Traditional Marriage and Wife Spanking in India

This is a testimony from one of our female Indian readers about upbringing and marriage in traditional Indian, and Hindu families. Her husband has also helped me a great deal in understanding how marriage and family works there. This experience does not reflect every family in India, where in certain places western values have taken hold, but would be common if not the norm in many communities today.

According to articles I was shown, about half of Indians today believe it is acceptable for a man to “beat” his wife, and about 90% say a wife must obey her husband in all things. Divorce among Hindus in India is also exceptionally low. I believe testimonies such as these can give us a good idea why. While I usually do not include discipline material in which children are present, I do here, since it is a necessary part of the story, and reflects much of the culture. I have changed the names in the story to letters, for the sake of privacy:

I was born into a very traditional family with highly conservative values. My father has 2 older sisters and 2 younger brothers. My parents had an arranged marriage. Appa was 28 and Amma was 17, almost 18 at that time. I was born the very next year. N followed the next year and U was born a year and a half after that. My brother M was born 3 years after her. He is the only son. Therefore, he gets a lot of privileges. Appa will be sending him abroad for higher studies after he completes his bachelor degree here.

While growing up, my sisters and I had to return straight home from school / college / tuition. U often flouted this rule and often managed to talk her way out of it. M can hang out with his friends for a while. All of us women ate our meals only after the men, including M, had eaten. A lot of families still follow this tradition, but in recent 15-20 years, many families have stopped doing so.

Growing up, we all knew we had to obey our parents and other elders and Amma obeyed Appa. I remember some occasions when she talked back rudely to him. He would slap her on the spot, then take her into their bedroom. Many times, we have heard the sound of Appa’s belt and Amma crying and pleading with him to stop. Thus, it was programmed into me from an early age that the wife should obey her husband or face the consequences. Whenever I asked Amma and R (my paternal grandmother), they said it was normal. I have often seen my mother crying in the kitchen and rubbing her backside. One time, I told her Appa was a monster to beat her like this. Her reaction? She boxed my ears at once and told me never to say such things. It is his right as her husband. As his wife, it is her duty to submit to the correction and be a better wife in future. I started seeing things in a new light.

Although our father spanked us sometimes, it was always over our clothes. Our main disciplinarian was Amma. If we behaved badly, disobeyed or a neighbor complained about our actions, she never hesitated. She would slap, pinch, twist our ears, use whatever she could get hold of and spank us thoroughly. Over the years, I have received several thrashings with a broom, the roti roller, hanger, you name it. U was less likely to be punished. N got her share, but it felt like I was punished more frequently and more severely than both of my sisters. My brother received his fair share as well, but when he turned 13, only Appa disciplines him when physical correction is required. Appa has used his belt on me on a few occasions. He used a cane very occasionally, but when he did, he hit me only 2 or 3 times.

R came to live with us following the passing of T (my paternal grandfather). I was about 10 I think. I attained puberty when I was 12. Since that time, R asked Amma to let me sleep in her room. I took care of all her needs and spent hours listening to her as she talked about how a woman should be in her parental home and marital home. Submissive wife, obedience and the like were words she repeatedly drummed into me. None of us girls were allowed to cut our hair above our hips, but one day, when she was 15, U sneaked out and got a haircut. Her long, wavy hair was cut up to her shoulders. Amma wanted to beat her, but Appa laughed and told U she looked cute. He also told her it was a one-time thing and she shouldn’t repeat it. Of course she repeated it in a few months and once again, Appa stopped Amma from punishing her.

Oh yes, before I forget. On special occasions such as our birthdays or auspicious days, we children had to touch our parents’ feet with our heads and get their blessings. Amma has to touch Appa’s feet like that. Amma only sits in Appa’s presence when he asks her to. N and I followed her example, but U didn’t, needless to say.

Yes, U could get away with a lot growing up. By the time she was 16, she was spouting all kinds of feminist stuff. Appa tried to correct her, but even then she could talk circles around him and not be punished or be punished very lightly. I thought when she got admission to _____ University, she would lose all her family values. Fortunately, she fell in love with the right man and things are as they should be now.

Now for legal age for marriage, it’s 18 across India, but thousands of girls are married by the age of 16 or 17. Surveys show that 47% of Indian women are under 18 when they are married. In my family, it’s the norm to get the daughters married if they are 16 or older. To my knowledge, almost all women in my family (Amma, my aunts, cousins, sisters, etc) have gotten married in teenage only. Where education is concerned, girls are allowed to go to college, but only study degrees like English, history, etc. No engineering, medicine, law, etc.

Marriage is mostly arranged marriage only. The family does not encourage intercaste marriage. U was allowed to marry the man she had chosen because he is from our caste only and family is good with similar traditional, conservative values like mine. R and Amma reinforced constantly that after marriage, submission to husband is the natural way to be. I took these lessons to heart. U rebelled against them.

Pattima and Amma always used to say don’t ever get ideas into your head that you’re equal to a man. You’re not. You’re a woman and your husband will have complete authority over you just like your father. Always remember your place. As for discipline, I’ve seen my mother get punished and how she behaved after that. She taught us this was normal and a man has every right to physically correct his wife when needed. Occasionally, the punishment may go overboard, but just bear with it.

As for the religious texts and gender roles, the Manusmriti says a woman has to be under her father’s authority till she’s married. Once married, she is under the authority of her husband. If she becomes a widow in old age, her son has to take care of her. As you can see, a woman has to be under a man’s authority throughout her life. Independence for women is not advocated. How many women stick to this today is anybody’s guess. This text is against divorce for any reason. Once married, the wife should worship her husband as God even if the man lacks virtue. That does not matter. She has to be obedient, bear and raise children and take care of the home. Chapter 3 of the text says a woman has a place of honor in the family. Where a woman is honored, God dwells (M 3:56). A woman is cherished, but she needs to be under a man’s authority throughout life. She shouldn’t deny her husband her body. A woman attains salvation through her submission to her husband.

One of the Hindu religious texts that clearly shows the relationship between man and wife in marriage is the Manusmriti. There are teachings which are very practical and universal, as well as others which reflect Hindu mysticism, or may be unique to the culture. Here is a relevant chapter:

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20 responses to “Traditional Marriage and Wife Spanking in India”

  1. Excellent article

  2. Given the shocking levels of violent crime against women in India (see link below), I’m deeply disturbed by this post.

    [comment edited by Aron]

    1. Steffan, You should not be disturbed at all by the description of discipline in a traditional Hindu family. This has been done for thousands of years in India, as it has in other societies across the globe. It is in nearly all cases done safely, and for the correction of bad behavior. The good it produces, and the household peace it produces, only show what a helpful tool it is. Spanking has nothing to do with violent crime. It is a self-controlled, legitimate punishment given to wrongdoers. Just like punishment is given by a government to criminals. We need more discipline of wives and not less of it.

  3. This is so interesting.
    I grew up in a family of Turkish descent in western Europe, and my experiences were astonishingly similar in many aspects.
    My sister and me always had much stricter rules than my brother, we were expected to help in the household from early on, he only had to help my father from time to time.
    Also the separation of men and women during meal time was the same: When my father came home, he would sit down to eat, my brother was allowed to join him at the table when he was 8 years old, my mother, my sister and me would serve them food and drinks or stay in the kitchen when we were not needed. After the men had finished, we cleaned the table and had our own meal in the kitchen.
    If my father or my brother (when he was older) came into the kitchen (this happend not often, as the kitchen was seen as the women’s sphere – usually only for some announcement like “get ready, we’re going out”), we would stand up and wait standing until he left again.
    While we did not touch my father’s feet to greet him, we always bowed before him and kissed his hands.
    When we went out as a family, my father always walked first and we followed 5-10 steps behind, always wearing long dresses and hijab.
    Also when grocery shopping it was the women’s job to carry the bulk of the bags – only in case of especially heavy items or if is too much to carry, the men would take some items.
    If we misbehaved, we were punished, usually by my father – a quick slap for minor offences or as a reminder, or a proper spanking with the belt. Generally we girls got spanked more often, but often not as hard as our mother or our brother.
    I am now married to a wonderful husband, who was raised in a similar environment and expects me to follow similar rules than those I grew up with. If I don’t behave like he expects me to, I get spanked, If it happens outside the home I usually get 1 or 2 slaps to the cheek and a proper spanking at home. While it was an arranged marriage, I could have declined his offer, if I had not wanted this kind of relationship – many couples in our community now have abandoned these traditions and now follow more liberal and egalitarian patterns. But I believe that strict discipline and hierarchies within the family make submissive women and ultimately happy marriages. As a saying among women in our community goes: “If he does not spank you, he doesn’t love you”.

    1. Hello Emine, Thank you for sharing so much about the roles of men and women in your family. That’s very interesting. I know Muslim tradition, like Hindu, has preserved many good practices when it comes to marriage and the family. In the past in the West, Christians similarly understood such values, including modesty, and would have had many arranged marriages as well. We have occasionally purchased Muslim modest clothing in the past to find something appropriate for my wife or our girls. I know maintaining the man’s authority in the home will help you and your community. It is encouraging to see.

    2. Hi Emine, I too have similar experiences. I’m from India. Grew up with siblings of both genders. We women served the men first, then cleaned up after them before eating our meal in the kitchen. My mother and us girls only sat in our father’s presence if he asked us to do so. Growing up, it was mostly our mother who disciplined us girls, usually a few slaps, a twist to the ears, etc. For major offences, our father spanked with belt, but always over clothes. Mother and brothers got spanked harder and more severely. I’m now married to a man from the same kind of traditional background. It was only after marriage that I got my first bare-bottom spanking. My husband spanks usually with belt, sometimes with a paddle and occasionally with a cane. I also get a lot of slaps across the face. Many Indian women and even some Indian men have abandoned traditional gender roles and have equal marriages. A lot of Indian women now work outside the home. I firmly believe that male authority in marriage coupled with corporal discipline are necessary for a successful marriage.

      1. A Learning Wife Avatar
        A Learning Wife

        Hi Shweta,

        I’m born and brought up in US but my parents are from India. I always wonder about Indian family culture and tradition. Would love to know how DD is handled in your home/community? What rules so you have? How does your husband handle your punishment in front of children?


  4. Wondering Avatar

    I wasn’t going to say anything about the article. But I will say this: I am glad we aren’t exactly like this. I respect my husband, but I am more than JUST a maid or servant. I cook and make sure everything is taken care of for him. But, we eat together as a family.

    But really, what I wanted to say was: no matter how good you are to your husband, and obey him or whatever, it will never earn your way into Heaven. Just wanted to shed some Bible truth right there.

    1. Yes, marriage is an image of the path to heaven, which is through Christ’s grace upon His people, but it can’t bring anyone to heaven itself.

  5. I thing segregation at meals is not in the spirit of the marriage relationship for any Christian marriage. And children groveling at their parents feet seems pretty out of line in a Christian family too.

    1. Hello Bob. Just wish to clarify something. Children don’t ‘grovel’ at parents’ feet. We touch our parents’ feet as a mark of respect and to seek their blessings. Same applies when a wife touches her husband’s feet. In fact, in most Hindu wedding ceremonies, once the groom ties the mangalsutra around the bride’s neck and the other ceremonies are completed, the newly-weds touch the feet of every elder in the family to seek their blessings for a long, happy married life. Please don’t use such derogatory terms to comment about a cultural practice which you don’t understand. That’s disrespectful to people belonging to other cultures and nationalities. And yes, a wife also touches her husband’s feet to seek his forgiveness.

  6. I am not married yet, but my fiance is a very traditional man and strictly believes in obedience and discipline. He told me his rules and what he expects from me after marriage and that there will be punishments for disobedience and disrespect.

    I believe that a husband should be the leader of the household. I have no problem accepting punishments like slap on the hand, spanking or corner time .. etc, but for some reason I struggle with the idea of face slapping .. as I read here some wives get it often.

    My fiance never said that he might slap my face, but if I rejected this form of discipline, would it make me a bad wife? Or less submissive?

    Should a wife accept every type of punishments her husband choose to discipline her? How should she act or behave if she feels that a certain punishment is too harsh? What are the limits a man should consider before punishing his wife?

    I apologize for asking too many questions 😀
    Thank you in advanced.

    1. Hello Desert Rose, Thank you for your comment. Congratulations on your coming marriage. I am happy to hear your marriage will respect the natural order of the husband’s authority, as well as his right to use discipline. I appreciate your desire to be a good submissive wife.

      I know there are many husbands who use the slap on the face. Some do it occasionally, if it seems a necessary way to stop a wife in her tracks if she behaved badly. Others use if more commonly for a quick corrective measure. As his wife, you ought to respect a correction that comes in the form of a slap on the face, as well as one that comes as a spanking on the bottom. You should rightly by humbly changing what you are doing.

      However, I don’t recommend the slap on the face. It carries obvious dangers because of the sensitive organs in and around the head, and also comes off more as an act of aggression, than a loving punishment. However, if a husband finds that it works, he can use it, but he must exercise caution in how he applies it.

      It is hard to state specifically where to draw the line with punishment. There is a question both in terms of what kinds of punishment may be too severe, as well as what act a wife may legitimately refuse. Even ordinary spanking, if done carelessly, can cause injury; but this is very rare, and it’s no reason to refuse one.

      I would warn against any punishment that by its intent, or by its nature, will cause serious injury. That would be injury beyond the normal passing marks that a spanking leaves, such as bruises or welts. I would warn against striking other parts of the body, which are much more easily injured than the bottom, including the breasts, or genitals. Anywhere there is very little fat to protect the muscle, or there is bone immediately underneath, is best to stay away from.

      I also warn against many of the practices seen in bdsm. There are people who use suffocation, strangulation, or get into cutting, blood, and bodily waste fluids. This goes way beyond the territory of an ordinary spanking, and comes off more as an attempt to demean another person, or establish a form of totalitarian control over them.

      Considering that you haven’t faced your husband’s spankings yet, I wouldn’t worry too much about at what point you might need to refuse. A lot of matters get worked out with love anyway, and many husbands are willing to listen to their wives regarding which punishments help her to learn, and which do not. Have trust in your husband, and in your marriage union. I would only point out that if any act is immoral, or if you know serious injury would result, you can rightly reject the punishment.

      If you believe that a punishment is too harsh, you may tell him. It’s important to explain with with a full respect for his right to correct you. It would be wrong to make accusations against him, or disrespect his decisions. However, you can tell him why you believe it is too harsh, or how it is possibly inappropriate, or too demeaning for punishment.

      It really should not be a problem, as long as a husband stays within the basic parameters of giving a spanking, and doesn’t get involved in any extreme practices. Spankings are effective; they hurt but do not cause any serious injury, they humble a wife, and they come with restoration at the end. As long as he keeps within this territory I don’t think you’ll ever have to face any of those worries. You will only have to face a spanking, which by itself is not easy.

      I hope that helps give you some insight in the matter.

      1. Thank you so much. Your response is very clear and on point. I appreciate it.

      2. Yes, this was so helpful. I appreciate your detailed response 🙂

  7. If I can, I’d like to weigh in on the other side of the coin, Desert Rose. Elsie, my wife, has lived through a lot in her life. She needs clear leadership and a gentle hand. I spank her and have rules but I also hear her heart. There are things I could do as the HOH that I won’t do because it wouldn’t humble her it would frighten her and make her scared of me. I expect her to respect me but I don’t want her to be afraid.
    I’ve learned being her husband that a trusting wife is a respectful wife. People get way more out of discipline when they feel respected and safe.
    Be specific but be respectful and allow him the opportunity to be a strong and safe man for you.

  8. I have read and read over the comments on this a few different times. I 100% believe in DD however, I struggle deeply thinking that husbands think it’s ok to slap your wife. I know that my comment may get back lash and I apologize ahead of time. I know different cultures have different beliefs. My thoughts are simply this. I am the one who asked for DD in our marriage. I have seen the benefits of a spanking. I feel loved and respected and nurtured when my husband says whoa lady let’s get this fixed now. I just feel like a slap to the face is so disrespectful. I would really have a hard time respecting my husband if he slapped me across the face. I would feel completely disrespected by this behavior and I am pretty sure it would pull me back from the feelings a spanking does have on me. I have a hard time believing that my Heavenly Father would EVER slap his wife across her face. We no so little about our heavenly mother because of his utmost respect for his wife. I feel like that a slap to the face is so inappropriate. I know if you feel like your wife should receive her face slapped she has stepped out of line pretty bad and that it should be handled with a hard discipline session on her bottom. I also feel like women should submit to their husbands. I want to be a submissive wife but I also want to be respected wife. A slap to the face in my opinion is a husbands loss of control over his temper. I don’t think I have ever read anywhere in the scriptures a wife should be slapped around when she steps out of line. I have read about discipline and submission. Our father heaven loves his daughters so much I feel like he would be with me on this as well. I am sorry if I have come across disrespectful in any way. Just my thoughts on this specific subject.

    Aron I love your site. I patiently wait for a new topic and check back often.

    1. Hello NM Girl, Thank you for your comment. I’m very glad you enjoy the site, and I hope it’s been helpful to you. A lot of men and women in this culture, including those who practice wife spanking, find the slap in the face very different from a spanking. It comes off as disrespectful to some, or more violent and aggressive to others. I would not use it except in unique circumstances that really demand it.

      However, much of that is a personal and cultural take on it. In other cultures it is more common, and it works fine. Many women may much prefer a slap in the face to getting caned. It is also much faster than a spanking. The one objective point I see in the difference is that slapping in the face is riskier than ordinary spankings are, because of all that’s located on the head. I’d be interested in hearing what readers coming from a similar culture to the author have to say. Perhaps a husband from those cultures could explain why they use it and how.

      It is also subjective to say whether God would use slapping or not, and of course God does not have a body, except in the Incarnation in Christ, and couldn’t slap anyone. The Bible makes it clear that God can give severe chastisement, as well as an unforgettable humbling, when He desires to correct His servants. This is without a doubt. I don’t see how this possibly rules out slapping. On another point, we do not have a heavenly mother, but we can see God’s relational nature through the Trinity, in Father, Son, and Spirit. They live eternally in perfect love, and communion with one another.

      I appreciate you bringing up this point. Take care.

  9. Hi Aaron,

    I really agree wholeheartedly with your stance on wife discipline. It’s an absolute necessity in this day and age, especially with feminism rising to new heights. Us women often need to be reminded of our place. I believe in traditional gender roles, and the role of the wife in serving the husband and taking care of the home. I just wish with all my heart that my husband would hold me accountable. I’ve mentioned it to him several times in the past but he’s not really consistent. He’s very soft, whereas I crave his leadership and have craved it for the 16 years we have been married. What can I do differently to help this situation? I know I can’t change him, but what can I do proactively to fall into the submissive role I do deeply desire and need?

    1. Hello A, Thank you for visiting this site and for your comment. I’m glad you appreciate the value and usefulness of discipline in marriage. Do your best to explain to your husband how you believe it would help you, and also help him, in the marriage, and why you need him to be firm with you. You might also share with him good reading material about discipline, and let him explore it further.

      There is much you can do to work on your own submission, apart from having your husband’s clear guidance. Set your mind on honoring him as your king. Communicate with respect to him. Let him see the authority he has by asking him permission for things, and deferring to him regarding decisions. Do not refuse him anything, including in the marriage bed. Always offer to help. If you have done wrong be quick to apologize to him, and express your deep remorse.

      I have this one article about putting submission into practice that offers this and further advice:

      Remember, your husband is your head, and you are his helper, even if you both are not fully living out those roles. It is simply the reality of marriage. Your submission is given to you by God, and not by any man, and is written into your nature. You will find that your softness, and your gentleness as a woman help you in knowing how to submit to him. They will help you bring that submission to a greater level. Nurture your femininity.

      I hope that offers you some help with the situation. Feel free to write me at my e-mail, or have your husband write me as well.

      Take care.

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