Some women journalists in South Asia choose to wear fake wedding rings to deter unwanted suitors. But maybe if their male colleagues backed off, they wouldn't have to.

“Are you married?” a male colleague at the Times of India asked me in 2011, pointing to the gold ring on my wedding finger. It was my first full-time job as a journalist and I was excited at the prospect of making tangible social change through my work. One week into my new role at the largest newspaper firm in India, I was not yet close to anybody on my team. So the question felt both intrusive and unwelcome.

But before I could even begin to answer, another male colleague quipped, “More importantly, are you happily married?” stressing the word “happily”. Both of them laughed at what they evidently felt was a witty comment at the expense of my personal life, and a few others, including some women, joined in.

I smiled and dismissed it for a number of reasons I won’t explain fully here, but including the unfortunate fact that as a woman starting out in a competitive industry, I did not wish to be seen as “aggressive”, “unsporting” or “threatening”, all of which I have been labelled as being for asserting myself. If anything, that small exchange reiterated the reasons why I choose to wear a fake wedding ring (or an engagement ring, as it is referred to in India).