As women, we have continuously been told that we need to ‘fit in’ or ‘blend into’ the spectrum of the societal expectations and norms. The life of a woman is measured by the number of expectations she has stood up to. Regardless of the success she might have tasted in her professional work, she is subject to being judged and labelled by some of the simple choices that she makes. Remaining unmarried is one such choice. However, in our country, there is a lot that a single woman has to go through, by the simple virtue of being unmarried.
1. Restrictions on entering clubs and pubs in Gurugram
After a raid conducted by the Police on the MG Road area of Gurugram on 3rd July 2018, single women are being denied entry into pubs and nightclubs. The raids were conducted to check the alleged solicitation and immoral trafficking, and the club owners decided that the easiest way to avoid a repeat was to ban single women in the premises.
This ‘no-single-women’ policy disallows women who are not accompanied by their husbands or fiancés to enter these nightclubs and pubs. According to the club owners, the best way to avoid trouble is not ensuring that no illegal practices take place, but by barring women from enjoying their freedom. One of the club owners said that they have strict directions from the police to not allow any single woman to enter the clubs though they do have any written direction.
2. You need your guardian’s permission to travel abroad
Single women travelling alone in India are subject to a lot of harassment from their family raising brows over their safety to the difficulty in finding accommodation. To add to their plight, a No Objection Certificate from their guardians is usually asked by the travel agents. Guardians here, in case of single women refers to her immediate male family members. For married women who are travelling alone, they require an NOC from their husbands.
When a woman from Bangalore was asked to furnish an NOC from her husband by her agent in January 2015, it triggered public uproar citing discrimination. The officials dodged the demands by citing that there were certain ‘rules’ that they had to follow. Nobody, however, was sure who wrote these rules down, the police, embassy officials, or patriarchal norms that agents follow.
3. Single women are denied hotel rooms
The issue of biases passed at female solo travelers is not new. Every now and then, one comes across reports of prejudices that single women have to face while travelling. Another problem that single women go through while travelling is the difficulty of finding hotel rooms, especially in South Asian countries.
In June 2017, a spoken word artist from Singapore was denied a hotel room in Hyderabad owing to her being a woman solo traveler. The manager said that the police had earlier stated that the area is ‘unsafe’ for single women, this being the reason why they apply a ‘No Single Women’ policy on all their visitors. How is woman’s safety ensured in an unsafe area by denying her an accommodation is beyond what a rational mind can perceive.
4. Single women are not allowed mobile phones in many parts of rural India
What comes as a surprise in the millennial age of smart-phones, is that single women in many parts of Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh are not allowed to have mobile phones by their village heads. The situation came into limelight in February 2016, when a village in Gujarat banned mobile phones for single women and girls. They could use phones only if they wished to talk to their relatives, under the supervision of someone who is allowed to use a phone. The argument made in the favor of this step was that girls and single women should focus more on their education and not indulge in addictive activities like using a mobile phone. This comes in a country where female literacy rate stands at 65.46%, as compared to the 82.14% for their male counterpart.
5. Single women face difficulty in finding accommodation
In a report published earlier this year, 82% of the single women who are also working professionals in India have to face a lot of difficulty and stigma while looking for an accommodation in Indian cities. Cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Hyderabad, where thousands of young professionals flock to every year, for a career, have proved to be particularly hostile towards single women. Awkward questions, lewd comments, questions raised on a persons’s character only begin the narrative of horror stories faced by single women in our country.
In 2016, a documentary film was released by Shikha Makan, who had interviewed over 300 young single women in India who told tales of the difficulty they faced while trying to find an accommodation. While there is no law whatsoever pertaining to the special care taken by the brokers and owners of flats and other accommodation in our country, it is pretty evident that the life of a single woman is no cakewalk.
6. Restrictions on the possession of gold
Among the many things that single women cannot do just because they are single, is the restriction put on the amount of gold they can have. If the gold possessed by a person does not match their known income or inheritance, a married woman can have 500 gm of gold, while a single woman can have only 250 gm.
These are only some of the ways that single women in our country face discrimination based on their marital status. What is even astonishing is the fact that most of these are not even laws. They are just rules passed by satellite organisations of the government without proper review or debate, or the moral police who live around us. This just adds to the systematic oppression and biases against single women.
The everyday discrimination faced by single women stands testimony to the notion that women ‘belong’ to, first their fathers and then their husbands. In 2018, when all of us are talking so vehemently against the oppression of women, the 71 million population of single women should not be ignored.
This is by no means an exhaustive or representative list. Suggestions to add to this list are welcome in the comments section.