (1) 2 (1)
Little 13 (6) 19 (7)
Cannot say 3 (1) 9 (4)
Quite a lot 64 (30) 80 (31)
A lot 135 (63) 147 (57)
All 216 (101) 257 (100)
Note: One male is missing.
As Table 21 demonstrates, the majority of the respondents commonly relate
housework to love and affection. Table 22 in turn proves that love and affection
are seen as very important to family members.
Table 22. To what extent, do you think, are love and affection important to members
of your family?
Degree of opinion Female Male
N (%) N (%)
Not at all — (—) — (—)
Little importance 4 (2) 4 (2)
Important 55 (26) 59 (23)
Very important 156 (73) 194 (76)
All 215 (101) 257 (101)
Note: One female and one male are missing.
In Indian family culture, housework is seen as a significant sƗdhan (means) to
provide togetherness, satisfaction, love and affection for the family. This means
that the feeling of togetherness is not a pure feeling as is seen in Western culture
(e.g. Giddens 1992); instead the feeling of togetherness is aroused when practicing
housework in gƗrhasthya jƯvan (household life). One of the prime objectives of
Indian culture is to give high value to togetherness or cohesiveness. This is
materialized in gƗrhasthya jƯvan, but not only in this loka (the world), as it is also
beneficial in parlok (the next world). Consequently, family culture that is created
by the means of housework regulates common life. This seems to be significant in
relation to family prosperity. To illustrate the connection between housework and
togetherness a traditional housewife (age 44) whose husband had a job in a bank is
taken as an example. When informing about the significance of housework in terms
of providing family togetherness she said straightly: '[By providing food] we are
bounded to each other in the family.' (UHN-A, IRN 019a- 021)
The respondents regardless of gender stated that housework must be performed
with attention to providing satisfaction to family members, which in turn
guarantees family well-being. This is how a housewife cum careerist (age 28), and
mother of two from an urban nuclear family illustrated it in her interview. 'The
performance of housework gives all kinds of satisfaction, such as social,
psychological and economic. Without doing housework, one cannot see any
progress in life. […] In terms of child care, women are very particular. It is not the
question of money but is rather psychological. This relates to the mental and the
whole personality development of children. […] When I have to go to the market I
do it myself and see the items in terms of quality and after that I buy them. The
maidservant does not do so. She purchases the most expensive items and brings
them home. If we family members purchase, we always look after better quality at
a low price. We always look at quality and price, because they vary in different
shops. Even when purchasing clothes I usually go myself shopping.' [Q: Could you
not have a servant take care of your children?] 'They (servants) can be kept but I
have very bad thoughts about servants. It [my view] is more psychological than
economic. Speaking psychologically, the children are more influenced by servants.
They will live accordingly and grow mentally according to those with whom they
grow up. In childhood the mind is very sensitive to the company children have. If
love and affection is moved from parents to the servant as a responsibility, then
they [children] start to feel hatred towards their parents. Thus, the environment is
not good for the proper mental growth of children. Another thing is that generally
servants cannot keep our children as clean as we can.' (UHN-L, IRN 001-003,
The pragmatic thoughts and beliefs of people consolidate the idea that sĵđĕi
(creation) of this sam̓VƗr (world) is the manifestation of love. This means that love
is the source or foundation of the world creation. In Indian culture, gĵhasthƯ
(household) signifies love and creation. This is the reason why people call the
household —sam̓VƗr. People view love and creation always in a broader sense and
thereby explain the purposiveness of their lives. Love and creation sublimate
satisfaction, the continuity of generations, peace and prosperity. In gĵhasth jƯvan
(household life), the cultural significance of love is foremost and people fulfil it by
performing housework that is a means to build family culture. Therefore in Indian
culture family life and housework are emphasized jointly. Housework is carried out
for love and affection in the family. Specifically, rearing and caring of children,
making food and serving it to the family are the best ways to promote love and
affection in the family. In the case where parents are absent, vƗtsalyă (parental
love and affection) is given by relatives from either the father's or mother's side, but
not by outsiders. For this reason, mother, wife and sister prepare and serve food
for their family members, while others cannot do it.
A female schoolteacher (age 42) is suitable to illustrate this. She had an M.A.
degree and hence she was modern. When talking about the significance of
housework with specific reference to child care and serving food in her family she
said: 'Well, I like to rear and take care of my own children myself. If I'm a mother,
I myself rear and take care of our children. You may be interested in knowing what
was the situation of my job at that time? Being a teacher, at that time I had taken a
long leave from my workplace until my children be became three years old, so that
they could go to kindergarten. During these three years I never left my children
with any other person to babysit. We have three children and for every child I
always did the same.' [Q: Is there any specific reason for this?] 'The specific reason
is that if I leave my children with a babysitter, she will do this job only for the
money. How will she have that one thing — the love and affection of a mother?
And therefore, I never ever asked anyone. […] In this context, I would like to tell
you, if my mother-in-law or sisters-in-laws (devrƗQƯs or jet̞ KƗnïs) could be in the
family and help, I could go out comfortably and feel free to leave my children with
them for rearing and caring. But I had no such opportunity. And I could not keep
maidservants to care for my children just for money.' [Q: Do you think that the
food prepared by yourself for the family differs from the food made by a
maidservant?] 'Definitely, there are considerable differences. A servant cannot
make food in the way I prepare food and feed my family. There is simply no way
that an outsider can perform this task in the same way as I do.' (UHN-G, IRN 001-
A university teacher (age 45) from an urban nuclear family who had a housewife
and an adult daughter doing a Master's Degree illustrates well the close connection
of housework to love and affection. When talking about serving food to the
husband he said: 'Yes, yes. It is when a wife serves food to her husband; there is
also love and affection in that. And therefore, this food is special in taste.' (UHN-
O, IRN 002-008) Since the food is served by the wife, love and affection is
attained by the husband. This simultaneously promotes taste which brings
satisfaction. It is love and affection that makes food tasty.' A young male (age 19)
member of a joint family, who was doing his B.A., is an additional example here.
Both of his parents were employed. He said in the interview: 'Actually in the
family, when people prepare food they associate their mind and feelings with the
preparation. Their purpose is also that when they make food, the food should be of
better quality.' (UHN-N, IRN 019)
Another interviewee who was a teacher (age 38) with a housewife said:
'Performance of housework increases love and affection in the family. Also we get
special kind of satisfaction from the work done by family members that we cannot
find in the work done by outsiders, like servants. So, we see a great difference
between work done by family members and by outsiders. If a servant performs our
family work, he shows laziness and does not do the work fully. While family
members perform work in the house, they do that with honesty and devotion, they
think it is their family work. The servant will think that he is hired to provide a
service and accordingly he works on business terms. And like a machine he will do
given tasks in order to earn money. So we find that the servant performs work only
for money while the family members perform the same tasks out of love and
devotion.' (RHN-K, IRN 015-017)
Further, a male bank employee (age 28) who was originally from a rural joint
farming family but was now living in a city together with his wife and a new- born
baby, expressed similar views. His wife was a housewife. When he was asked: 'Do
you think that there can also be side factors like love and affection for your family
members to perform tasks in the family?' he replied: 'Yes, then you see that the
feeling of uttardƗyitvă (responsibility) grows. It is because of these relationships.
Also, uttardƗyitvă is met in helping a gifted poor student although he is not a
relative. But this uttardƗyitvă completely differs from the first one. The feeling of
uttardƗyitvă in the family arises because of the blood relationships. Naturally, love
and affection develop among the family members. And therefore, love and
uttardƗyitvă are both seen as playing an important role in the family. Actually
sometimes it is difficult to distinguish whether family work is carried out because
of love or uttardƗyitvă. However, in blood relationships uttardƗyitvă is more
specific and greater than in other relationships.' (UHN-J, IRN 026-029)
The eagerness of the respondents to relate housework to love and affection is
contrary to their willingness to perform housework, as was seen in Table 11. The
first reaction to this dilemma would easily be that the attitudes have been caused by
the question posed to the respondents. If asked about love and affection, the
respondents tend to answer that yes, housework is an expression of love.
However, the respondents could have reacted to the question in the opposite way
as well. A researcher cannot speculate about the sincerity of respondents, but
instead he or she must find some interpretation of the dilemma that exists between
the different views. It seems to be so that although the respondents did not so
much like housework, they felt — maybe on the basis of their experiences — that
if housework is done properly, life in the family would be harmonious and peaceful.
In this way the family is also more bound together — or it is felt to be that way.
This kind of sentiment tends to support the significance of housework in general
but also the traditional division of labour in housework, as those who would
neglect housework would be women.
4.3 Purity and quality principle
Culturally, family products, both goods and services, are also significant in the
sense of purity (ĞuddhăWƗ) and quality (gun̞a). These explain social, biological,
material and immaterial living conditions of Indian life. These extrinsic and intrinsic
values are jointly practiced and experienced in everyday life. All this guarantees the
progress of a person's body, mind (intellect) and soul to secure an orderly society
and success with purus̞Ɨrtha (meaning or objective of life) in this world. Thus the
concepts of purity and quality which also define hygiene are widely rooted in
Indian culture and society since immemorial times — the Vedic period. Gita
specifically focuses on details concerning purity and quality. Thus Indian people
are aware of two types of thoughts on the hygiene of food: first, you eat what you
are (Gita XVII, 7-10), and second, you are what you eat. The second is based on
the Upănis̞ad's (a work from Indian classical literature) instruction (e.g. Hume
1968, 262; Khare 1992, 28-29). The first statement informs about the kinds of
food, which are sƗttvik (pure and pious), UƗMăsik (pertaining to grandeur) and
WƗmĠsik (relating to darkness and ignorance) and prescribed for or used by three
categories of people: sƗttvikƯ (one who prefers and believes in purity and
piousness), rƗMăVƯ (royal, pertaining to grandeur) and tƗPăVƯ (one relating to
darkness and ignorance). Therefore, in accordance with people's own prakĵti
(nature) they take different types of food. The second formulation informs about
prohibition or instruction — Ɨhara-Ğuddhi sattva-Ğuddhi (pure nourishment leads
to pure nature) (e.g. Hume 1968, ibid; Khare 1992, 29) and is significant socially
and spiritually. Pure nourishment (ƗharaĞuddhav) guarantees the purity of life with
a blissful, healthy body and mind. The awareness in this context accounts for the
fact that the blissful, healthy body and mind is a by-product of discriminating and
controlled nourishment. Flaws in it cause diseases: mental, physical and moral.
The first and second formulations define the broader and the complete concept of
ƗKƗra (nourishment). Householders and holy persons are specifically and
rigorously careful of what to eat as food. In Gita it is specifically also mentioned
that in everyday life people must be disciplined in theirƗKƗra or bhojana (eating)
(Gita VI. 17).
Such hygienic concern about food is commonly practiced in Indian society. When
practicing food hygiene, people particularly look at who has made it and how.
What kinds of ingredients have they used? How is the food served and by whom?
These provide key doctrines over the purity of food in Indian culture. The first
question — who has made the food and who serves it — considers the physical,
social and mental background of the person engaged in making the food. If s/he is
impure or unclean either physically, socially or mentally, the food made or served
by him or her is defective and considered unhygienic. Secondly, the kinds of
ingredients that are used will inform whether materials are suitable for the eaters.
For example, for Vais̞ Q̞ avas (devotees of Lord VisҚ QҚ u) in general, vas̞ Q̞ avƯ (sattvik:
pure and pious, vegetarian) food is suitable, while ingredients like meat, fish or
eggs are strictly prohibited. If any of these ingredients are used in preparing food,
such food is defective and therefore not seen as acceptable, because it is
unhygienic. As well, ingredients must be fresh and not rotten. Otherwise food
becomes unhygienic. Thirdly, the question of how food is processed and served
informs about the purity of the environment where the food is prepared. This
means that food must be processed and served in a suitable place. All ingredients
and equipment must be clean and pure as well.
Regardless of gender, both women and men are deeply concerned about food-gun̞a
(quality) in everyday life. Therefore, they observe the appropriateness of
ingredients in accordance with the type of food liking — sƗttvik (pure and pious),
UƗMăsik (pertaining to grandeur) or tƗmĠsik (relating to darkness and ignorance).
In attaining viĞuddh-ƗKƗra (pure nourishment) they trust themselves. When they
need the fetching of foodstuffs, they prefer it be done by themselves rather than by
others. This makes them feel confident of the purity. In this sense, when people
have to shop for food items, they do it themselves. An example of this is a
housewife (age 28), a student at university, and a mother of two children from a
city. She expressed the cultural significance of housework with regard to food
quality in family life this way: 'If a servant has to do the shopping, she will not care
about the quality. And therefore, I go to the market myself and in this regard I do
not trust servants.' (UHN-L, IRN 001-003, 019-020, 041-042)
People are well aware that the family culture provides suitable aKƗra (nourishment)
by the means of housework in accordance with time and place. This is observed in
ceremonies, rituals or in other ways. The family also guarantees suitable
nourishment for the people of different social backgrounds. A housewife (age 33)
whose husband was employed in a bank gave priority to housewifery instead of
doing outside work. She emphasized the significance of housework in hygienic
terms: it provides a suitable diet for children that is seen as a necessity for their
proper mental and physical health. In her opinion, the food served in restaurants
contains impurities that are hazardous to children's mental and physical health, as
she said: 'For children eating market food is not good. It is not just a question of
saving money, but eating home-made food in the family is significant from both
points of view [physical and mental].' (UHN-D, IRN 044)
This kind of food is understood to provide pleasure, satisfaction, and healthiness of
body, mind and spirit. This is the reason why people regardless of their gender and
regional background are particular about the hygiene of food while they process
and serve it. Numerous hygienic concerns at the time of food processing and
serving were demonstrated by the interviewees. Among them, a housewife (age 40)
from an urban setting whose husband was a university professor and whose only
daughter was an university student is taken as an example here. She gave priority
to her household work. For her, home-made food is very particular and better in
terms of hygiene. In her words: 'From a hygienic point of view, home-made food is
much better. There is real cleanliness that you cannot find in restaurant food.'
(UHN-O, IRN 003-004, 005-008)
Her husband (age 45) gave more information about food quality from the hygienic
point of view. He was sound in his arguments (that are quite common): 'One can
hardly guess or know how market food is prepared. Such uncleaned and old food
is dangerous to health'. He illustrates categorically the significance of housework in
terms of intrinsic food quality that may not be achieved with food available outside.
As he said about the quality of food made at home compared with the food in
restaurants: 'There is a great difference between family and restaurant food in terms
of quality. The first thing is that there is no purity in restaurant food. Generally,
restaurant food is old. Such food is not good. Home food is clean — there is
cleanliness in home-made food. This has nothing to do with our religion. The only
thing is that we place importance on the cleanliness of food.' (UHN-O, IRN 002-
Pure nourishment (viĞuddh-ƗKƗra) does not only mean intrinsic value attained in
processing food in a proper way but essentially also extrinsic value which is
gained with devotion, love and affection. If food is not processed and served with
purity of mind and a feeling of devotion, love and affection, food is considered
impure. Traditional people dislike accepting such impure food (ƗKƗra).
The awareness of pure nourishment makes people commonly be of the opinion that
food made in the family is pure, as it is supposed to be made with devotion. This
does not hold true with food made by servants or in restaurants. A young man (age
19) from an urban joint family, who was doing his B.A. and whose parents were
employed illustrated the richness of food quality attained in the family rather than
in other places. According to him, for providing pure nourishment, the family does
not only process and serve food with special care and affection but also adds
abstract or spiritual aspects to it. He said: 'Actually in the family, people prepare
food by associating their minds and feelings with it. They have also a purpose that
when they make food, the food should be of better quality. Restaurant people are
not bothered about such things. Somehow they prepare food and serve it to the
customers. Their purpose is to earn money and this money matter is not applied in
the family. Also, in restaurant food we can't have love and affection as we find in
family food.' (UHN-N, IRN 019)
Traditional or religious people are culturally quite particular with respect to pure
nourishment. Their views about the quality of food are also decided from the
religious or spiritual point of view. Although food is made delicious, still if it lacks
purity from the spiritual or religious point of view, such food is not acceptable.
According to my study, for example, spiritual or higher rank people in terms of jƗti
or varn̞a (caste or Vedically Hindu classification of society into four categories
according to professions) do not accept kaccƗ bhojan (meal cooked in water) from
those of a lower or untouchable caste or community, but the same kaccƗ bhojan is
acceptable for them if it is provided by the same caste or varn̞a of people. Also, the
kaccƗ (cooked in water) and pakkƗ (cooked in ghee) food concept is practiced
among higher castes especially on ceremonial occasions. It corresponds rightly
with Meigs' characterization of 'food and rules' (Meigs 1984, 17) that 'X' may not
eat 'Y', … (further) 'X' may not eat 'Y' from 'Z'. Here the relationship between 'X'
and 'Y' is determined principally by the relationship that exists between the
consumer (eater) and producer.
Viewing food quality from the spiritual or religious point of view has very much to
do with caste or varn̞a (Vedic social hierarchy) social order. For instance CamƗrs
or D̚oms (lowest caste), untouchables in society who are engaged in unhygienic
occupations, are kept out by higher caste or spiritual people. CamƗrs (one of the
lowest caste of people) are traditionally involved in leather work, midwifery,
cleaning and work with dead animals. Biologically they are unclean, because they
have a chance of carrying bacteria or diseases, therefore higher caste, clean or
spiritual people do not like to get touched by them, or eat their food. If food is
served or touched by them, it is immediately considered impure. It is unhygienic
from a biological point of view as well as spiritually. Thoughts still prevail that
clean or spiritual people should avoid taking food from unclean ones. This
functions in society as a tradition.
Thus, in order to maintain strict purity, traditional people from high castes dislike
food served by people from an unclean caste. People who are concerned about
food purity do not like that their food is served by outsiders for spiritual reasons
too. To explain this they use restaurant food as a reference points. Their main
concern then is, how is food processed and by whom. They highlight that
restaurant food is absolutely not hygienic from religious or spiritual points of view
although they also doubt that restaurant food is biologically unhygienic. For
example, a high school teacher (age 28) from a rural joint family expressed this in a
very strict way: 'For our family, home-made food and restaurant food differ from
each other as much as sky and earth. Most significantly, we have come to know
through mass media and literature that hotels or restaurants in general and
particularly in our province serve very low-standard food. Firstly, it is in terms of
quality. Also because of being a religious family, certain members of the family are
traditionally minded and still believe in cleanliness and touchability. Such people in
the family don't like food that has been cooked and touched by others. Therefore
there is also a religious point of view why restaurant food and food made by others
are not liked. This religious view has also scientific reasons. For example, in our
society a certain caste is associated with a certain way of life. This has to do with
what you should like or dislike, what you should eat and what not and what kinds
of food should be prepared in which way. This confirms purity and pollution from
the hygienic point of view that prohibits us to eat outside food that is either served
in restaurants or made by others.' (RHN-I, IRN 010, 012-013)
The practice of purity and quality is not only limited to food but beyond it too. For
example, the purity and quality principle is applied to child care as well. In child
care, intrinsic and extrinsic hygienic concepts matter and they act as cultural
imperatives. The way children are brought up has a most certain impact on the
mental and physical growth that in turn determines their and their family's future.
Such a common awareness accounts for the practice of hygiene in rearing children
and their care. This is how a woman (age 28), who was a university student and a
mother of two children from a city demonstrated it when asked if she could have a
servant to care for her children (on page 141).
There were only a few exceptional cases in the interview sample who did not
consider that home-made food differs from food made by a servant or in a
restaurant. They grounded their argument on the fact that they have been eating
outside in restaurants since their childhood. They still eat occasionally in
restaurants, because of a job, for example. This made them see no difference
between home-made food and food prepared in restaurants. In principle by saying
so they would insult themselves. A bank employee (age 33) from a city with two
children and a housewife is an example of this type of person. When asked whether
family-made food differs from food made by a servant or restaurant he replied: 'For
me there is no difference because since my childhood, from the sixth grade I have
been eating food outside. Also my job is like that, and it is transferable. Because of
my job, I have to eat either in a restaurant or hotel. So outside food is all the time
in my life so then how can I say that restaurant food is bad?' (UHN-D, IRN 019,
Although food made at home is preferred it does not mean that it is always better
than in the restaurant. A housewife (age 31), a mother of school-children cites her
husband's comments about home-made food, which is informative here as a
specific example: ''Ɨl (lentils' soup) is not good, vegetable dishes are not good,
rice is also so [bad]. Better than this is food in a restaurant. He criticizes me by
saying how and what type of vegetable you have prepared, that there is no oil or
anything else [indicating spices] in it. Always [so], when he eats.' (RHN-B, IRN
The interviews showed that among those interviewees who grounded their views
on the purity principle the significance of housework was prominently highlighted.
This view is very much related to the power of tradition, as the purity principle has
had a vital role in Indian culture. As long as this principle is significant, it supports
the high value of housework. But as some extracts above showed, all the
respondents did not apply the purity principle when talking about food making.
This in turn weakens the emphasis put on doing housework. This may also lighten
the double work burden women now tend to have.
4.4 Economic imperatives
Men and women commonly think that housework carried out by themselves in the
family obviously has monetary value. When goods and services are produced by
family members, they cost less than goods and services that are purchased in the
market. This fact is particularly important in India, where GNP was 330 US dollars
in 1988 (Rojas / www.rrojasdatabank, page 4). This indicates that the average
income is so low that a large majority of people must rely upon housework. The
argumentation that appeals to economics is rational by nature, and it proved to be
very important among the interviewees when explaining the priority given to
Many interviewees described in detail how they save money by adopting several
measures to carry out housework themselves. If they use labour-saving devices, i.e.
kitchen equipment, they save time and fuel. If they leave these tasks to be done by
a servant, s/he will not bother about their expenses. If a servant has to do the
shopping, s/he will not care about the prices of the items. A housewife (age 28)
replied to the question 'Do you think that there is an economic benefit to
performing housework?' by saying: 'Obviously, if you do housework yourself, there
would be economic savings. For example, instead of hiring a maid to clean utensils,
you clean them yourself. It saves money as you don't have to pay for cleaning.
Secondly, the techniques and the use of equipment are important in economic
savings, for example, in cooking food. I use gas and a pressure cooker to make
food. The use of a pressure cooker saves a lot of gas. If I hire a maid to do such a
cooking task, she will not think about my economic expenditures. In this context, I
can only think about what is being wasted and what is not.' (see also page 141)
(UHN-L, IRN 001-003, 019-020, 041-042) A female schoolteacher (age 45) with
four adult children whose husband was an engineer, was of the same opinion:
'There is the economy of food making and doing other [domestic] tasks. If we
don't do housework ourselves, it will be so much more expensive. If we have to
keep a maidservant for doing housework or otherwise eat in restaurants. This will
be so expensive for us. If we do housework ourselves, we save our money.' (UHN-
N, IRN 015-019)
Some respondents referred to limited family resources when justifying home-made
food. For example, a bank employee (age 40) whose wife was employed in another
sector and who was a father of three grown-up children told about the economic
significance of housework in this way: 'I see the significance of housework in the
context of maintaining family life under our limited resources. Although we like
restaurant food we can't afford it. Also, it is a luxurious way of life.' (UHN-M, IRN
Another man (age 55) from a rural joint family added that economic resources are
limited in middle-class families too. According to him, if they (people from middle-
class families) have to substitute domestic goods and services for market goods
and services it would be expensive for them. A middle-class family cannot afford
such expenses. He continued that it is not a good idea for a joint family, in
particular: 'If these people have to eat in restaurants, they cannot eat properly.'
(RHN-M, IRN 002-015)
Also, in terms of quantity and variety, household products (goods and services)
satisfy family members better than market products. Interviewees argued that the
market products often fail to meet the demands of customers, especially if only a
single marketplace is available. In the case of household products family members
can more easily fulfil their needs, which may vary from one household to another.
Thus the domestic products better satisfy family members according to their
preferences. A university teacher (age 45) from an urban nuclear family who had a
housewife and an unmarried daughter can be an example here. He described the
situation in this way: 'The economic condition of the family is related to the
housework. For example, among the household task, cooking food is important.
This food problem can be solved in another way; we can go to a restaurant or hotel
to eat. But what happens then is that we have to spend more money for restaurant
food. In this way the housework is related to the economy. [...] At less cost, we
can prepare varieties of food with quality and eat them in the family. So, there is an
economic condition of doing housework. Also, the quantity of restaurant food
always matters. It is not like home where we can eat any amount of food and it
does not matter. You have taken a dish and you are almost full but still you need a
little more food, for that you have to pay the full price for another dish. Such
things are not in the family whether you eat more or less than a plate – it does not
have any impact.' (UHN-O, IRN 002-008)
A bank employee (age 45) from an urban nuclear family added another aspect to
the question of the economic significance of housework. He talked about an
opportunity to employ a servant to discharge domestic work, which he said was
quite expensive. In spite of this, people may not be satisfied with hired domestic
services. In his words: 'The economic aspect of housework is most significant
because if we hire someone for this job we have to pay a good amount of money.
Considering how nicely and properly we would like to maintain our house, we
cannot be sure that the money we spend on a servant can make us satisfied.'
(UHN-E, IRN 001, 004-005)
Housework is also thought to save daily a considerable amount of physical energy
to be used in the family. The argument is based on the idea that going to a
restaurant takes a lot of time and energy, instead of wasting time in searching for a
suitable restaurant, people may use the time for other important purposes for
example entertaining guests, educating children, gardening, sewing clothes or
repairing the house. People think that their physical energy is limited and
subsequently they can be engaged daily in a limited amount of activities. A
housewife (age 38) from an urban nuclear family expressed this in this way: 'Going
to eat in the market is a waste of time.' (UHN-H, IRN 003-006)
Although the interviewees highly appreciated housework in economic terms, many
of them were disappointed at the value that was given to housework. The
economic significance of housework is normally seen as marginal as it is not
measured as productive work. The gross national product includes only one kind
of economic product and service, namely that produced in the public sphere.
Therefore housework products and services that women are traditionally engaged
in, are left out (e.g. Becker 1965; Hawrylyshyn 1977). Such a definition of
economy was also reflected in discussions with women particularly. For example, a
housewife (age 39) from a joint rural family whose husband was a high school
teacher replied to the question 'Does performing domestic work have an economic
benefit?' in this way: 'There is an economic benefit.' [Q: But generally males do not
appreciate this (domestic) work?] 'They [males] do not place economic significance
on housework, neither do they value women's housework. It's true, they say so
[laughingly].' (RHN-A, IRN 087-088) A widowed kindergarten teacher (age 22)
with a son who lived most of her time with her parents in a rural setting and
seldom visited her husband's parents' house, was also of the same opinion. In her
response to my question related to the economic significance of housework she
stated: 'Obviously, there is economic significance to housework. The only thing is
that the economic appreciation of housework is missing. It is so because it is
understood as women's work.' (RHN-D, IRN 010)
As shown above, the significance of housework and the traditional division of
labour were not only articulated by referring to traditions and emotional aspects,
but also to economic factors. This makes it clear that the significance of
housework is very much dependent on the economic conditions of a society.
Housework plays a vital role in the economy as long as the average income
remains low. This has held true in Western countries too, but mainly before the
Second World War. Later on when the average income increased, it became
possible for Western people to buy ready-made goods and services. Referring to
economic factors may look like a rational choice, but it should also be seen as a
compulsive reaction to the prevailing circumstances, which actually do not provide
an opportunity to choose. However, even in these situations people tend to use
their economic conditions as rational arguments for housework to be performed in
their families. Still, the seeds of change have been sown, as could be seen in Table
11. The respondents demonstrated in their answers that they were not so willing to
perform housework. Now we can suppose that when economic conditions become
better for a larger proportion of the Indian population, the amount of housework
will diminish as it has diminished in Western countries (see Table 1).
4.5 Consequences of neglected housework
In the previous chapters housework has been examined by paying attention to
various factors that make people favour it. The significance of housework was
additionally assessed by asking what happens if housework is not done in the
family. The survey revealed that a series of family crises are experienced if
housework is neglected. This also actualizes the cultural significance of housework
in satisfying the well-being of families. This was measured by the question, 'Do you
think you will encounter the following crises if housework is stopped in your
Table 23. Do you think you will encounter any of the following crises if housework is
stopped in your family?
Type of crises Percentage of 'yes' response
Female (N=216) Male (N=258)
Family members will starve 32 23
Peace of the family will vanish 78 75
There will be conflict / quarrelling in the family 67 70
Family members will be disappointed 69 73
Family life will be without interest 81 77
Family progress will be affected 86 89
Expression of 'our' or 'my family' will disappear 73 73
The fact that the majority of the respondents were of the opinion that they would
not starve if housework were stopped, may look astonishing. This result becomes
understandable if we suppose that the family members think that they can find
alternative food arrangements. Those respondents who agreed with the statement
might have thought that there are no alternative arrangements for getting food.
Most probably this was true in rural and joint families. In any case, the main result
of this response was that the great majority of respondents associated the neglect
of housework with the emotional atmosphere of the family. This was measured by
several statements, as demonstrated by Table 23. A general description of this was
given by a housewife (age 28) with two children from a nuclear family who was
doing her M.A. She told about her brothers' families in this way: 'Such situations
have come true with my sisters-in-law. [...] What happens with them? If they
quarrel with my brothers, they stop cooking food. Consequently their children are
without care and go where they wish, my brothers go to the office without eating.'
(UHN-L, IRN 014-018)
In response to whether family peace will vanish if housework is not done we find
that both males and females constitute a large proportion, from 75 to 78 per cent,
that stated that the interruption of housework would negatively affect the peace of
the family. Culturally in Indian family life ĞƗnti (peace) is of paramount significance
and is often given priority. People think that the family is ĞƗnti. Inner-ĞƗnti is the
source of outer-ĞƗnti. Peace as a whole is a source of glory and the true meaning
of life (purus̞Ɨrtha). Thus, people view that housework is a significant source of
maintaining peace. It would vanish if housework were stopped. In that case, the
entire family would suffer and become disorganized. The family members would
feel themselves disturbed and restless. A schoolteacher (age 30) from a rural joint
family whose wife was also a teacher, yet doing housework, illustrated how the
stopping of housework affects family peace. 'As long as housework is not done, all
things in the family will be disturbed and disorganized. All members of the family
will feel themselves disturbed. In a way, when a certain part of the body stops
functioning, the whole body is in trouble. Similarly, if housework is not done on
time and if it is not given value then all start to suffer. Housework has also social
consequences. The family is a primary unit of the society and if it is disturbed then
it will definitely have a bad effect on the whole society. So, housework in the
family certainly contributes to sustaining the family and society.' (RHN-F, IRN
The question whether the interruption of housework causes family conflicts and
quarrelling shows concretely how peace is lost in that case. An employed woman
cum housewife, 45 years old, whose husband was employed as an engineer, who
was the mother of adult children and whose family was an urban joint family
reported: 'If housework is stopped completely, we would feel odd and strange in
the family. There would be a situation of tension.' The eldest daughter agreed with
her mother and said: 'Yes, there could be family disturbance and quarrelling.'
Agreeing with her eldest daughter, the mother said: 'Yes, it's natural.' (UHN-N,
Family quarrelling also depends on how housework is maintained. Quarrelling in
the family takes place usually if housework is either not done in time or done
unfairly among family members. A traditional housewife (age 44) from an urban
nuclear family explained this by saying: 'It [quarrelling] happens in a joint family —
if somebody does more work — kic-kic (quarrel) happens.' (UHN-A, IRN 027-
029) Another interviewee, a man (age 40) from an urban nuclear family, who was
employed in a bank and whose wife was a schoolteacher reported: 'Yes, I have
seen one or two joint families in this particular sense. For example, in a large joint
family, if children have to go to school, they should be fed on time. Sometimes,
what happens in many joint families is that some mothers take care of their own
children only. They cook and feed only their own children and leave other children
without. For this unfairness, quarrelling happens in the family.' (UHN-M, IRN 015-
According to some others, quarrelling also happens in nuclear families. One
informant of this was a housewife (age 40) from an urban nuclear family, whose
husband was a bank employee and who was a mother of three school-children. She
said: 'Also in a nuclear family, if housework is stopped conflicts can erupt among
family members. It is definite — some member is doing [housework] and others
are just sitting.' (UHN-I, IRN 060, 066) Women with a rural background have
more bitter experiences in this respect. They inform that a conflict is unavoidable if
housework is stopped. This results in shouting, quarrelling and crying. A rural
housewife (age 36) from a joint family whose husband had been working as a
farmer illustrated the situation in this way: 'It happens in all families. For example,
if there are small kids in the family and food is not cooked, shouting and
quarrelling will take place.' (RHN-I, IRN 069) An unmarried daughter (age 17) in
her final year of high school in turn informed: 'Sometimes I am angry and also my
brother and sister. If they [brother and sister] are angry they might throw things on
the floor.' (UHN-I, IRN 060, 066)
Although the interviewees told openly about quarrelling in the family, some of
them also stated that in the case of an ideal family there is no chance to quarrel if
housework is stopped. The reason is that in an ideal family there is greater
awareness among family members. A housewife (age 28) and mother of two from
an urban nuclear family who was doing her M.A., whose husband was an engineer
and whose old mother used to live with her replied to the question whether there
would be conflict if housework is completely stopped in this way: 'There would be
no quarrelling. My husband has a certain character. He would not be angry about
housework.' [Q: There must be certain feelings in you and your husband if
housework is stopped right?] 'Now, about the inner feelings I feel myself that I
should not do so, [...] such a day has not come yet in my life.' (UHN-L, IRN 014-
It seems to be so that in ideal families, the family members avoid conflict or they
cannot even think about such a situation where housework is not done. Also, the
women who are sensitive to the ideal nature of women never believe in the
stopping of housework unless they have qualified reasons for that. This makes
them avoid family conflicts, hence they do not even think about stopping
housework. Others are aware of the fact that there would be miserable situations in
the family in the case of completely stopping housework although they think such a
thing would not happen in their families. They ground their view on the fact that
there is always a boundary, and the family cannot go beyond it. This is how a
husband (age 44) from a nuclear family and a father of three schoolchildren
illustrated it. In reply to my question 'Do you think that stopping housework in
your family would create mental tension among family members?' he said: 'Look,
obviously there would be mental tension but I would feel it only for a while. Yes, if
housework were stopped continuously, then there would be miserable conditions in
the family. But such a thing cannot happen in a family like ours. We actually have
certain limits — beyond these limits we cannot go. You see, if my wife said I will
not do this work and it will continue to be like this, it means that she has certain
expectations to be fulfilled.' (UHN-H, IRN 009, 015-016)
The question whether family members would be disappointed if housework in the
family were stopped also measured the emotional reactions of the interviewees. A
large proportion of females and males ranging from 69 to 73 per cent respectively
were of the opinion that the interruption of housework would cause
disappointment for family members. This was often expressed by saying that the
interruption of housework causes feelings of pain, sorrow and frustration. An old
woman (age 60) from a rural joint family is an example of this kind of mood.
Without hiding her feelings she expressed pathetically how the family members
used to be in a state of grief if housework was stopped: 'It causes pain and sorrow
[…] because of the angry mood, right? Because quarrelling happens in the family.'
(RHN-N, IRN 016-021) A schoolteacher cum housewife (age 32) whose husband
was also a teacher stated: 'Among the family members it might be frustrating.'
(RHN-F, IRN 013-016)
What was significant in many statements was not only that housework should be
done but also that women were expected to discharge domestic tasks and in this
way prevent disappointment in the family. A schoolteacher (age 30) from a rural
joint family is an example of this. His wife was also a teacher and responsible for
discharging domestic tasks. He said: 'One reason for disappointment may be the
housework. After a wedding, every man has some expectations of his wife. If his
need for housework is not fulfilled, naturally he becomes frustrated. For example,
I expect that my wife keeps my clothes clean, and when clothes are dirty and I have
to change my clothes; in that situation if clothes are still dirty, certainly I think that
my wife does not pay attention to me. She does not bother to care for me. In that
situation, if I have to go out to a certain place, I will meet humiliation in society,
and there is no alternative.' He continued ironically: 'No one will give money for
my travel-ticket seeing my dirty clothes.' (RHN-F, IRN 004, 017-019)
A large majority of the respondents, ranging from 77 to 81 per cent, agreed
with the statement that family life would be without interest if housework were
stopped in the family. This proves that housework is closely connected to one's
interest in family life. It is thus shown in practical work. This question is also
related to the next one which suggests that family progress would be affected by
the interruption of housework. Most of the female and male respondents, 86 to
89 per cent, were of the opinion that family progress is dependent on the
interruption of housework. As an employed woman cum housewife (age 36)
from an urban joint family said: 'There will be no proper progress of the family if
the housework is not carried out properly.' (UHN-B, IRN 025-027) A
schoolteacher cum housewife (age 32) informed in turn: 'It also negatively
affects family progress. What we see as progress now, it cannot be seen if
housework is interrupted. That’s why housework runs properly. The family can
also experience proper development.' (RHN-F, IRN 013-016)
Many men informed that their wives are well aware of housework crises and
their consequences on family progress. A husband (age 44) from a nuclear
family expressed this in the following way: 'If my wife stopped, for example,
cooking and doing other family tasks, then the children would be affected —
badly affected, and me too. Because I think a wife cannot do like this, she
would not dare. If such a situation occurs in the family often or continues for a
long time, it will really negatively affect the development of the children and
also all other sides of family progress.' (UHN-H, IRN 009, 015-016) A
university teacher (age 45) who had a housewife and an adult daughter replied
to the question of how children and their study would be affected if housework
were stopped in this way: '[Housework] if not carried out properly, or if
stopped, for children their progress halts, their studies suffer.' (UHN-O, IRN
Finally, the respondents were asked to express their opinions on the question
whether the expression of "our family" or "my family" would disappear if
housework were stopped. The majority of female and male respondents (73 per
cent for both) agreed with the statement. They thought that the interruption of
housework would lead to the separation of family members and subsequently
they would no longer see themselves as a unit. If separated, the family members
would find that the family as an expression of unity would disappear and
consequently the concept of the family would lose its innermost meaning. It is
most obviously related to the feeling of togetherness manifested by the words
"our" or "my family". Stopping housework would cause the disappearance of
family togetherness. In particular, joint families in India are frequently victims of
this as a schoolteacher cum housewife (age 32) from a rural joint family put it:
'You see the result of stopping housework in a joint family leading to a split of
that family.' (RHN-F, IRN 013-016)
Some people appeal to facts as seen in the mass media and their surroundings to
show people's concern about how housework crises act as an agent to break
especially joint families. This was told, for example, by a male bank employee
(age 44) from an urban nuclear family who had a housewife and whose children
were at school. In reply to my question 'What kinds of problems can come up in
a joint family if housework is stopped' he said: 'Look, we actually have got
some ideas from newspapers, magazines and from our surroundings that if
housework is totally stopped and this continues for a long period, separation
may take place between brothers and others in a joint family.' (UHN-H, IRN
Another male informant (age 28) from an urban nuclear family who originally
came from a traditional agrarian rural family and who had a housewife and one
child also confirmed this: 'If the housework is not performed, naturally it causes
tension in the family. In the case of a joint family, it can break down, and
already this happens, especially if those to whom [indicating women] our
society assigns housework neglect housework.' (UHN-J, IRN 013-015, 025-
027) A university teacher (age 45) from an urban nuclear family who had a
housewife and an adult daughter expressed his firm view in the same way: 'Yes,
you see, especially in the Indian context, the joint family is breaking up because
of the housework [crises].' (UHN-O, IRN 022)
A schoolteacher (age 38) whose wife was also a teacher had the same view as
he said: 'After separation there is the end of the joint family — the expression of
"our" or "my family" disappears.' (RHN-O, IRN 020-022) A farmer (age 40)
from a rural joint family who had a housewife described this in more detail: 'If
housework is totally stopped it means that all our systems stop and we are
paralysed. First of all the unity of our family disappears, the family peace
vanishes. Our caring of each other in the family with love and affection, showing
the feelings of tenderness and sympathy to others to consider them to be our
duty and responsibility, these all disappear. Then if we continue to live
individually, in this case, the family would not exist anymore. Therefore, if no
housework is performed there is no family. And it really happens in a joint
family. If the housework is stopped in such a family, the family will split.' Here
his old father (age 60) intervened in the discussion: 'Food is primarily essential
and its arrangement important.' The son continued: 'Preparing food is not only
important but the arrangement of all housework is important and essential.'
(RHN-I, IRN 003-004)
Similar results are found in other studies too. For example, in the study by
Tenhunen (1997) carried out in West Bengal, one respondent informed about
how housework crises, when experienced bitterly, resulted in the separation of
the respondent from her in-laws: 'I told my mother that I cannot survive. I have
to do everything. She said: "What can I do, I have arranged your marriage. I
have given you to stay in somebody else's house. It is not possible to say
anything now. If I criticize them, they would not like it, mother explained to
me." Then they tortured me. In the end, the mother-in-law and the elder
brother-in-law tortured me. Finally my husband decided to move to live
separately and we came to this place' (ibid, 104).
When examining the significance of housework by asking what happens in the
family if housework is neglected, the most interesting results were references to
emotional notions. Housework was now assessed very positively; housework
was seen as a way to show one's emotional ties to the family. This was
symbolically expressed in the view that well-done housework makes the family
members unite with one another and arouses a feeling of "our family". However,
in this case the interviewees when expressing these views often seemed to have
in mind an ideal image of the family. This made them say that everything
functions harmoniously if only housework were properly performed. As the
examples of joint families prove, this does not always happen. There were in
fact many situations in these families showing that housework is sometimes
partly neglected or distributed in an unjust way. These instances of neglect may
really lead to the dissolution of the family, in this case in the dissolution of joint
The aim of this study was to examine gendered housework as it was put into effect
in India at the end of the 1980s. The case study was conducted in Bihar, in 1988.
The sociological interest was in looking at gendered housework in the context of
modernity, as it is mostly done in housework studies carried out in Western
countries. This approach has been based on the increase of women's employment
and the perception that this finally causes or demands gender equality. As
numerous studies show, the division of labour in housework between women and
men has not yet reached the principle of equality as in Western societies in spite of
the enthusiasm shown for it (e.g. Evertsson 2006; Lewin-Epstein et al. 2006;
Bianchi et al. 2000). In India, as studies conducted there show, the division of
labour has remained more traditional. These findings sealed the final strategy of
this study; gendered housework was examined from the perspectives of both
modernity and traditionality. The aim was not to compare the Indian case to
Western societies; the study focuses on India and more specifically on Bihar. As
the data were gathered in 1988, the results are valid with certainty for that time
only. It may be so that modernization has today made the division of labour in
housework more modern in India too, in urban areas in particular, but this cannot
be confirmed by this study.
From amongst different theoretical approaches, the socio-cultural perspective was
adopted for the study. This was caused by the data, which proved that culture as it
is rooted in traditions still structure housework practices to a great extent.
Traditional culture is somehow equivalent to ideology, the role of which has been
emphasized in Western countries, when explaining the transformation of gender
roles. It has been claimed that the ideology of equality has directed gendered
housework towards more modern, i.e. more equal practices.
To inquire into the division of labour in housework as exactly as possible and to
include cultural aspects in the research data, the 'intensive time-use method' was
applied in the study. It integrates time-use dairy, questionnaire and oral interviews.
The integration of several data collecting methods generate both quantitative and
qualitative research materials bearing a lot of information; one method or even two
methods only would not provide as much accurate and multifaceted knowledge on
the research issues as does the 'intensive time-use method'.
The combination of three different methods appears to be more effective than the
data gathered by a single method. Numerous housework studies have been
conducted by means of the time-use diary method, which gives information only
about the amount of time spent on housework (e.g. Robinson 1977; Andorka &
Falussy 1982). There are rare scholars, for example Ramu (1989), who have
gathered data by combining time-use study, questionnaire and oral interview
In order to get very accurate information about gendered housework, domestic
tasks were classified into detailed task categories. This approach was favoured also
by Shelton (1990, 119) for the same reason. Detailed task categories made it
possible in this study to describe the division of labour in housework in a way
previous gender-role studies have not been able to do. The time-use diaries showed
that the division of labour differs greatly from one housework task to another. The
prevalence of a strict division of labour between women and men was true in food-
making; women were mostly in charge of this task, while men were responsible for
tasks outside the home. This has been demonstrated by numerous other studies too
(e.g. Jain 1985, 215-248; Sharma 1986, 63-88), but a peculiar finding in this study
was that in some household tasks the division of labour appeared to be quite equal,
for instance in child care and caring for elderly and sick family members. These
results are contradictory to other studies (e.g. Ramu 1989, 131), but as a more
detailed categorization of housework tasks was applied in this study, it was
possible to discover a strict division of labour even in the case of these tasks. It
depends on gender who are allowed or expected to take care of whom in the
family. Therefore, the total amount of time may be close to equal for women and
men, but each group must perform their own tasks.
Although the time-use diaries showed that the division of labour in housework
according to gender was still at the end of the 1980s quite strict, the other two data
sets gave reason for other kinds of interpretations. Actually the survey gave an
astonishing result, as it proved that the respondents were quite commonly of the
opinion that women and men should be equally responsible for household tasks.
This means that their attitudes were more modern than their conduct. Similar
findings have been found in Western countries in the 1960s (Jallinoja 1989; 1995).
In both cases, high education and employment made women modern but at the
same time they were, for the most part, responsible for housework. However,
Western women openly state that domestic labour should not be merely their
responsibility which is also considered to prevent the advancement of modernity.
In Western countries, the modernization of attitudes has led to a more equal
division of labour in housework (Table 1 in this study; see also Bianchi et al. 2000;
Hank & Jürges 2007; Niemi & Pääkkönen 2002, 25); consequently, it is tempting
to suppose that this kind of development will take place in India, too. But the
findings derived from the oral interviews give reason for an opposite conclusion.
When telling more in detail about their daily family life the interviewees revealed
that the division of labour was put into practice in a much more traditional way
than the survey gave reason to suppose. The contradictory findings are very
interesting; one explanation could be that modernization in India was at that time in
a turbulent phase. On the level of attitudes a great number of the respondents were
quite modern, but this has not yet influenced household practices to any significant
extent, which in spite of expressed attitudes have persisted in a traditional manner.
This became the main focus of the data analysis. The aim was to make the
persistence of traditions understandable.
Although the overall picture as drawn on the basis of the interviews was quite a
traditional one, even in this data set gender equality was preferred on the level of
attitudes and also put into practice. These women and men were described as
innovative or modern; they formed a minority amongst the interviewees. Most of
them were educated employed women, but some men too belonged to the group of
modern or innovative persons. Most lived in an urban area. In the course of the
discussions, however, many of these interviewees revealed that the practices of
housework in families were more or less in accordance with traditions. This gave
reason to state that modernity was in Bihar somehow elusive. It tended to escape
under the pressure of traditions even in cases that otherwise appear as modern, of
which the high education and the employment of women are the most evident
marks. This holds true with Western women too, but to a lesser extent, as several
studies (e.g. Coltrane 2000; Bianchi et al. 2000) show that the employment of
highly educated women increases the probability of a more equal division of labour
in housework. As a conclusion we can thus state that the modernity of Indian
women is elusive in conduct obviously, but modern attitudes can be seen as the
first steps in modernization.
To understand the tendencies towards traditionality the interviews were structured
so as to cover as great a number of themes to be discussed as thoroughly as
possible. These were then analysed carefully. This data set led me to take
responsibility as the key concept of this study. The vital element of this concept
proved to be that housework was not performed because it was personally
preferred, but because it was seen as a responsibility, which each family member
has to fulfil. This means that responsibility is not at all a personal choice, rather it
functions like a socially determined structure.
Responsibility as it was internalized by the interviewees was constituted in the
combination of four factors, of which the power of tradition was the first. The
interviewees referred to the power of tradition very often. In many cases, this was
adequate enough to explain the significance of housework, on the one hand, and
the traditional division of labour, on the other. It was also often mentioned that the
traditional division of housework has its roots in the Indian Vedic principles. The
interviewees were quite conscious of these and proved in their statements that the
Vedic principles are still influential in explaining the significance of housework and
the traditional division of labour. In this respect, Indian people differ from
Westerners, who quite rarely refer to certain traditions when explaining traditional
behaviour in their societies. It seems to be so that in Western societies the links to
the traditions have disappeared. This has been broadly found in the work of many
family sociologists (Glenn 1990; Stacey 1990, Giddens 1991; 1992; Jallinoja 1994;
1995). Opposite to Western societies, in India traditions are still alive. This came
out in numerous explicit references to the Vedic principles. In Western societies,
traditions if mentioned as explanatory factors are more abstract in nature. These
two types of societies also differ from each other in another way too. In India, or
more exactly in Bihar, the attitudes towards traditions were still largely positive,
while in Western societies traditions with regard to the division of household
labour are mostly considered as negative. This at least came out in Western studies
conducted in the 1970s and 1980s (e.g. Jallinoja 1989; 1995).
Tradition in order to be powerful needs supportive mechanisms, otherwise its
power tends to fade away. This claim suggests that culture alone is not sufficient to
sustain certain practices, if culture is not supported by social and more material
conditions. One very important mechanism to support the persistence of the
traditional division of labour in housework proved to be the socialization of
children. The socialization of children in housework most often took place with
punctuality and rigidity; for this purpose traditions provided detailed rules of who
has to learn what kinds of domestic tasks. Boys were usually socialized to a limited
number of domestic tasks, which were either not specified on gender lines or
located outside the home, whereas girls were socialized to most of the housework
that was performed in the household and defined as feminine. However, the
interviews also showed that some boys were socialized to feminine familial tasks
though this was rare and explained by special family circumstances. This indicates
that socialization was not totally fixed on gender lines. This can be a source of the
weakening of the division of labour in familial tasks between women and men.
The significance of socialization was strengthened by the fact that the majority of
children were socialized to housework responsibility at an early age. In many cases
children actually started learning housework at the age of 5 or 6 years. An early
socialization to the traditional division of labour makes the circumstances
favourable for it to sustain. This was supported by games that were strictly
separated on gender lines. Together these two socialization mechanisms seemed to
be so effective that the interviewees remembered, when recalling their childhoods,
that they were quite seldom forced to perform housework; instead they saw it as
their natural responsibility. Most probably they have mediated these feelings to
their own children; parents tend to expect that their children too should perform
household tasks voluntarily as they are assigned to them. The socialization of
children in housework is also observed in Western societies, for example in
Sweden (Evertsson 2006); however, there the rules and restrictions are not as
strict as in India.
The socialization to housework seemed to be more vital for girls than for boys.
This was legitimated by daughters' future lives — when settling their own
household after their weddings (see also Tenhunen 1997, 100). The future
marriage thus gives a strong foundation for the traditional division of labour to
sustain, as most probably nobody would endanger one's future. However, although
girls were overloaded with housework in contrast to boys, it was not seen as
unequal or unfair, but as a responsibility rooted in traditions, which frame the
perception of the division of labour (see also Kalakdina 1975, 91; Jeffery 1979, 69;
Sharma 1986, 63).
Although the interviewees were conscious of traditions as organizing their conduct
in housework, they admitted when asked that other factors as well made them
favour housework as it has been performed from one generation to another.
Amongst these other factors love and affection form a specific argumentation of its
own. When integrating love with housework the interviewees did not refer to their
personal feelings or self-fulfilment, but to the well-being of the family. Thus,
emotions were not experienced individualistically as holds true in Western societies
(Giddens 1991; 1992); instead emotions were connected to the family. This came
out particularly when the interviewees discussed togetherness or the unity of the
family and the role love has in promoting them. The Biharian interviewees differed
from their Western contemporaries in another respect, too. They saw that love is
actualized in housework, whereas in Western societies love has been more or less
detached from housework to become an emotion as such. At least Giddens (1991;
1992) highlights this very much.
The significance the interviewees gave to love and affection is in contrast to
answers the respondents gave in the survey (Table 11). A great number of them
were not so willing to perform housework. The contradictory results may be due
to the tendency of the interviewees to link the question about love and affection to
the ideal family life. Consequently we can suggest that housework if performed
with love creates good conditions for family unity and harmonious family life. In
practice this did not necessarily hold true, as the many quarrels and conflicts about
housework in families proved.
In addition to tradition and emotional commitment, the purity principle proved to
be a significant factor framing the argumentation of housework and the division of
labour. The purity principle was by nature such that it made the interviewees
favour home-made products (e.g. food) and services (e.g. child care). The purity
principle was partly derived from age-old traditions, which strictly regulate the
performance of housework: who is allowed to do what. In this respect, purity as it
influences the allocation of household tasks could have been handled in connection
to the power of tradition. This was not done, because the purity principle also
seemed to be linked to more purely practical notions. References to the quality of
food, for example, signified this type of argumentation. It does not stem from
traditions, or at least it modifies them by adding more modern aspects to the purity
Finally, the significance of housework and the traditional division of labour proved
to be very much dependent on economic factors. The overall rule seems to be that
housework plays a vital role in the household economy as long as the average
income is low, as was the case in India in the 1980s. This has been true in Western
countries too, but mainly before the Second World War. When the average income
increased there, it became possible for people in Western countries to buy domestic
appliances, ready-made food and services. This decreased the amount of
housework, as was proved in this study (Table 1). References to economic reasons
make the preferences of housework look like a rational choice, but it should also
be seen as a compulsive reaction to prevailing circumstances, which in reality do
not give an opportunity to choose. In spite of this, even in these circumstances
people tended to look at economic conditions rationally, which made them prefer
housework in their families. References to the economic necessities brought
tradition and purity into a new light. It may be so that the power of tradition and
the purity principle tend to be influential as long as the economic conditions make
housework a necessity. Tradition and economy are thus interwoven with each
other in a crucial way, and if this holds true, it also sustains the traditional division
of labour, as this is very much dependent on the dominance of tradition.
The seeds of change have already been sown, as could be seen in Table 11. The
respondents demonstrated in their opinions that they were not so willing to do
housework. This may mean that when economic conditions become better in the
Indian population, the amount of housework will diminish, as it has diminished in
Western countries. However it is hard to speculate about anything like this since
traditions are so deeply rooted in Indian society. As a consequence, traditions may
maintain an influential role even if the average income level grows.
The major perspectives presented in sub-chapter 1.3 can now be scrutinized in the
light of the results of this study. The time availability perspective, as outlined for
instance by Blood and Wolfe (1960), Perrucci et al. (1978) and Becker (1975),
would work if the male respondents in the study performed household labour when
their female family members were working outside the home and the men
themselves were at home. As the findings of this study show, husbands engage in
performing the necessary domestic chores only if the wives are not available (e.g.
Deutsch et al. 1993; Brayfield 1995), or if the wives are ill or absent. It seems to be
so that in other cases, although males are free and available in the house, they
cannot do those tasks which are traditionally assigned to be the responsibility of
females. The time availability perspective informs only on the availability of time
and nothing beyond, thus the question of what makes them do domestic chores
remained without an answer. Such an issue is not simply related to the availability
of time but is integrated into various factors, as was proved by this study, to the
key issues of responsibility, purity and family emotions.
The central argument in the relative resources perspective — that the level of
relative resources, such as income, education, or occupation a person brings to the
relationship determines how much housework s/he does, either because of
efficiency maximization (Becker 1975, Greenstein 2000) or through power
processes (based on, for example educational or income differentials between
partners) (Blood & Wolfe 1960) — is unable to explain traditionally gendered
housework responsibility. The findings of this study show that, although both
spouses are well educated and in equal and competitive jobs, still their everyday
housework engagement is traditionally oriented. Women and men are prone to
strictly follow the traditional division of labour which was seen as a responsibility.
In this study, only one woman informed about her husband's engagement in
household tasks by explaining that both partners were working. However, even in
this case the wife did not allow her husband to perform such tasks that are
regarded as purely feminine. Also, the study informed, even though husbands are
unemployed, they are neither obliged nor supposed to feminine domestic tasks.
Women of such families did not ask their husbands to do this as it would be a
disgrace to them. As to the effect of the partners' relative income Hank and
Jürges's (2007, 414) study conducted in European countries informs: 'If the wife
earns less than her husband, for example, the husband's share in household duties is
significantly lower than in couples with about equal income, but there is no
statistically significant effect of relative income if the reverse case is considered.'
As the other two perspectives examined above show, the demands and response
capability does not provide an accurate explanation of the persistence of gendered
domestic tasks as seen throughout this study. Demand and response are market-
based concepts, and therefore are not applicable to domestic labour, particularly
not in Indian circumstances. It is important, however, to note that in traditional
families such demand pressure and available time-response capability may apply in
some sense. If the husband's domestic hours are a function of demand and response
to responsibility along with capability (see Coverman 1985), one should also notice
that husbands spend time in domestic work when their wives are not able to do
housework. Men's involvement in housework may also increase if the number of
children increases. Secondly, this perspective does not explain why specific
household tasks are done on gender lines. Thirdly, the perspective omits the
attitudes of the family members and their relation to the behaviour.
According to Peplau (1983), the concept of role consists of behaviour, cognition,
and the key idea that if behaviour changes within a household, so do role
responsibilities as expectations. Mason (1997) in turn remarks that among the
advocates of the gender role ideology perspective, it is common to see that 'A
gender system's expectations prescribe a division of labour and responsibility
between women and men and grant different rights and obligations to them' (p.
158). On the basis of the findings obtained in this study, both views seem to be
insufficient or too simple. Responsibility that appears as a gendered role system is
in a way cumulatively constructed by a process where attitudes and expectations
are interwoven with actual practices. How responsibility is then perceived and put
into effect was, in the Biharian case at least, very much rooted in tradition,
affection, the purity principles and household economy. Changes in these would
cause changes in the division of domestic labour between females and males.
However, the Western experience shows (e.g. Jallinoja 1989; 1995) that all
domestic tasks between females and males have not fully achieved gender equality.
Gender difference in discharging familial tasks has remained (e.g. Evertsson &
Nermo 2004) even in the northern countries, for example, in Sweden and in
Finland (e.g. Evertsson 2006, 416, 431; Niemi and Pääkönen 2002, 26) which are
claimed to be the champions of gender equality. Keeping this in mind, it is not
surprising that the division of domestic labour has continued to be traditional, for
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Appendix A: Activity Coding
The Academy of Finland
Research Council for the Social Sciences
Project Number 29/201
Subject: Introducing myself and my fieldwork on Housework and Time-use study
in Bihar, India, 1988.
May I introduce myself. My name is Naresh Chandra Sourabh and I am a
postgraduate student at the Department of Sociology, Helsinki University, Finland.
I have financial support from the Academy of Finland to conduct a survey of about
160 households in Bihar, India during the summer 1988. Your household is one of
them. Now, I would very much appreciate if I could have your and your family
members' (who are between 15 and 60 years of age) full co-operation. Your co-
operation is extremely important in order to learn the nature of daily household
activities and family life in our changing society.
Through this fieldwork programme, I would like to learn about your family life and
the division of labour within your family, in order to obtain concrete knowledge
about the existing patterns of housework and its significance in maintaining family
In the course of this fieldwork programme, I would like to meet and talk to you
and your family members and to ask a few questions. I have three kinds of items to
deal with you and your family members, either personally or with the use of
accompanying volunteers: time-use diary, questionnaire and oral interview.
Both the time-use diary and questionnaire will be completed by your family
members. In case some of your family members are unable to complete them,
volunteers will be provided to help you to get them done. In the case of the oral
interview, I will personally meet your family and ask a few questions.
The volunteers will be selected with the consent of your family members. Only
volunteers that suit your family will be provided.
All information obtained will be treated with strict confidentiality. Thus, your name
or the names of the other members of your family will never be published.
If these arrangements are acceptable to your family, would you confirm the
acceptance by kindly signing the "Form of Consent".
Naresh Chandra Sourabh
The Academy of Finland
Research Council for the Social Sciences
Project Number 29/201
Project on Housework and Time-use Study
1988 in Bihar, India
FORM OF CONSENT
Together with my family I agree to take part in the fieldwork programme on
housework and time use, being aware of the following aspects of the programme:
(1) All family members between 15 and 60 years of age will complete a time-use
diary about their daily activities for two days (Sunday and Monday) either
themselves or with the help of suitable volunteers.
(2) The same family members will also get a questionnaire about housework and
daily activities, which can also be completed either themselves or with the help of
(3) The family is also ready to take part in the oral interview conducted by the
project surveyor if necessary.
(4) Confidentiality will be maintained because names of any of my family members
will not be associated with the results.
Name (head or the person in charge of the family)
Can you please tell me when I could meet your family when all family members
would be present?
Name of the household head --------------------------
The Academy of Finland
Research Council for the Social Sciences
Project Number 29/201
Project on Housework and Time-use Study
1988 in Bihar, India
Name of the person filling the dairy:
Period covered by diary
First day: -----------/--------- 1988
Last day: ---------- /---------- 1988
Note: Those household members who participate in filling the time-use diary will
also answer the written questionnaire.
INSTRUCTION FOR FILLING THE TIME-USE DIARY
A. GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS
WHO WILL FILL THE TIME-USE DIARY AND WHEN
All family members who are between 15 and 60 years of age will write down either
the code numbers or the names of their activities performed over a period of 24
hours in the diaries. Everyone will keep the open interval diary and fill it only for
two days (Sunday and Monday) as agreed.
Each day the diary is used should be mentioned on the cover of the diary. The
diary is meant to cover a period beginning at midnight following the first day
(00.00 hours) and ending at midnight following the next day (24.00 hours).
HOW TO USE AND FILL THIS DAIRY
The dairy will be kept by each family member of the household throughout the day
whenever he or she performs any activity during the 24 hours, so that all activities
should be covered during the whole day to ensure that the activities performed will
The person keeping the diary will always keep his or her time-use diary with him or
her anywhere, even if he or she is on a journey or at work or spending leisure time.
RETURNING THE DAIRY
After the diary-keeping period, each household member will be asked to check if
the diary has been completed and finally return it to the volunteers. Even those
diaries which are left incomplete for some reason should be returned.
B. DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS
THE DAY OF KEEPING THE DIARY
Go through the given list of classified activities and place either the code or the
name of the activity in the column of the time. But remember, you do not need to
go through the given list of classified activities if you prefer to write the name of
any activity. Please just write down the name of any activity performed in the
column of the time.
If you are writing the code numbers of the activities instead of writing their names
and you do not find some activity coded in the given list, just write down the name
of the activity performed.
The beginning of any activity must be indicated in the column of the time. You are
allowed to record all activities. In the diary, any activity which harms your moral
chastity (for example, personal life) is not expected to be recorded.
The time-use diary is concerned with recording all kinds of activities — market-
oriented work, household work and leisure activity. Therefore, you are expected to
record all possible activities indicating time as asked in your diary.
Please also mark your main activity in the diary using the Hindi mark for nine. To
indicate the locality of any activity performed, you should also mark it. In this case,
you should use the following marks:
For 'yes' mark with nine (¥ )
For 'no' mark with cross ( X )
Repeated Activities: Many activities are often repeated several times a day, such as
cooking, child care, sleeping, etc. Please record the time spent on each activity
Simultaneously Performed Activity: Many activities are performed together, for
example, cooking and taking care of a child and reading a book. In this case please
indicate which one is your main activity and secondly indicate the time spent on
ON THE BACK PAGE OF THE DIARY
After the diary-keeping period, please give a specific remark on this house working
day. This means you may mention whether you have done less or more housework
compared to other days (e.g. because of illness or for some other specific reasons).
If you have had help in performing housework, also mention to what extent you
have had such help.
Finally, please give some sort of specific remarks on the clarity of the instructions
given and opinions related to this diary and its completion.
A LIST OF ALL CLASSIFIED ACTIVITIES
1 Working in own field (such as planting, seeding,
ploughing, cultivating, harvesting etc.)
2 Working in other's field (such as planting, seeding etc.)
3 Work in a factory / industry
1. Market Oriented
4 Work as civil servant (such as clerk, teacher etc.)
09 Cooking food
11 Warming prepared food
12 Setting the table
13 Serving and feeding food
14 Washing up dishes and utensils
15 Cleaning the table or eating place
16 Tidying the kitchen, putting dishes away, saving etc.
17 Fetching fuel
18 Fetching water
19 Other related tasks
Processing of food and other items
23 Drying / washing
25 Other related tasks
Care of house and garden
28 Construction and decorating house
29 Making land for garden
33 Pruning garden
34 Other tasks /travel related to house and garden,
laundry work: washing, drying and folding
cleaning lamp and bicycle, lighting lamps
Rearing and caring for children
39 Helping in work and study
40 Being and sharing together with children
41 Health care
44 Other related tasks
Caring for aged persons, guests and the unfit
49 Essential chatting
50 Other related tasks
Caring for animals
52 Washing animal's food pot
53 Cleaning the animals
54 Cleaning the place of animals
55 Collecting grass
56 Storing husk
57 Other related tasks
58 Sewing clothes
59 Knitting clothes
60 Making toys
61 Other related tasks
62 Post office
64 Other related work
Cultural and religious activity
65 Work related to marriage in the family
66 Celebrating cultural and religious activities
67 Other rituals related to the house: praying etc.
68 Personal hygiene and dressing
71 In bed when ill
72 Other personal care
73 Travel related to personal needs
74 Listening to radio
75 Watching television
76 Attending the cinema
77 Attending the theatre
78 Listening to music
79 Home entertainment
80 Public entertainment
81 Indoor socializing
82 Outdoor socialising
83 Attending cultural and religious festivals in public
84 Attending other family's marriage party
85 Taking part in sports
86 Visiting friends, neighbours/ relatives
87 Visiting restaurants
88 Café visits
89 Attending social gatherings
90 Walking / running
91 Studying at school
92 Studying at home
93 Travelling to and from school
94 Attending tuition
95 Writing / reading a letter
96 Reading newspaper / magazine/ book
97 Travels related to leisure activity
3. Leisure activity
98 Other leisure activity
INDIVIDUAL TIME-USE DIARY, 1988 — BIHAR, INDIA
Day …………………. Date ………………… 1988
At what time did
Hours - Minutes
What is your
Is it your
At what time did
Hours - Minutes
Location of activity
Home - Outside
Home - Outside
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
Appendix B: Questionnaire
HOUSEWORK STUDY IN BIHAR, INDIA IN 1988
QUESTIONNAIRE NUMBER ---------------
HOUSEHOLD NUMBER ------------
HOUSEHOLD MEMBER NUMBER ---------------
VOLUNTEERS NUMBER ---------------
In each question (except question numbers 11, 12, 13, 20, and 29), please first
look at all the alternative answers. After deciding which one is most suitable, make
a circle round the number of your choice. For example:
Importance of Housework
(1) In your opinion, has housework an important role in maintaining family life?
Please say to what extent -
4 A lot
3 Quite a lot
1 Not at all
(2) Do you think you will encounter any of the following crises if housework is
stopped in your family? Please indicate with which you agree
Family members will starve 1 0
Peace of the family will vanish 1 0
There will be conflict / quarrelling in the
Family members will be disappointed 1 0
Family life will be without interest 1 0
Family progress will be affected 1 0
Expression of 'our' or 'my family' will
(3) Does participation in household work result in increasing love and affection
among the members of your family?
5 A lot
4 Quite a lot
3 Cannot say
1 Not at all
(4) To what extent, do you think, are love and affection important to members of
4 Very important
2 Little importance
1 Not at all
(5) Do you think performing housework is a sign of responsibility?
(6) To what extent do you think you are responsible for performing housework?
5 The most responsible
4 Very responsible
1 Not at all
(7) To what extent do you think your family is happy?
3 Cannot say
1 Not at all
(8) Do you at any time quarrel in your family?
5 Very often
3 Cannot say
1 Not at all
Division of labour / Gender role
(9) To what extent is housework important to you? Please express it with the
4 Very important
1 Not at all
(10) Do you think it is because of your position in the family?
(11) What are the housework tasks you prefer to do, if you could make a free
choice? Please see the list of housework items and indicate your choice of domestic
My choice of domestic tasks is as follows:
(12) If you are not given freedom to choose, what housework tasks you are asked
to do? Please see the list of housework tasks and indicate them:
Given domestic tasks are as follows: …………….
(13) What kinds of relationship do you have with him / her who in most cases asks
you to perform certain types of housework? Please see the list of family members
and indicate your relationship with him or her.
My personal relationship with him /her is as follows: ………………….
Origins of housework: attitudes and belief
(14) How far do you agree with the statement that experiences and inspirations of
our traditional life with certain norms and values (such as customs) and women's
potential for motherhood restrict women to domestic work?
4 Totally agree
1 Not at all
(15) Do you think it would be possible to change the roles of men and women? I
mean that the man should take care of housework in the place of women and vice-
versa, women should take care of work outside the home related to the market and
farming. Please give your opinion:
(16) Do you think that both women and men should share housework equally?
(17) Do you work outside the home as a field worker, civil servant or market wage
(18) In this situation, which one do you prefer to give most importance and
2 Outside job
Socialization: learning and training
(19) At what age did you start to get training for housework?
1 Under ten years
2 10 - 14 years
3 15 - 20 years
4 More than 20 years
(20) Who had started to give you training for housework? Please see the list of
family members and indicate your personal relation with her / him.
My personal relation with her / him is as follows: …………………..
(21) Can you remember, please, what items of housework you were asked to do at
that time? Please see the list of housework items and indicate given items of
Given items of housework are as follows: …………………..
(22) Can you remember whether you, at any time, hesitated or refused to have
training for housework?
1 Do not remember
(23) When you were asked to do housework in your childhood, how was it asked?
3 Request under pressure
1 Just asking to do
(24) In your childhood, when you were asked to do some housework tasks, did
you get the impression that performing housework is important?
4 Very important
2 Fairly important
1 Not at all important
Identification and symbolization of career
(25) How far do you agree with the statement that a woman's role must be
identified with hearth and home?
4 Totally agree
2 Agree somewhat
1 Not at all
(26) Please indicate among the following words which are often applied to women
for addressing or calling:
Ghar kï aurat
4 Something else, (what please write)
Burden of housework
(27) Please indicate to what extent -
(a) housework is heavy:
4 Very heavy
1 Not at all
(b) housework is pleasant:
4 Very pleasant
1 Not at all
(28) What kind of impression did you have at an early age when you had started to
do intensive housework? Was it
Supervision of housework
(29) Is your housework supervised by any of your family members? Please see the
list of family members and indicate your relation with her / him as follows:
Personal relationship with her / him is as follows: ……………………
(30) What kinds of comment do you usually get for your housework?
1 Nether appreciation nor non-
appreciation (in between)
(31) What do you feel after getting some appreciation?
4 Very happy
2 Fairly happy
1 Not at all happy
(32) In case you are not appreciated, how do you feel?
4 Very bad
2 Fairly bad
1 No at all bad
(33) When you meet neither appreciation nor non-appreciation for your performed
housework, do you feel -
4 Fairly happy
3 Not happy
2 Very bad
1 Just bad
Expectation and attention for housework
(34) In your family, are you expected to do housework -
4 Very fast
1 Very slowly
(35) When you perform housework, do you have to be -
4 Very careful
3 Fairly careful
2 Somewhat careful
1 Not at all careful
(36) For what reason are you careful when performing housework? Please mark
which suits you among the following reasons. Is it because:
1 Housework is tedious
2 Housework is just needed
3 Housework is interesting
4 Afraid of some oversight
5 You just like to be careful
A List of Housework
Kitchen work, i.e.
warming prepared food
setting the table
serving and feeding food
washing up dishes and utensils
cleaning the table or eating place
tidying the kitchen, putting dishes away, saving etc.
other related tasks
Processing of food and other items, i.e.
drying / washing
other related tasks
Care of house and garden, i.e.
construction and decorating house
making land for garden
other tasks /travel related to house and garden,
laundry work: washing, drying and folding
cleaning lamp and bicycle, lighting lamps
Rearing and caring for children, i.e.
helping in work and study
being and sharing together with children
other related tasks
Caring for elderly person, guests and the unfit, i.e.
other related tasks
Caring for animals, i.e.
washing animal's food pot
cleaning the animals
cleaning the place of animals
other related tasks
other related tasks
other related work
Cultural and religious activity, i.e.
work related to marriage in the family
celebrating cultural and religious activities
other rituals related to the house: praying etc.
A List of Family Members
1. 'ƗGƗ — Paternal grandfather
2. 'ƗGƯ — Paternal grandmother
3. 1ƗQƗ — Maternal grandfather
4. 1ƗQƯ — Maternal grandmother
5. 0ƗWƗ — Mother
6. PitƗ — Father
7. &ƗFƗ — Paternal uncle
8. &ƗFƯ — Aunt (paternal
9. PhǌƗ — Aunt (father's sister)
10. PhǌphƗ — Uncle (husband of
11. 6Ɨs — Mother-in-law
12. Sasur — Father-in-law
13. BhƗƯ — Brother
Sahodar-bar̞ƗbhƗ Ư — Own
Sahodar-chotabhƗƯ — Own
CacerƗ-bhƗƯ — Cousin brother
(paternal uncle's son)
PhupherƗ-bhƗƯ — Cousin
brother (father's sister's son)
MauserƗ-bhƗƯ — Cousin
brother (mother's sister's son)
14. Behan — Sister
Sahodar-bar̞Ưbehan — Own
Sahodar-chotƯbehan — Own
CacerƯ-behan — Cousin sister
(paternal uncle's daughter)
PhupherƯ-behan — Cousin sister
(father's sister's daughter)
MauserƯ-behan — Cousin sister
(mother's sister's daughter)
15. BhatƯMƗ — Nephew (brother's
16. BhatƯMƯ — Niece (brother's
17. BhaginƗ — Nephew (sister's
18. BhaginƯ — Niece (sister's
19. 0ƗPƗ — Maternal uncle
20. 0ƗPƯ — Maternal aunt
21. Pati — Husband
22. PatnƯ — Wife
23. Putr or Bet̞ Ɨ — Son
Bar̞Ɨ-putr — Eldest son
Chot̞Ɨ-putr — Youngest son
24. PutrƯ or Bet̞ Ư — Daughter
Bar̞Ư-putrƯ — Eldest daughter
Chot̞Ư-putrƯ — Youngest
25. Patohǌ — Daughter-in-law
Bar̞Ư-patohǌ — Eldest daughter-
26. GotnƯ — Wife of Husband's
Bar̞Ư-gotanƯ — Wife of
husband's eldest brother
Chot̞Ư-gotanƯ — Wife of
husband's youngest brother
Bar̞Ư-nanad — Husband's eldest
Chot̞Ư-nanad — Husband's
28. Devar — Brother-in-law
(Husband's younger brother)
Bar̞Ɨ-devar — Senior among
younger brothers of husband
Chot̞Ɨ-devar — Junior among
younger brothers of husband
29. Bhaisur — Husband's elder
30. BhaujƗƯ — Sister-in-law
Bar̞Ư-bhaujƗƯ — Eldest sister-in-
Chot̞Ư-bhaujƗƯ — Youngest
Note: If you do not find in the list those names of family relations which fit you, in this situation please
without hesitation just mention in each question the family relation in your own words.
Appendix C: A List of Major Questions from the Oral Interview
I would be extremely grateful if you would not mind answering a few questions.
1) How do children learn housework in the family?
2) Why are girls socialized in performing housework? Why not boys?
3) At what age do children generally start to be aware of housework and its
4) What kinds of housework are they generally asked to do in the family? Please
also specify if they are asked to do jobs which are heavy, complicated, numerous
and so forth.
5) What is the purpose of socializing girls in doing housework? For what reason is
learning housework important for them? When and where will they need to use it
in the course of life? Please try to state in detail.
6) What is the significance of housework as you feel and experience it in life?
7) What kinds of problems arise if housework is neglected?
8) Why in your opinion is housework significant?
9) Why are women assigned to perform housework? Why not men? Do you think
men cannot do housework, can only women do it?
10) Do you think your family life is happy or not? Please justify why and how?
11) Do you sometimes have quarrels in your family? When and why? Has it
anything to do with housework?
AguƗ—Mediator for marriage.
Antahbhavna—Inner feeling or sentiment.
ApnƗ adhikƗr—Own right.
ÄdarĎ nƗUƯ, patnƯ and mƗWƗ—Ideal women, wife and mother.
ÄKƗra or Bhojana—Eating, food, nourishment.
Ähara-Ğuddhi sattva-Ğuddhi—Pure nourishment leads to pure nature.
Bar̞ƗĞauq—Great eagerness, pleasure, hobby.
Bhabbhu—Younger brother's wife.
Bhaisur—Husband's elder brother.
CamƗr —A man belonging to the leather workers' community.
CapƗWƯ / RoĕƯ—Unleavened bread.
Chaĕh—A religious festival celebrated in Karttik and Caïta of Indian months,
specifically largely popular in Bihar.
Chaĕhi MaƯ 3ǌMƗ—The ritual of Chaĕhi Mother.
Chaĕh PǌMƗ— The ritual of Chaĕh.
'Ɨl—Splitted beans or lentils; pulse or lentils boiled and spiced for eating; lentils'
'Ɨyitvă—Liability (under dharma), the state of being liable according to moral
DekhƗ-dekhƯ or DekhƗ-hiskƯ—Blind imitation.
DevrƗQƯ—Husband's younger bother's wife.
Devut̞ KƗvn—Ritual performed by wife after some months of her husband's death,
the waking of VisҚ QҚu on the eleventh of the bright half of the month of KƗrttik.
DhƗn daunƯ—Paddy threshing.
Dharmik—Having to do with dharma, a person of moral principle.
'Җom—A communal making of ropes and baskets; workers at cremation places.
English Period—A.D. 1765-1946 (about).
*Ɨrhasthya jƯvan / Gĵhasth jƯvan—Household life.
*Ɨrhasthya jƯvan mem uttardƗyitvĠ hotƗ hai—In household life there is a
Gharelǌ aurat / Ghar kƯ aurat—Household woman.
Gharelǌ kƗryƗ / Ghar kƗ kƗm—Housework.
GharvƗOƯ— Mistress of the house.
GNP— Gross national product.
Goïĕha—Dung cake (for fuel).
Gotnï—Husband's brother's wife, sister-in-law.
Gĵha-patnƯ / Gharer baou / Ghar kƯ bƯEƯ—Housewife.
Gĵhasth—(Male) Housekeeper, householder
Gĵha-svƗminƯ—Mistress of the house.
GĵhavƗs—New house entrance.
GĵhiăƯ—Female housekeeper, the lady or mistress of the house.
Islamic Period—A.D. 1530-1707 (about).
Jet̞ KƗn—One of the religious festivals celebrated in the Indian month of Karttik.
Jet̞ KƗnï—Husband's elder brothers' wives.
KaccƗ—Cooked in water.
KaccƗ bhojan—Meal cooked in water.
KanyƗ—A virgin or unmarried daughter or girl;
KanyƗ guriyƗ—A bride doll.
Karma—Deed, action, activity.
KarvƗ—A festival in the Indian month of Bhado at which married women observe
a fast and worship the KarvƗ filled with water (or make an offering of the KarvƗ
filled with sweets); an earthen pot with a spout.
.Ɨm—Work, task, act, action.
Kama— Lust, passion, desire.
.Ɨm-kƗj—Work, business, tasks.
LaksҚPƯ / Lakshmi—(1) The Goddess LaksҚPƯ, the Goddess of wealth, the wife of
VisҚQҚu (2) good fortune, prosperity.
Lalak—Longing, craving, enthusiasm.
Lok-lƗj—Regard for public opinion.
Lorikayan or VirahƗ—An epic song based on the heroic story of Beĕa Lorik and
Samvar — two brothers of the Yadava family.
Maim uttardƗ\Ư hėm—I am responsible.
ManautƯ—Vow to propitiate (a deity) by worship.
MandapƗ chƗjan—Erecting a shed and decorating it for marriage rituals.
0ƗnmaryƗGƗ—Bounds of decency, honour, prestige, dignity.
0ƗnyăWƗ—Accepted as of a view, an opinion; values in society.
Mukti mƗrga—Path of liberation.
Naihar—Wife's paternal home.
NirvƗQ̞ a—Liberation, salvation.
PakkƗ—Cooked in ghee.
PardƗ—This does not allow women to appear before others.
PardƗ prathƗ—Custom practiced by women to cover their faces and bodies so that
they should not be seen by others.
Parlok—The next world.
Pativrat / PativratƗ—Faithful and devoted to the husband.
Parlaukik—Belonging to the next world.
Pitĵ-ĵQ̞a—Debt owed to the ancestors.
Purus̞Ɨrtha—Meaning or objective of life, manliness, an object of human pursuit.
5ƗMăsik—Pertaining to grandeur.
5ƗMăVƯ—Royal, pertaining to grandeur.
Sauq—A hobby, eagerness in doing something.
Sri Guru Govind Singh—One of the spiritual leaders of the Sikhs.
Sam̓VƗr / Sam̓VƗUƗ—The world, to establish a home, household, worldly affairs.
Sam̓skƗra—Inherited from ancestors and cultural rites which become part of one's
being; tradition which becomes a part of one's being.
SanƗtan Hindu—Eternal Hindu.
SatƯ—True and devoted wife, virtuous, faithful (wife).
SatyăQƗUƗyanҚ PėMƗ—Ritual of the God SatyăQƗUƗyanҚ.
6Ɨdhyă—Achievable by certain means to be maintained.
6ƗP̓ VƗrik jƯvan—Worldly life.
6ƗP̓VƗrik ĵă—Worldly debt.
6ƗP̓VƗrik vƗVăQƗ—Worldly passions: lust, desire or greediness.
6ƗU̞Ư—Long clothe for the females to wear.
6Ɨttvik—Pure and pious.
6ƗttvikƯ—One who prefers and believes in purity and piousness.
Smĵti period—A.D. 500 to 1800 (see Dube 1963, 183).
Sĵđĕi—The creation, the world, nature.
7ƗmĠsik—Last of the three qualities of food relating to darkness and ignorance.
7ƗPăVƯ—One relating to darkness and ignorance.
7Ưj—A religious festival occurring in the Indian month of Bhado.
Ubt̞an—A paste rubbed on the body of a bride and a groom.
UpănisҚad—A work from Indian classical literature.
UttardƗyitvă hai na—It is a responsibility.
Vais̞ Q̞ avas—Devotees of Lord VisҚ QҚu.
Vais̞ Q̞ avƯ—Sattvik: pure and pious, vegetarian.
Varăa—Vedically Hindu classification of society into four categories according to
professions (viz. BrƗhman, KsҚatriya, VaiĞya and ĝǌdra); Vedic social hierarchy.
Vasant pancăPƯ / SarasvatƯ 3ǌMƗ, HolƯ, DaĞahrƗ, Dïvalï, Jet̞KƗn, Jïtiya, TƯj, KarvƗ
and Rakđabandhan — The names of popular religious festivals.
9Ɨtsalyă—Parental love and affection.
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