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Under threat in India: mothers-in-law?

But fear not. Here comes the All India Mother-in-law Protection Forum.

“The laws favor the daughter-in-law, the police favor the younger woman and all television soaps portray the mother-in-law as an evil monster,” said Dhulia, who joined 50 other women to found the All India Mother-in-law Protection Forum (known by its acronym, AIMPF), itself an offshoot of Save the Indian Family Foundation.

It is true that India’s popular prime time soap operas are centered on the saas-bahu (mother-in-law and daughter-in-law) relationship and often show the wicked machinations of evil mothers-in-law.

Dhulia cites a dozen laws and says the Indian legal system, unlike gender-neutral Western laws, heavily tilts in favor of daughters-in-law. In reality, she says, the older woman in the Indian family is quite often the silent victim who suffers because she is reluctant to come out in the open.

Dhulia says she and other founders decided it was time to correct the bias.

The forum reflects a changing society, concedes Dhulia. “There is less tolerance among young women these days, they have lofty dreams and do not mind breaking up families to reach their greedy goals,” she said. Balmiki Nayak, 60, a volunteer for the organization, agrees. “Family bonds are breaking down, young women covet freedom above all else these days,” he said.

Sociologist Vasavi said that often the rupture and tension in the traditional family system has been brought about by the ability of educated and financially-empowered young women to question oppression and walk out of abusive situations.

Meanwhile, members of AIMPF are going about setting up centers countrywide. Says Balmiki: “We are no longer willing to be victims of legal terrorism."