Rethinking Family as a Social Institution: Is your family democratic?

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The family system in India is often romanticized and glorified. In the cover of this glorification, we, often, tend to ignore how oppressive a family could be. First, let me clarify why a family should be democratic and what it is to be democratic. A family is the first social institution we interact with and remain attached to it throughout our lifetime. We are not only born in it but also our whole development as persons depend on how our families treat us and what kind of environment they provide us. In addition, it gives us a language to understand the world too. Thus, it determines how we understand the world as well as to ourselves.

   Now, why should a family be democratic? Because it is a social institution, and it also, prepares us to deal with society. The basic values, most of the families lack, are freedom, equality, and dissent. Let us think, the control of your family on what you do, whom you date with, whom you marry with, etc. Women and transgenders exercise less or in some cases no freedom than men, within the home as well as in society. Likewise, the family system maintains a hierarchy within its members, which is the source of inequality. The father, generally, is on the top of the hierarchy because he has control over money and resources. The mother may also do paid word but in most cases, she does not have control over it. So she exercises less freedom and less equality. Thus, gender plays an important role in determining how much freedom and equality, you would exercise.

   Further, the family does not allow to criticize the children to their elders in the name of respect. Criticizing someone does not necessarily mean disrespecting. The children and women both are forbidden to speak up what they think wrong. It becomes also difficult for girls to even criticizing their younger brother as they often stopped by saying “after all he is boy, no need to say him anything”.

  The above values of democracy are necessary for a healthy environment for a growing child as a citizen. For, how can a child criticize a social norm or practice like caste discrimination, marrying within the caste and religion, etc., and other unjust practices when she or he is afraid of disrespecting his or her family. How can a democratic country be maintained if the undemocratic institutions like the family are glorified?

    This article does not suggest that one should leave one’s family rather, the suggestion is that one should try to make one’s family more democratic by making it more liberal, more equal, and open to criticism.


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