Violence between female in-laws in India

Martin Rew, Geetanjali Gangoli, Aisha Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Indian mothers-in law are consistently legally implicated in violence against their daughters-in-law, particularly in dowry-related cases. This paper explores whether current sociological, psycho-dynamic and feminist explanations are adequate, arguing that policy and research must incorporate deeper understandings of the relationship between violence, abuse and the continuum of everyday practices of power and control in middle-class Indian households if women are to be protected from abuse. Critically, policy and research must recognise the impact of the socio-cultural preference for sons. Daughters are viewed as inferior; however, mothers to sons enjoy a relatively elevated position within the family. Even leaving aside issues of socialisation into traditional gender roles, this encourages a particularly close bond between mothers and sons that causes tensions between mothers- and daughters-in-law once sons marry. These tensions are complicated by the normative nature of patrilocality where sons stay within their parents’ home even after marriage, while married women join their husbands in their in-laws household. Thus, mothers-in-law, having finally obtained a relative position of power, often have a vested interest in perpetuating practices of control and power over their daughters-in-law. This represents a culturally specific form of patriarchal bargain that has significant implications regarding addressing the gender inequalities endemic in Indian society, with equally distinct psychological implications.
Key words: mother-in-law violence, dowry violence, discourse
Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Pages (from-to)147-160
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of International Women's Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


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