What is Patrilocality?
In patrilocal societies, women move to their husband’s house and co-reside with their husband’s family after marriage. Patrilocality is associated with discrimination in personal autonomy, decision making, education, health, and division of labour between a woman and her husband. This post aims to explain the correlation between patrilocality and gender discrimination.
With marriage, almost all the girls who live with their husband’s parents and extended family, lose a great deal of freedom, decision making power and autonomy. A girl is expected to follow the rules and norms, sometimes strict and irrelevant, set by her husband’s family. Often, the choice of a girl’s lifestyle, starting from her food habit to dressing sense or freedom of expression are questioned, faced with criticism, or need to be altered after marriage. Women in patrilocal families are typically viewed as carers and child bearers.
Patrilocality and Gender Discrimination in Upbringing
Parents, in a patrilocal society, raise their daughters to be able to ‘fit in’ to a different family. Girls are reminded from their childhood to behave in a way that is more acceptable, and appropriate to their future in-laws. They need to follow certain social standards which limit and control their capacity to live their life to the fullest.
In contrast, boys are made to realize their privileges from a young age. In patrilocal families, men are usually highly privileged. Men or boys are not allowed to help in chores and typically do not participate or share responsibilities in housekeeping. Women do all housekeeping and domestic chores. The division of labour, quality of life and opportunities to flourish are unequally distributed between men and women in patrilocal families. Girls in patrilocal societies face many violations, discrimination and disadvantage. Most of these discriminations lead to larger economic, political, social and cultural disadvantages they deal with in their lifetime.
Preference for Sons in A Patrilocal Society
In patrilocal societies, sons contribute to the wealth and economic condition of the family. They are also responsible for taking care of the financial need and looking after the parents at old age. It’s taboo for parents to accept any economic help from a married daughter, even when they are financially independent. Girls are raised primarily to be sent to their husband’s house by marrying off, often in exchange for heavy dowry. In India, raising a daughter is often compared with watering the neighbour’s garden- a liability without any benefits.
It’s no wonder that parents have a much higher preference for a boy, and invest more in the health and education of sons than daughters, especially when the resources are limited.
The birth of a son is celebrated for multiple reasons-
- Sons carry the forward family lineage
- Once an adult, a son will add prosperity and wealth to a family
- Parents will be physically looked after and financially supported by them at old age
- Once married, his wife will share most of the responsibilities and household chores
- Additional incentives of getting dowry when a son is married
Sons, the future bread earners, family lineage carriers and parents’ support at old ages definitely have a higher status than daughters, who are considered ‘other’s property’. Patrilocatity in combination with patrilineality (where family lineage is carried forward by a son) very much decides the fate of an individual based on their gender.
How Patrilocality and Gender Discrimination Affects Women
Patrilocality is the root of preferences for sons, female infanticide and femicides. It is really unfortunate when a couple starts their married life with such severe inequality which multiplies over their lifetime. Being a woman in a patrilocal society is synonymous with living a life dictated by others. Women spend a significant amount of time pleasing others, proving their worth in housekeeping, taking care of their husband’s parents when needed, and raising children. Yet, patrilocal society is always critical to women, their conduct and choices that patrilocality and gender discrimination seems to be almost synonymous.
In addition, women have a much lower status and often endure oppression, abuse, and domestic violence. Most often than not, parents continue to interfere in the important decisions of their son’s life after marriage. While boys enjoy the privileges of living with their own family, girls might need permission to meet their own parents. Visiting her parents frequently after marriage is not acceptable or allowed in most families. Patrilocality also has long term social and psychological consequences on girls and women. Women, who silently endure oppression and torture for years, often internalize this oppression and plays the role of the oppressor as a mother-in-law and the vicious cycle of oppression continues.
In many developing countries, patrilocality is still practised and is greatly associated with the culture or heritage of the community. While the concept of co-living is often glorified as a practice that enhances family bond, greater social and family support, respect for elders; the true picture about the status and roles of women in patrilocal or joint families do not receive much attention. We hope to see a more equal distribution of power, freedom, respect and domestic responsibilities between men and women in patrilocal societies in the days to come. We also urge more people to come forward and raise their voice in support of upholding women’s rights and respect while maintaining the integrity of culture.
Please read the latest Report by the World Economic Forum to understand the present status of Gender Gap in the world.