Family structure in India is very compact and united and, in rural areas where the impact of industrialisation and urbanisation is lesser in degree, the normal way of life in a joint family is such that the women members of the family form a compact group with its own activities and hardly any interaction with the menfolk during the day. Husband and wife relationship are generally restricted to the nights.
The bride, finding herself in a lonely and often intimidating situation surrounded by strange elderly women in India, finds relief in the physical proximity of the husband who, in the course of time, assumes the same authoritative position in her heart as her father had in childhood. Thus, husband and wife relationship developed characteristics of a master and servant, the former taking over all the responsibility of providing the necessities of life and the latter being expected to be utterly respectful and unquestioningly obedient. This state of affairs hardly left any chance of emotional integration between the two. Further, the impersonal pattern of the joint family also contributed to the development of a somewhat mechanical sexual relationship, devoid of emotional significance. This is evidenced by Apastambha’s comment that the bride was given to a family and not to an individual. One might object to this observation with the argument that this situation did not apply to the whole of Hindu society or to every woman and thus did not constitute a serious problem. Psychologists’ contention that too much cruelty makes an individual callous is well observed in the behaviour of many women in India who, because of their innate force of character, were not ready to meekly submit to unjust infliction. This moral discontentment manifested itself in taunts, slighting remarks and innuendo among the women in India.
However, refusal to acquiesce to the traditionally prevalent injustice is not an innate characteristic of most individuals and, thus, the Indian woman’s emotional devotion to the husband was almost on par with that of the mystic towards the object of his adoration. Lack of education among women in India also contributed to their submission to the tradition in family relationship to the husband, family and society at large.
The worldwide sexual revolution in modern times is bound to have a far-reaching impact on the sexual relationship and standards of behaviour between the sexes in Indian society. Among educated women in India of different age groups, a conviction is growing that the prevailing sexual relationship and concept of sexual morality in Indian society need serious and ritualistic reappraisal. The progressively declining appeal of religion and adherence to tradition, increasing contact with the West by virtue of education and tourism, the availability of unobtrusive contraceptives, urbanisation and industrialisation leading to the development of a nuclear family are bound to transform the sexual patterns in Indian society. The new generation is already becoming acquainted with the liberalised sexual mores prevalent in the West, and it may be assumed that with the development of education and freedom to associate, the ideal of a relatively de-sexualised husband and wife relationship in a joint family is bound to give way to the development of a dynamic state of reciprocity. The transition in this direction is discernible from the fact that during the post-independence period, emotional religiosity has been giving way to emotional reciprocity strictly in consonance with Indian cultural values, especially among the middle classes where women are increasingly striving for education and economic independence.