Calling Husband By Name Disrespectful? Women Challenge The Ban

Women, particularly in villages, are taught from a young age to never address their husbands - or older male relative - by their name, as a mark of respect.

Mumbai: When non-profit Video Volunteers launched a campaign to tackle patriarchy in rural parts of the country, several women mentioned a seemingly innocuous custom: not being allowed to call their husbands by their first name.

Women, particularly in villages, are taught from a young age to never address their husbands – or older male relative – by their name, as a mark of respect.

But the custom, which is less common in the cities, is deeply patriarchal, said Stalin K, director of Video Volunteers, which is based in Goa.

“At first glance, it seems like a small, harmless custom,” he said.

“But even these seemingly inane practices matter, as they are as much a power play as sexual assault or violence against women,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Video Volunteers trains men and women in rural areas across the country to report on everyday issues that concern them.

The volunteers record short video clips on their tablets, which are then screened and discussed in the community.

About 70 volunteers in more than a dozen states were trained to report on patriarchy, sexism and violence against women.

More than 327,390 crimes against women were registered in India in 2015, an increase of more than half since 2010.

Many crimes go unreported, particularly in villages, because women fear bringing shame to the family.

The Video Volunteers reports included women talking about their limited freedom of movement compared to men, biases against widows, the practice of covering their heads in the presence of men, and the prejudice faced by women doing jobs considered to be a man’s – like driving tuk-tuks.

Several reports were about women not being able to call their husbands by name because they were told it was disrespectful and inauspicious to do so.

Instead, women addressed their husbands as the father of their child, by their profession, or simply, “please listen”.

In discussions held afterwards, women practised saying their husband’s name aloud for the first time, said Mr Stalin, who goes by his first name.

The women were then encouraged to talk to their husbands about the practice.

In many cases, the men did not allow their wives to address them by name, and one woman was ostracised by her village for referring to an older male relative by name, Mr Stalin said.

But some women were told they could call their husbands by name – in private.

“That is still a step forward,” Mr Stalin said.

“Our experience with this campaign is that these women are not passively accepting of patriarchy. They are very aware and just waiting for an opportunity to push back – in a thoughtful and considered manner, which perhaps has a greater impact.”

(Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran, Editing by Emma Batha. Please credit the Thomson ReutersFoundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit to see more stories.)

© Thomson Reuters 2017


  1. In India there is a tradition of not calling elders by name. This applies to parents, uncles, aunts and even elder brothers and sisters. Elder brothers are usually called Anna, Dada, Bhaiya etc. Elder sisters are usually called Akka, Thaye, Didi etc.

    There is nothing wrong with this practice. It enables greater bonding and family relationships. Likewise since most husbands are usually older than their wives, the practice of not referring to husbands by name has arisen. This is not wrong and it actually increases bonding.

    In the West they sometimes even call their own parents (and even grand parents) by name. The collapse of the Family system in the West is well known.

    Why these campaigners are interfering with the private lives of village women and and risking the breakup of their marriages is not understood. Calling someone by name does not make one equal and referring to them by a relationship does not make them inferior.

  2. Seriously! You guys have wasted your time. I guess it is ok for you to comment on Indian culture but would hesitate to do so on culture of other countries.

  3. Dude, if you prefer to bury your head in the sand and pretend that women, men and children are not abused by outdated patriarchal systems, then stay that way, but don’t impose that on others. Referring to a person by their name is one of the first ways of showing respect and acknowledging their status as an equal human being. Patriarchal systems would prefer that women not be considered equal to men, hence these stupid rules about not referring to husbands by name.

  4. Even men don’t call their wife with name. They just use ‘Pappu ki maa’ or ‘aap’ or some other way to address them in Rajasthan. In the whole report they didn’t show any statistics/proof to back their claim of Patriarchy. Just random use of word Patriarchy in every few paragraphs does not make your claim true. Show me proof that saying husband or wife name reduces/removes Patriarchy.
    Defaming Rajasthan in whole world, while sitting in you cosy AC rooms in Goa and Mumbai. I just wonder who pays them.

    USELESS REPORT TO CREATE RIFT BETWEEN HUSBAND AND WIFE. Feminists are curse on earth. Dear Feminists, look for real issue and grow some brain.

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