Saturday, February 18, 2012
OH DANG! IT'S A GIRL!
Several years later, several books after, several documentaries and articles after, some of the magic has worn off and I am shocked by the reality women in India have to face everyday. Like every developing nation steeped in archaic traditions and cultures that have no place in the modern world, India is grappling with issues like gender based discrimination, sex selective abortions and gendercide (female infanticide). It turns out that in spite of its inclination to female leaders and reverence for female goddesses, the birth of a girl child in India only means one thing for the poor Indian family - BURDEN!
Like China, male children are more likely to be celebrated than female children but Indian female children have to pay the dowry, making it worse for them. The tragedy of this culture is seen in the countless killings of innocent baby girls. The shocking anti female bias which pervades patriarchal societies is at its worst in India. At least with male children, families are assured hefty dowries and accorded respect in the society. So thanks to rigid and nonsensical beliefs, there is a drop in the female population. More than 40 million women are estimated to be missing in India as a result of female feticide. John Thor Dahlburg pointed out in his article "where killing baby girls is no big sin" published in the Toronto Star February 28, 1994 that the culture of killing baby girls is a century old practice that can be perceived as a wise action. "According to census statistics, "From 972 females for every 1,000 males in 1901 ... the gender imbalance has tilted to 929 females per 1,000 males. ... In the nearly 300 poor hamlets of the Usilampatti area of Tamil Nadu [state], as many as 196 girls died under suspicious circumstances [in 1993] ... Some were fed dry, unhulled rice that punctured their windpipes, or were made to swallow poisonous powdered fertilizer. Others were smothered with a wet towel, strangled or allowed to starve to death."
As the gender ratio falls from 962 in 1901 to 933 in 2001 in India and some women are forced to sleep with more than one man in a practice called "wife sharing" in some Indian communities and the issue of rape and trafficking continues to be on the rise, it is pertinent that the Indian government does more than dangle the carrot before the donkey as is seen in some programmes where families are promised aid and other inducements to keep their female children. The culture of dowry which in my opinion is the root cause for this bias, needs to be completely stamped out. Poverty eradication and education of the masses of the grave danger of gender infanticide through every medium should also be the top agenda of the government. Only then can women in India be truly free and maybe I can continue my daydream of being a woman in that wonderful place called India.