And it’s a Girl Child!
'At exactly 11:11 PM, a baby took its first breath in the Jhareja household. By 11.13 PM, the entire family’s faces bore frowns, all their hopes shattered into a million pieces. An atmosphere of gloom and melancholy settled over the entire household. The somber and bleak looks on their faces seemed so distasteful that it seemed like they were in more agony than the time the head of the family had passed away.
Udita’s daughter, Kairavi had been born.'
This excerpt has been taken from the 'Imperfect Mortals: A Collection of Short Stories' by Insha Juneja.
Maybe this small excerpt could explain how a girl child is welcomed in India!
How can we hope for a better and progressive nation when more than half of our society remains under the shadow of discrimination? To find answers to such questions, we must understand the ocean of difficulties that a girl child faces in her life.
The first challenge they face is the challenge to survive. While numerous laws ban sex determination of a fetus and selective abortion, this practice continues in the shadows. Not only this negatively impacts the number of girls born but also, affects the health and safety of the mother. Consecutive pregnancies in the hope of a boy take a huge toll on her physical and mental health. Moreover, she is blamed for the gender of the baby, no wonder why!
The deteriorating ratio from 976 girls to 1000 boys in 1961 to 918 girls in 2011 demonstrates the grim reality. More than 6.3 lakh girls (aged 0-6 years) are estimated to be missing in India every year. They are aborted, killed, abandoned, or neglected to death just because they are girls.
From female infanticide to intimate homicide, girls and women encounter numerous oppressions during their lifetime, be it infancy, childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.
If they escape death, there are hurdles in their education. Safety concerns, the distance between home and school, lack of affordable sanitary napkins, and absence of separate, functional toilets add to the problem. Most of them are married off at a young age. Ahh yes, child marriage. As per Census 2011, more than 3 million girls below age 14 are married. It not only hampers their schooling but also robs them of their childhood.
People in our country are unaware of how the education of a girl child can transform their lives for the better. It is disheartening when people think that investing in a girl's education is a wastage of money.
'A girl child requires a higher investment in nutrition, health, education, and marriage whereas an Indian son embodies a range of economic and ritual roles.'
According to the 'Sex Ratios and Gender Biased Sex Selection: History, Debates, and Future Directions' Report, it is this conjecture that is contributing to the falling Child Sex Ratio. Indian parents are not simply opposed to daughters as such but they believe that at least one son is essential for the future of the family.
Moreover, the fear of inability to find a suitable groom for their daughters along with the societal pressure to pay a huge dowry for the same adds to the feeling of the girl child being a 'burden'. She is seen as a liability, a 'burden' that has to be passed on as soon as possible.
The roots of this problem lie in a strongly patriarchal society that has translated into an obsessive preference for sons and discrimination against girls. To get one son at least, parents give birth to many ‘unwanted’ daughters.
A change in the mindset of people is the need of the hour. Government intervention is necessary.
Did you know that India doesn't have a Uniform Civil Code, which means the law in matters pertaining to inheritance and sharing of property differs for people from different faiths?
Called 'paraya dhan' (wealth that belongs to another), a girl is often in a dilemma between her paternal and matrimonial homes. In addition, her property rights have always been a grey area. Though the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 granting equal rights to daughters to inherit ancestral property, the proper implementation is yet to be done in this regard.
In contrast to the above-mentioned points, Meghalaya proudly manages to be the largest matrilineal society in the world, where daughters are entitled to their mother's property.
Every girl child deserves to be treated and loved equally. Some parents do love their daughters and some even wish for girl children. Our patriarchal society has traveled a long way to reach this stage, with many more miles to go.
There are plenty of examples to show the flip side of son meta-preference. In any field we look at now, we can see the shift. Women are everywhere: in the force, cinema, literature, education, politics. Nowadays, you can also see women e-rickshaw drivers and bus conductors on the Indian roads. They’ve all come out to break the norm. They've all survived, lived their life and most importantly, are loved by their parents.
Just look around!
Signing off,Riya Shakchi