In past traditional, East Indian families, there was a very strong emphasis in the importance of the family group. The welfare of the group including extended family was of a far higher priority than that of any one individual within it. It was important that every single family member aspired to preserve and protect the family, often at the expense of one's own happiness and goals. Outsiders not belonging to the family were viewed with suspicion, and any interference from them in family matters would lead to much resentment towards them. This form of "us versus them" approach affected everything from the role of men versus women, to how much individual freedom one had as well as the differences between acceptable and unacceptable social values, and the consequences of breaking taboos.
The honor and reputation of the family within the larger social community was to be protected at all costs. In order to do so, important decisions were made by the men, and it was the family patriarch, usually the oldest male such as the grandfather who had the ultimate authority. Men and women had very clearly defined roles, much more so than in today's modern families where decisions are often made together and roles are discussed openly. In the Sarakatsan family, the men were expected to be physically strong and brave in order to protect their family . It was also socially acceptable for married men to engage in infidelity, whereas the complete opposite was true for women. .
In traditional standards, women were treated as second-class citizens in traditional East Indian society, which was very patriarchal. Taking her husband's last name was a given, not a choice. They were expected to obey their own families before marriage and their husband's families after marriage, at the expense of the former. Even with such obedience, she was often viewed as a type of outsider and with suspicion by her husband's family as to her motives, since she was not born into the clan.