Around The World

Patrilocality: Roots of Gender Discrimination in Many Countries

 What is Patrilocality?

In Patrilocal societies, women move to their husbands’ house and co-reside with husbands’ parents after marriage. Patrilocality is associated with gender gaps in personal autonomy, decision making, education, health, and division of labor.

With marriage, almost all the girls who live with her husband’s parents and extended family, lose a great deal of their 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 parents. Often, the choice of a girl’s lifestyle, starting from food habit to dressing sense and even the way she behaves or talks are questioned, faced with criticism, and need to be altered after marriage.


Patrilocality and discrimination in up bringing

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 which is more acceptable, and appropriate to her future in-laws.

Contrary to how girls are raised to adjust with any situation after moving to her husband’s family, boys are raised to be looked after and all his needs to be taken care of by his wife after marriage, and by parents before marriage. Most boys are not allowed to help in chores and typically do not participate or share responsibilities in housekeeping. Mothers or wives do everything in the house for the men and boys. Thus the division of labor are always unequally distributed in Patrilocal families.

Preference for sons

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 a 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 her husband’s house by marrying off, often in exchange of heavy dowry. In India, raising a daughter is often compared with watering the neighbor’s garden- a liability without any benefits.

It’s no wonder that parents have a much higher preference for a boy, and invest more on 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 as ‘other’s property’.  


How it harms women

Patrilocality is a result of severe gender discrimination and is the root of preferences for sons, female infanticide and femicides. It is sad that a couple starts their married life with such severe inequality which multiplies over their lifetime. Being a woman in a patrilocal society is synonymous to living a life dictated by others. Women spend a significant amount of time in housekeeping and taking care of husband’s parents if needed, along with taking care of their children.

They also have much lower status and often endure oppression, abuse, and domestic violence. Most often than not, parents interfere in most of the important decisions of their son’s life even after marriage. While boys enjoy the privileges of living with their own family,  girls might need permission to meet her own parents. Visiting her parents very often after marriage is not acceptable or allowed in most of the families. Patrilocality also has a 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.


 You may like to read: 

Gender Discrimination in Access and Consumption of Food Across Cultures


Related posts:

Systemic Gender Discrimination Across the World

Domestic Violence Against Women Across The World-Where Are We?


Additional resources-

Please read the latest Report by the World Economic Forum to understand the present status of Gender Gap in the world.


Swagata Sen

A Clinical Researcher by profession, I am originally from India; now live in California with my family. I am an advocate of gender equality and women empowerment. I am also a Certified Reiki Healer and a Certified Sexual Assault Counselor and Advocate. I write about women's rights, equality and gender based issues to create awareness and to include every body in my fight against gender discrimination.


  • Avatar


    Each time I read one of your posts it infuriates me how poorly women are treated outside of the US where I live. It is no wlonder male children are preferred but perhaps they need to give women a chance to contribute. Gender discrimination is just terrible.

    • Avatar


      I know how you feel… it infuriates me to as I live India and I see this in front my eyes. We are still trying to change… I hope the gender inequality solves in India some day hopefully. 🙂

  • Avatar

    Luna S

    This article was well written and it really offers a new insight into the subject, thank you for writing it.

  • Avatar

    Ashley | One Journey Away

    I was born and raised in Canada but am of Chinese descent, so I have heard of the preference for boys. The silly/stupid thing about that is that in order for a son to carry on the family lineage, there needs to be a female too!

We would love to know your feedback about the post

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: