By Sharanya Gopinathan
So from April onwards, the Delhi government’s transport department will allow you to have your mother’s name on your driving licence. As of now, you’re required to provide either your father’s name, or your husband’s. But why has this new rule come into place?
A senior transport department official told The Times of India that the move was a big step in bringing gender equality to the transport department, which is both exciting and true. This is indeed the kind of everyday sexism encoded into law and bureaucracy that tends to have a subliminal effect on the way we think of ourselves and each other, and badly needs to be rooted out.
Unfortunately, the unnamed official went on to say that “this would be a big help specifically for those who for some reason do not want to provide their father’s name or have a single parent”. It’s disappointing, because the reason why people should be allowed to provide their mother’s name on official documents shouldn’t be that some people don’t want to provide their father’s name or are single parents. The purpose served by providing a father’s name is equally served by providing your mother’s (some might say more so in the latter, given that paternity can generally be a bit more doubtful than maternity), and that really is the only reason to make this change. A move like this should merely be a nod to the fact that a father isn’t a more important or significant parent than a mother.
Citing any other reason, like that some people have “single parents” (which actually means that some people have “single mothers”, because this change doesn’t really affect people who have “single fathers”) just feeds into the frustrating rhetoric that a father or husband is your primary identifying kinship tie, and the mother one who steps in as an identifier in the absence of a father.
It’s exactly what we were talking about back in April 2017, when we said we agree with Maneka Gandhi on the fact you should be able to get your degree certificate without your father’s name, but for different reasons than the ones Maneka provided. She had said that the rules should factor in the sensitivity around the issue of the “breakdown of marriages”, and in another correspondence about providing fathers’ names in passports, said it was “demeaning” for single women to reveal irrelevant details about the identity of their child’s father.
It’s always an odd feeling when a move that contributes towards gender equality and attempts to fight sexism is actually based on sexist rhetoric and logic. Still, perhaps a move like this, whatever the reason for its implementation, will go a long way in removing some of the unconscious sexism we imbibe from casual interactions like these.
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