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The Secret Betrayal between Mothers and Daughters

May 13, 2012
Happiness unadulterated..!!

photo by Siddharth Singh

by Rita Banerji

Of the many things discussed about mother-daughter relationships, I find there is one that is almost tabooWomen don’t like to hear or talk about it.

The Betrayal

The issue I am trying to broach here is that of a certain betrayal of daughters by their mothers, in the cultural or societal value system that women subscribe to, and the choices they make, for themselves and their daughters.  These value systems and choices deeply undermine women in general, and make them vulnerable and weak.

This betrayal marks many a personal relationship between mothers and daughters.  But it also holds true for the larger collective, in how older generations of women relate and respond to the younger generations.  One can in fact identify nuances of this betrayal in all cultures, but I find it most pronounced in the Asian cultures.

Silencing the Betrayal


photo by Laurent

Not only is this betrayal deeply entrenched in Asian cultures, but daughters are socialized exclusively by their mothers since their infancy to both accept it, and keep it a secret.  British-Indian author  Jasvinder Sanghera  in her book ‘Daughters of Shame’ writes about this in her own family and the British Asian communities.  “I was brought up to keep secrets, ugly secrets about bullying, coercion and fearwhich were all part of everyday life in our family.  I believed it was shameful to discuss things with outsidersand if I did I would compromise our honour—izzat—the most important thing in my mum’s life[Later I] learnt that mine wasn’t the only Asian family held together by a suffocating web of secrets…”

 Jasvinder’s sister had died in a violent and abusive marriage, while her parents, including her mother, who witnessed the violence, did nothing to protect their daughter, preferring to remain silent to maintain their ‘honor’ in the community. Later Jasvinder’s mother tried to force her as well to marry a man not of her choosing, who she did not want to marry.  To avoid her sister’s fate, and still not being able to tell anyone or seek help outside, Jasvinder ran away from home.

Not only is this painful mother-daughter dynamic never discussed, but should there be an indirect reference made to it, women are quick to dismiss it as something that mothers have no choice over or cannot deal with the way they actually desire to, because they lack ‘power.

 The Truth Behind the Betrayal

 But the truth is, that even under the most difficult of situations, where no matter which path a woman takes, she will face persecution in one form or another, she still has the power to decide, which of the persecutions she is more willing to endure.  Often mothers choose that option that gets them a little consolation prize, their own little corner, however sordid, subservient and insignificant within the context of the larger, grander scheme of the brutal patriarchal hierarchy.   In their desire for this petty “prize” mothers often knowingly sacrifice their daughter’s safety and well-being.

I can testify to this from my own experiences as an Indian woman, from what I’ve known and witnessed in my family, in the Indian communities both in India and outside, and through the work I do with my campaign, The 50 Million Missing which is lobbying to stop India’s female gendercide.

 Testimonies to the Betrayal

Roopa with daughter Karishma

photo by Rita Banerji

 One of the cases The 50 Million Missing Campaign had intervened in was that of baby Karishma whose paternal grandmother had tried to kill her on numerous occasions.  See her story here. The father’s family, that had wanted a boy, and resented her being a girl, had starved the child, beaten her senseless, and not even named her for the first two years of her life hoping she would die.  They also abused the mother.  The 50 Million Missing campaign then moved the mother and daughter to a safe house and extended to them all the support they needed to make a fresh start in life.  Simultaneously we started legal proceedings for attempted murder charges against Karishma’s father and his family.  However, Karishma’s mother secretly returned to her husband’s and in-laws house one day, taking Karishma with her, without informing us.

While Karishma’s mother was from a poor family, and had not yet completed high school, astonishingly the same response is seen in women who are highly educated, professional and working.  In another case that the campaign tried to support, the woman was from an upper-class family, highly educated, professional and economically well off.  She wanted to move back with her daughters to her husband and in-laws house, where her daughters were not only unwanted, but there had been a vicious attempt made to kill one of them when she was a baby.  The mother said that she believed that a father’s house was a daughter’s ‘rightful’ place in society.  When we asked her how she could risk her daughters’ safety, she said, she would have her husband and in-laws sign an affidavit , to the effect that if she moved back into their house, her daughters would not be “hurt, harmed, raped or killed.”

 Why Women Betray Their Daughters 

Mother and Daughter

photo by Ron Harmon

So when they are aware of the risk and danger they are putting their daughters through, not to mention the emotional and psychological trauma of abuse and rejection, why would these mothers make these choices, even when there is a safer alternative?

It is because they fear the consequence of the alternative choice on their own lives.  Women in India in situations similar to the ones described above, face outright rejection from the neighborhood and communities in India, when they choose to leave their husband’s homes, even if their own lives and their daughter’s lives are in danger.  They are blamed, ostracized, vilified, and persecuted by people around them in different ways.  They are labeled as ‘sluts’ and ‘whores,’ and treated with total contempt by society. Where earlier they found themselves victimized by their husbands and in-laws, they now feel the whole world is out to get them.

But they also know for all the heart-ache and rejection they have to bear from society when they get out of abusive marriages, at least their daughters are safe!  If they return to their husband’s homes however, though it might jeopardize their daughters’ lives, it will earn them society’s forgiveness, and a tiny shred of social regard.  In the end, desirous of this little prize from society, most Asian women opt for the latter.

Deep in their hearts, where they hear the voice of their own conscience these mothers know they have done wrong.  They know that their husbands and in-laws have done wrong by them, but that they themselves are just as guilty in trading off their daughters’ well-being and safety.  So they make  a consistent effort through customs, traditions and injunctions, to hide the dark, ugliness of their choice, by brainwashing their daughters into accepting it as ‘normal,’ and yet never speaking about it openly.  To protect their ugly secret, they silence it.  To pretend it is ‘normal’ when they know it is not, women train their daughters to accept and perpetuate it in their lives and choices too.

 Healing the Schism 


photo by Rob Hoey

 To heal this massive schism in the personal and collective relationships of women, there are three steps that are absolutely essential: 1) Confronting the betrayal 2) Un-silencing it, and finally 3) Acceptance.

 Confronting: In the book, ‘Snowflower and the Secret Fan,’ a story about a 19th century Chinese woman, Lily, who in accordance with the customs for women of her times, had to submit to the extremely sadistic practice of foot-binding, Lily explains her life in these words: “For my entire life I longed for love…I dreamed that my mother would notice me and that she and the rest of my family would grow to love me. To win their affection, I was obedient…[and] tried to fulfill their expectation for me – to attain the smallest bound feet in the county.  So I let my bones be broken and molded into a better shape.  When I knew I couldn’t suffer another moment of pain, and tears fell on my bloody bindings, my mother spoke softly into my ear, encouraging me to go one more hour, one more day…In this way she taught me how to endure, not just the physical trials of footbinding and child bearing but the more torturous pain of the heart, mind and soul.”   However, later, in life she painfully recognizes the meaning behind what her mother was doing and eventually confronts her.  She says, With horror I realized that during those awful days [of foot binding] she had not been showing me mother love at all. In some twisted way, the pain she inflicted on me had to do with her own selfish wants and desires.

  Un-Silencing: Jasvinder Sanghera in her book ‘Daughters of Shame’ also talks about the need for women to not just recognize and name this betrayal, but to speak out openly about it.  She says “I have also tried to batter down the wall of secrecy.  I realized that by staying silent, women like me were making it impossible for anyone to help and I wanted to change that. It was however not easy, and Jasvinder talks about how it isolated her from the Indian community, and often left her feeling alone and very vulnerable.

 Accepting: It is equally important for Mothers to accept their role in all this.  Even though this is rare, recently I was amazed to watch a woman actually admit to it on public television in India.  In a show on female feticide, where women talked about the unbelievable brutality they’ve been subjected to by their husbands and in-laws in being often repeatedly forced to abort their daughters, Parveen Khan whose husband had savagely bitten off chunks of flesh from her face for having daughters, and who eventually got out of the marriage and now raises her girls on her own, directly addressed all the mothers watching her on TV and said, that as unforgivable as the violence is that is inflicted on women, it is just as wrong for women to tolerate it and allow their daughters to be subject to the same.Watch the video here (with English subtitles).

 When Mothers Stand by their Daughters

Mother and daughter

photo by Julien Mailler

  In February 2012, in the city of Calcutta in India, a woman who had gone to a night-club with some friends, was gang-raped by a group of men in a car.  See her story here. When she tried to file a complaint she was jeered at not only by the police, but also the Chief Minister of the state, who is a woman!  She faced what all rape victims’ face in India – blame, verbal abuse, and suspicion.  This is the reason why a majority of women don’t file rape charges. What gave this woman the courage to come forward?  She said that most people had advised her to remain silent and not go to the police.  There was only one person—her grandmother—who encouraged her to fight back, demand justice, and was by her side all throughLater the victimized woman explained, Apart from the encouragement, my Nanno (grandmother) also counseled me about the difficult road ahead – rounds of questioning by the police, uncomfortable questions from the society…. She prepared me to face all that. I draw so much energy from her!”

For all the talk of women’s empowerment through education and jobs, the truth is that a lot of the violence women are subject to is harbored in this schism of betrayal in mother-daughter relationships.  If we want change, we will have to individually confront it and take responsibility.  It is only when enough individual women find the courage to do this, however terrifying and lonely it may be, that we’ll begin to see a change for women at the societal level.



Rita Banerji is an author and gender activist, and the founder of The 50 Million Missing Campaign to end India’s female genocide.  Her book ‘Sex and Power: Defining History Shaping Societies, is a historical and social look at how the relationship between gender and power in India has led to the ongoing female gendercide.  Her website is She blogs at Rebellions in my Space and tweets at @Rita_Banerji

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHERS: The photographers whose pictures appear here are supporting members of The 50 Million Missing Campaign’s Photographers Group on Flickr  which is supported by more than 2400 photographers from around the world.   To see more of each of their works, please click on the pictures.

31 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2012 3:38 pm

    Enlightening topic and very very important one that needs to be addressed.
    It’s pathetic to see what some people go through for the sake of honour. Feelings oppressed and muted … and most often these are used behind the banner of religion, culture etc etc… women empowerement is quite rightly needed …

  2. May 14, 2012 2:28 pm

    Denial crosses all socio-economic cultures…

  3. emery permalink
    May 21, 2012 8:41 pm

    this goes beyond denial to out right collaboration. the inconvenient truth here is if a war crimes trial opened at the the Hague today for the 50 million missing many of the defendants would be women.

    • May 25, 2012 4:52 pm

      True! And they absolutely should be. There were a number of prison guards in the Nazi concentration camps who were Jewish. And Hitler himself, was of Jewish descent from his mother’s side. It is ironic how internalized hatred towards your kind can be!

  4. June 5, 2012 5:27 pm

    It’s internalized hatred and, for me, this post re-victimizes women since it casts blame on mothers. Where is the blame for fathers? Why is it okay to be daddy’s little girl but not okay to be a momma’s boy? This is similar – it’s okay to be treated bad by daddy but not by mommy. As if, women should know better.

    Women are taught under the same patriarchal system as men. Until women are enlightened, they will continue to defend and preserve this system. It is through re-educating, and not blaming, that women will learn to value themselves and other females. It is through deconstructing the patriarchal system that women and men will be able to appreciate the power of the female as well as the male.

    As long as SOCIETY, not just women, value men more than women, both sexes will gravitate towards masculine qualities. This sets the stage for both sexism and homophobia.

    Patriarchy has been going on for thousands of years – it has brainwashed women just as it has men. There is no evolutionary biology to explain why women would de-value females, this is purely learned behavior that must be un-learned.

    We are not born supporters of patriarchy. Nor are we born supporters of feminism. Both must be unlearned or learned.

  5. June 7, 2012 6:26 am

    @Joanie — Yes of course the female gendercide in India is a product of brutal patriarchal oppression and domination. That is the focus of this campaign. Please just take a little time and go through the other posts. And there are situations when women, even when they want to, are unable to protect themselves and their daughters. But how about the situations where women have a choice and a place of safety for themselves and their daughters. It is one thing when adult women choose to re-enter environments where they put themselves at risk. But it is a whole different thing when they put their daughters lives at risk by removing them from a safe environment and subjecting them to torture and death, just because they don’t want to deal with the social rejection of being a ‘divorced’ woman in the Asian society. I’ve provided specific examples in this article where the women ABSOLUTELY NEED TO BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR PUTTING THEIR DAUGHTERS AT RISK EVEN WHEN THEY HAD THE OPTION NOT TO. Yes, it is a psychological warping from social conditioning that makes them do that. They themselves are traumatized and psychologically unhealthy. But they do know they are doing wrong by their daughters. And women must be held responsible for these choices they make. Just as child sexual molesters do what they do because they themselves were sexually abused as children. Yes, they are psychologically sick. But they do know they are doing wrong by abusing other children, and for that they must be held responsible.

    • miss j permalink
      June 9, 2012 1:55 am

      I understand what you’re saying, but for me, I’m tired of people blaming women (particularly for violence against women – causing their own rapes or deserving domestic violence – but, certainly women are blamed for so many things – original sin, the witch hunts, societal ills (as in “father absence” studies) etc.etc.).

      For instance, in child abuse, women can be charged with “failure to protect” if they do not try to stop the husband/father from abusing the child. So she goes to jail for her husband’s crime. But rarely is a father charged with ‘failure to protect’ when the woman abuses the child.

      And, in many cases, women have been threatened if they reveal abuse – either verbally or physically, through proxies like harm being done to the family pet or others, emotional abuse, being cut off financially, etc.

      Women have long been silenced on abuse (since the 1970s in the US) because of shame, stigma, fear of retaliation, being shunned by the community, being ex-communicated, etc. There are real consequences to bear if she goes against her husband/father/church/etc. As well, she’s been ‘brainwashed’ about being responsible for the abuse – women nag, make demands, are emotional, etc. This is why some women bash other women – in effect, this brings them into the “men’s club” where putting down women can be the norm. It elevates them. There is an incentive in all this.

      I agree with you on many points – I’m all for being responsible, accountable, protecting your children – all these very reasonable points. I just have a problem with the concept of singling out women as being “more” responsible or that they should “know better.” For me, it’s a societal problem with men and women bearing equal responsibility in the prevention of abuse. And, in regard to the action of violence, it’s the perpetrator and only the perpetrator’s fault.

      Glad you are discussing this topic. I’ll try to read other posts, too.

      All the best,

    • June 26, 2012 3:48 pm

      @Miss J: Wanted to compliment your poignant, heartfelt comment to genderbytes’ post of 5/13/12, “The Secret Betrayal Between Mothers and Daughters”.
      Note: I hope you receive this as I tried to connect to you but could not.
      Actually, I’m not exactly known for my great computer savvy…

  6. miss j permalink
    June 27, 2012 2:10 pm

    Lindy Lee – Yes, I received it — thank you. I also keep a blog on gender, although I have been neglecting it of late. It’s: (You could contact me through the blog if you’d like) On this site, I discuss gender in the media (and include some other miscellany). I have posts on how women are blamed – it’s quite remarkable to see how media write about violence against women. Take care, Miss J

  7. What? permalink
    July 17, 2012 1:36 pm

    One more thing, studies show that sperm is responsible for gender. So if a girl is so reviled, the woman is not at fault, beat the husband, humiliate the husband and curse the son. However the parents would not do that, preferring to blame the wife and the woman. The wife should have bitten chunks of flesh off her husband’s face for impregnating her with a daughter.

  8. Lily permalink
    July 26, 2012 12:44 pm

    I doubt there is a culture or country on this earth where the war on women has ended. I am a white woman from what many would describe as an ‘upper middle calss’ background. I have a masters degree, a relatively good job and a happy marriage. To the outside world, and in comparison with many women and girls throughout the world, I am ‘lucky’. But I was adopted as a baby, and sexually abused from the age of 6-10 years by the father of my adoptive mother. My younger brother was also abused. My brother, in his innocence, told my adoptive mother, and although she claims to have confronted her father, she chose to believe that he was ‘just being affectionate’ and would discuss it no more. We had to live next door to him for a further eight years, but my brother and I left the area as soon as we could and rarely return. I now realise that my adoptive mother just wanted to ‘keep the peace’, her standing in the community etc., but nothing she did can ever atone for her betrayal. She is now 80 years old, in good health, and talks of her dead father as if he was a saint. However, he was horridly disfigured in a fire in his home when I was 24, and died soon after of his injuries. I believe it was a punishment for his crimes. I have chosen not to have children, because I do not know the true depth of a mother’s love, and I do not think I have it to offer.

    • July 30, 2012 8:39 am

      Lily, Thank you for sharing your story with us, as painful as it must be for you. It is true that the kind of ‘betrayal’ that is discussed in this essay, with regards to violence and lethal violence on children, is also true for sexual abuse both in India and in other countries. Society for some reason, and even the feminist movements, often are resistant to the acknowledgement and discussion of this issue. But from our experience in India, we find that the women who are most likely to be responsible mothers and protect their children with all available resources, are the women who have found the courage to confront or at least name this betrayal in their relationship with their mothers, in their own life. See what artist Soraya Nulliah says about doing exactly this in her life with her mother, and how it reflects in her relationship with her daughter. click here

  9. asha kachru permalink
    August 11, 2012 7:35 am

    well rita, first of all my very personal thanks for having raised this very rarely discussed, uncommon issue amongst Indian women (and men). i want to share my personal case, as now i feel i can say it finally and dont have to feel guilty. it is an at least 20 years old story. i am 69 now.and in india since last 25 years, before that 22 years in germany, where iwas made aware of the generally bad mother-daughter relationships, but that had the added dimension of mothers having been mostly pro Hitler and the younger generation being against fascism..but after return nd now over the last 25 years and since recently after my 90 year old mother’s death i realise it all over again, how much my life was influenced in a negative way due to my mother’s not being able to accept me. my mother had a very bad time in the last phase and i tried being kind and nice to her, i cried a lot of times thinking of her painful life and end. even as i am writing i get tears, after so many days. i thought i had overcome this feeling for her. actually now i feel sorry for her and my anger towards my brothers has taken a new form, namely i feel they have at least not helped her come out of her emotional dependencies on them. as a child i would protest against the unequal behaviour of my mother and father towards my 3 brothers and myself, the only daughter. in the past 25 years too i found my mother always asking me to be polite and understanding towards my brothers and she would always give their decisions more value. i am an independent single mother of a 41 yeaar old son, settled in australia and my german husband died 15 years back. we were divorced after 13 years of marriage and then i lived alone with my son for another 10 years in germany before i decided to leave germany. for India in 1987, though i was experiencing a climax in my career as a scientific officer at a national informatics center as well as a City Councillor with the Greens in Bonn city. but that had other reasons than my mother. i wanted my son to learn Indian culture before he was grown up and yes i was homesick. i was 45 years then and a good looking fun loving intelligent woman i had a very good relationship with my son. when we went to parties at the german embassy i was invited to, my mother would fuss much about my having had a beer and even sometimes smoked. she would not say anything to my brother who was an airforce officer and would in fact wait till late hours after he had had 2-3 whyskies to have dinner late night. later when raoul, my son, left for europe for higher studies, i decided to move to a rural area and live on my own. i did not get any support/empathy from either my brothers or my parents all the 5 years i spent in delhi and other cities, trying to find an alternative emmployment in ngo’s or so. for some time even my son turned against me, i think, because of the messages given by my family to him, that i was a crazy woman to have given up my permanent job in germany and having moved to villages and all on my own! even my german mother-in-law had filed a court case against me in germany due to my wanting to take my son, a brilliant studnt there, to india. fortuntely she lost due to my ex husband having supported me. i was feeling better and better having started my own small feminist retreat and ngo in the rural region i stay still. the problems i have had all these years i realise have had to do with the fact that again and again i would visit my parents-out of a sense of responsibility as well as for their love- i returned to my village home totally sad and hurt. because my brothers as well as my mother ( with whom i used to fight everytime for her double standards first towards daughter-in-laws and sone and later towards the maids who really were so kind to her.) would make me feel bad for having had to disagree and fight with my mother. “jab bhi aati hai, ladai karke aur ro ke wapis jaati hai” was the pet sentence of my brothers and so my mother too never listened to me but kept listening to her sons, whom she gave more and more powers over money and propertty too and finally i just told her she may just be totally with her sons and be happy rather than being divided between me and them. she would always call me and want to come to stay with me but my brothers woud not allow it and she would always give their decision higher priority. i would still visit her every 6 weeks for a few weeks. it was mostly a very difficult and painful time for me. my sisters-in-law, whom i would earlier suport aginst my brothers and mother, would also not support me openly with the argument “apko pata hai, ye sunte nahin hain”. what makes me wonder today, why tears come to my eyes everytime i think of my mother, is that today i understand it well how average a woman my mom was, dependent on male supremacy and not able to accept that a woman can also be on her own and feel good too. i wasted so many of my years of life waiting for her approval, just because everybody in India would tell me “o. a mother is a mother, she can never do bad to you” and the like, the worst thing is that all my friends in ngo sector too spread the image about me that “i am always fighting” .i would share with them these conflicts and would always tell other men and women to not to accept a mother’s (or father’s) dictates oif they dont fit your world view. my brothers and parents are economically-educationally well off with their children too having good jobs in multi-ntional companies and think i should have stayed in city, taken a good computer professional’s job and the like. i decided for a rural house, organic agriculture, rural women’s and children’s empowerment etc. after my mother’s recent demise, i am slowly becoming totally emancipated from her, feel sorry for her never having lived life on her own terms and also not having accepted her daughter living an autonomous life.
    thanks for giving me this opportunity to express my situation.

    • August 14, 2012 6:14 am

      Dear Asha,
      Thank you very much for sharing your story with us. In your doing so, you’ve also created the space and possibility for other Indian women to express the same feelings which they repress because they feel alone and isolated. Thank you not just for being courageous in this expression of your life story, but for giving other Indian women the courage to do the same.

    • January 9, 2013 11:20 pm

      Wow loved your story Asha. I do feel the same way. We indians are taught to obey elders no matter what! And thats what is disturbing..

    • January 10, 2013 5:36 pm

      i want to add to my above comment about how after my mother’s death in july I am able to analyse more rationally, what influence she has had on me and my life. and again now after another half a year, i realise how we daughters get harassed by even the very sons, whom mothers preferred and handed over all the property . when i used to ask her why she did not see to it that my name is also there in the ownership documents, she would always find excuses and say she never understood what was happening (not even when she was signing?) and when I would raise the issue every time the brothers would make me feel bad, they would say I am such a doubting personality, always fighting and the like , that the flat is of course for me when the parents are no more there, etc. etc,, being the only daughter and the eldest, may be? and now when the time has come and I asked them to get it put in my name they are questioning me about what makes me believe that I should be the only owner. they are asking for a big sum to be paid as advance so the flat can be put in my name. it is unbelievable for me, that they can become so rude and unhelpful. their wives are keeping quiet. so i warn you girls/women to be careful and get the property in your name while the parents are alive, irrespective of what names they call you. dont trust your brothers either!

    • January 14, 2013 3:53 pm

      Thank you Asha! Yes, not just brothers and fathers, but with husbands and in-laws too. Even middle class, educated women in India, are very trusting, and they need to take control of their own resources and fight for their rights in context of inheritance from their parents, as well as joint property if and when separating from their husbands. The laws and police don’t make it easy at all, but the women must be resolved to insist on their rights and fight all the way through.

    • asha kachru permalink
      May 14, 2013 8:15 pm

      let me add the latest with my family and property case.
      now that my mother and father both are dead (it is about 10 months since the last death) my brothers are denying to hand over the flat to me. they say I must hand over a share for my dead brother’s wife abroad who never raised claim for it. they used to say i am a bad ,woman, always distrusting others, always fighting whenever i would even just raise the topic of the flat whilst my parents were alive. they would say “of course it is for you only as the only daughter”,. even my sisters in law were of the opinion that I should have been at least be involved in the decision making and/ or that I would get it when both are dead, but since it is the brothers, besides my parents in whose name the flat was registered then, I have no legal right to get it now. i am dependent on their goodwill. That’s why i would even ask my mother to see to it that it is done whist she is alive, but she too would instead get angry about my questioning my brother’s integrity. facts are they all are well off and i live in a small village in a modest rural house. not that i am unhappy about the decision to live in a rural area but now that I am quite old I sometimes want to have some urban comforts, things iike swimming or seeing a good movie in a good theater or go to a chinese or italian restaurant or getting my laptop repaired by trained people etc. all the possibilities a modern indian city like pune offers and since I have been coming here for the last 25 years visiting my parents i thought i would as well spend some of my time here too. and now i am asked by my brother to vacate the flat so they can renovate and sell it at a good price and then (hopefully) give me my share. i am again listening to them bcoz I am not desperate. I am happy in my village home with my rural extended family members and I am financially not dependent on them. i find my life too exciting to be wasted on a court case with them. i will wait and see what their intentions really are and those of my sisters in law too. one of them would say “your brother never listened to me, when I told him to ask you to come to the registry office” and ” when mom dies we will put it in your name” resp. now both are hiding behind their husbands who are the chief culprits if i may call it rightly. my mother as an illiterate person used to say she did not know what was happening when she was taken to the notary and my father was already an alzheimer patient and could not think well. anyway I know I have been a fool not to have been more forceful when I should have. I would instead cry and go back to my village home. I am like that, a very soft hearted person too, besides being a radical feminist. how else do i explain the tears I have for my dead mother always when i think of her (unfulfilled life)
      dear sisters, please do not listen to others when they call you bad women, whenever you ask for your rights.develop the self-confidence and the courage to withstand the situation.- try meeting like minded and dont give up!

    • May 15, 2013 6:10 pm

      Asha, So many women in India don’t fight for their property rights for exactly the reason you say. You are strong to fight for your rights, to speak out about it, and indeed to let Indian women know they should do the same! Stay strong — you will succeed.

  10. August 12, 2012 6:33 am

    If we want change, we will have to individually confront it and take responsibility. It is only when enough individual women find the courage to do this, however terrifying and lonely it may be, that we’ll begin to see a change for women at the societal level.

    How true!

    All the best to your efforts.. I hope many women take courage from you and try and fight this evil.

  11. December 6, 2012 12:49 am

    I, too, found this to be one of the biggest problems in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. The mothers and sisters of a victim would so often say, “Go home and make your husband happy and he will not do such things.” (The things being beatings, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, etc.) Women must always take up for other women. We can be a strong force if only we stick together. I am so glad to see this blog – it is so very important for all women, all over the world, not just in India or in other countries, but ALL countries, including the USA and European countries…

  12. asha kachru permalink
    December 6, 2012 5:44 pm

    another attempt: the first one failed bcoz of computer problem. I want to reply to joannes point about why we are again only punishing women and not men, who actually are the real culprits, being the owners of patriarchal structures and its impacts on the lives of women. I think it is an important point, but I also feel it important to mention that we have always been looking at ourselves as victims and so demanding change from others. However more and more of us also know that change has to start with yourself. if we want to accept the facts that women have now achieved quiet some rights and are educated and economically well off too, at least in urban areas, then we can ask about their responsibilities too. Are women being good citizens, are they being good mothers, good daughters etc. etc. with all the previleges they do have achieved over the years? I find no, they aren’t. Why are so many men able to continue with their corrupt behaviours? We talk a lot about anti corruption these days. Do we accept the fact that if women would refuse to accept the advantages (monetary, security…) their men (husbands, sons…) bring them, corruption would not happen, at least not as much as now? Do we take responsibility for the options we chose as women, to lead lives as we decide to do? Do we accept the fact that our daughters/sons are products primarily of our upbringing, the ethics we believe in. fathers generally do not have so much influence on the (mental) growth of their children as mothers do, just bcoz the latter spend so much more time and energies on their children. why does our society give so much importance on the mother’s role of women? It is bcoz of these very reasons, but unfortunately the society, the relatives, the friends, the colleagues.. do not question the mother’s worldviews, they think just being mother will do good to the child. Mata Devi…This is totally wrong as all the above cited examples show.
    So as a responsible citizen, mother, friend, teacher, I feel it is time we question/ reflect on our own ethics too. And rita bannerjee has to be thanked that she has had the courage to open the Pandora box and has challenged all of us to do that, namely reflect on our responsibilities and come out with our fears, our low self-confidence, low self esteem, our victims approach, our misogenous behavior towards our own and our daughter’s lives etc…

  13. Leona permalink
    January 27, 2013 2:20 am

    Thank you for an eye opening article. I was searching for information on mothers betraying their daughters and you have explained the mechanism with such clarity, I am not Asian and had little awareness of the cultural implications of what women and daughters sadly endure. Sadly betrayal has many forms. Best wishes in raising more awareness and hopefully some real change.

  14. February 18, 2013 3:28 am

    My spouse and I stumbled over here by a different page
    and thought I may as well check things out. I like what I see so now i am
    following you.

  15. Joan Earnshaw permalink
    March 15, 2013 8:49 pm

    There is absolutely NO HONOR IN LYING–it does not matter if the lie is spoken or silent–it is still a lie and still the most shameful thing in the world.

  16. May 13, 2013 11:04 am

    The best method against the concealment is to make it public.

  17. asha kachru permalink
    May 15, 2013 9:31 pm

    dear rita i wish i knew someone a woman lawyer preferably who could guide me in my case, in case my brothers dont give me the promised share. i think this is another lacunaewe must create a databank of feminist lawyers in india in different cities so the women could locally made use of it.

  18. February 12, 2014 8:06 am

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  19. sahitha permalink
    March 15, 2014 1:09 pm

    I so agree with this article! Yes when a girl child is subjected to abuse or death, the people who do it are responsible for it as well as the enablers. The enablers in most cases are the mothers, they enable the abusers by being passive. Society is what is and is not going to change unless enough individuals get the courage to change in their personal lives. I have read other peoples’ comments who felt this article was bashing women again but I think what Rita was pointing out to is the dynamic between women. However, it is true in India that a father is almost absolved of his responsibility to his off-spring by society. No one stands up and points a finger at him for not being a good father. I think all of them are equally to be blamed for. Patriarchy never said kill another person, so why are they doing it? They know they are murderers when they do such things. Isn’t that what people are called when they take others’ lives? Murderers!!! Murderers!!! Murderers!!! That’s what they are. I think patriarchy has some role to play in all of this but I am not sure it advocated killing other people. These people who do it in the name of having sons are nothing but selfish, cold-blooded murderers who have no concern for life at all..

    I dream of a day where men are equally held responsible for this behaviour openly.

  20. August 4, 2014 1:16 pm

    This is so true. Actually I am coming from a culture where abortions are considered taboo. So female foeticide is not common. But ofcourse girl child is brought up with as an inferior being. And mothers play an important role in making the child believe that she is something less worthy and always deserved less that the boy child.


  1. Fear: the root of prejudice, blame, contempt, hatred, hysteria, phobia & paranoia « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

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