REIGNITED DISCOURSE ON DOMESTIC LABOUR

Rounak Doshi & Aabir Bhattacharya

“Religion is preserved by wealth; knowledge by diligent practice; a king by conciliatory words; and a home by a housewife”

Traditionally, homemakers have not been counted as “working”, and have been often termed as “unpaid”. However, the work itself is extremely demanding – with no leaves or vacations, no set hours, no other perks or benefits other than the satisfaction of the work itself. Women have historically been assigned the role of the informal caregiver, and this gender role continues in modern society. The debate on “domestic labour” started in 1972 with the Internal Wages for Housework Campaign in the UK, and since then, many women’s organisations have called for a basic income for housework across the world, but the ideas have failed to take root. Recently in December 2020, during the all-Poland Women’s strike, wages for domestic work were one of the many legislative demands.

In India as well, this idea has met challenges. In 2010, the National Housewives Association sought to be recognized as a trade union, but was rejected on the grounds of neither being a trade nor an industry. In 2012, Krishna Tirarth, the then MoS for Women and Child Development, proposed a minimum salary to wives from their husbands. This idea also failed to materialize.

Recently this idea was again brought to the fore by Kamal Hassan’s party, the MNM in Tamil Nadu, which promised that they would pass legislation to mandate a salary for homemakers if they were to be elected. On 5th January 2021, the Supreme Court, in Kirti & Anr. v. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd., provided that homemakers contribute in a very real manner to the economic condition of a family and fixing the notional income for homemakers is a step towards the constitutional vision of social equality. The Tamil Nadu government has not weighed in on the ideas presented.

While these events did cause a social media storm, and many news channels covered it, with dwindling interest and in the absence of any legislative authority considering the ideas that were presented, it seems like housework still remains destined to remain unpaid in the near future.

Rounak Doshi and Aabir Bhattacharya, CLL

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