Friday, 5 December 2008

The Girl Child

One of the things, high on my to-do list when I get back to India is to join a charity or an NGO to help improve the condition of the girl child in India. This is something very, very close to my heart and I want to do what I can, to help.

It is a sad statement, that in a time where we have everyone talking of minorities - there is one minority which is essentially ignored and treated badly almost across religious barriers - the womenfolk. Even in today's modern world, where women contribute as much (if not more)- they are just not given their due place in society.

I have been brought up in a culture which values girls - we have a matrilineal society - so I have never felt this discrimination. The very first time, that I was aware of this distinction was when one of our neighbours in Jamshedpur, had a baby boy. Now, they had 4 daughters already and when the boy was born - they actually had a party which could rival any wedding! What was exceptionally shocking was, that for the 7 or 8 years that we lived there - never had we seen a single birthday being celebrated for those girls. I wonder what must have gone through those girls' minds to see such blatant discrimination.... It was also a very common practice for families to send their sons to English medium schools and daughters to Hindi medium schools. And all this was among educated families - so I shudder to think what must happen in the less educated ones...

It pains me that even today, female foeticide is common , and totally acceptable in several parts of India. I guess, it might be more shocking for them to hear someone say that they would prefer to have a girl. What is most shocking is that this happens even among the educated people . This was something I always knew, but what shocked me more was that it was even prevalent among Indians(Asians as a whole) in the UK. When I was pregnant( I was in London, where they tell you the sex of the baby), and was told by the ultrasound technician that I was expecting a girl - my joy knew no bounds. I was however stunned when he asked - ' Are you guys OK with it? Your community prefers boys, don't they?' I was surprised that he ( he was not Asian) knew about this. This prompted me to look it up on the Internet only to find out that in several areas in the UK where the Asian population was high -they actually avoid telling people the sex of the baby, for fear that they would abort it!

The sad thing in India is, that despite the fact that it is not allowed by law to find the sex of a foetus, it is still done and foetuses aborted without a second thought. This mainly happens because the society is still fixated on boys being the harbinger of all things joyful and girls being a burden. The main difference being that for a girl, you need to give dowry. I have heard of families who start saving up from the time that they had a girl. That reminds me of a maid, who used to stay at our outhouse. This lady, apparently, did not feed her baby girl for 2 weeks after she was born, because she just did not want a girl. At the point when my mother first met her, she used to treat her son and daughter very differently. Her daughter was always asked to give everything first to her brother and the boy was never, ever asked to share. Slowly, in the 3 years that they stayed there, my mother managed to make her understand that she needs to treat both her son and daughter equally and to try and give both of them equal opportunities. The best part was that the daughter was much, much smarter than the son - I do hope she has not forgotten everything my mother had managed to drill into her!

I guess, such examples abound in our society and things will never change until each of us do our bit to fight this menace. I do believe that we can all do our bit to help remove this stigma. I would like to sponsor the education of a girl - so that at least one girl gets a better chance at life.. I do hope that by the time my 2 yr old daughter grows up - she will never have to be shocked that these kind of things still exist in our society.

Other interesting links on the subject

Stop female foeticide!


Indian Home Maker said...

I also feel very strongly about it. Unchahi by Roop is another blog that fights for the disappearing Indian girl child. I wrote a post about my own experience, when my daughter was born here .

Smitha said...

@IHM, I just hope more middle class people would realise and consciously work against this practise. It breaks my heart that people even today want a 'boy'!I always go out of my way to clarify when I even hear people saying that - 'oh you can have a son next' that I always wanted a girl and would be delighted if I could have another little girl! I will check out your post right away...

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