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Why should my marital status decide how much gold I can own?

Shriya Mohan | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:38 IST

Demonetisation has brought about a glut of policy changes in India, the most recent of which is about the amount of gold one can possess without attracting the attention of the authorities.

"Jewellery and ornaments to the extent of 500 gms for married lady, 250 gms for unmarried lady and 100 gm for male member will not be seized, even if prima facie, it does not seem to be matching with the income record of the assessee," the IT department said in a statement on Friday, after the Lok Sabha passed the new limits.

But the problem isn't the wrath of the IT department if one exceeds the limit. The problem is a more nuanced one. Why should a married woman be entitled to hold double the quantity of undisclosed gold that a single woman can hold?

Perhaps the government thinks that women who marry wear more gold than women who don't. That Indian girls go from being 'cool' jeans-clad women to heavy gold wearing 'aunties' in a flash.

Or is the assumption more complicated, that we women need our husbands, in-laws and parents to buy us gold? What need and purchasing power could a single woman possibly have?

Breaking the patriarchal mould

A quick look at the economics of it tells us that one-fourth of Indian women participate in the country's workforce. While this seems low, in urban areas, the figures are much higher, with nearly one in two women joining the workforce.

With improving literacy levels and more social empowerment, this is only set to grow. This new economic independence has meant two things: a greater purchasing power for the female workforce, and a bigger decision-making role for women.

Women are increasingly wearing the proverbial pants, and calling the shots.

They are more financially independent than ever before. They want tangible evidence of their success. Jewellery is often that badge of honour, which celebrates the tough climb up the social ladder to financial independence.

It is no coincidence that the rise in self-purchasing of jewellery has coincided with historic numbers of financially independent women.

Remember the proudly-single Sushmita Sen flaunting her big rock, saying "I don't need a man in my life to have diamonds. I can own them myself"? That was a moment that resonated with many women.

Jewellery ads cashed in on the mood, firing women to go indulge themselves. They deserved it, the ads said.

What the authorities don't realise is that the latest reform on gold holdings reeks of patriarchy. Who is anybody to say that a single woman has less of a right to indulge in gold?

If there is a gold holding limit, make it the same for everybody. Else, brace yourself for the wrath of the fiery women's brigade who never needed marriage to earn their rights - least of all, the right to own gold.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 3 December 2016, 7:33 IST
Shriya Mohan @ShriyaMohan

An editor and writer of development stories at Catch, Shriya has 8 years of experience as a development journalist, holds a Masters degree in Public Policy from the National University of Singapore and is a two-time winner of the National Foundation for India media fellowship award. When she isn't exploring the universe with her two-year-old daughter, she chronicles public anger and shelters relevant stories that don't hang sexily on news pegs.