OPINION

Baarats Never Come To Us

March 28, 2006
Ra

When I was around 13 years old and my sister around 7, our parents took us for a holiday to Rajasthan. One of the places we visited was a town near the desert where we met someone from the BSF who invited us over for tea with him and his wife. His wife was a quiet woman, barely speaking. She served us some Sindhi sweets which we really appreciated, particularly my father, since they are not easily available. They reminded him of his childhood and his lost homeland.

Gradually, the officer's wife began to talk over tea, about her work and how she went around the villages talking to the women about their health and how to take care of themselves. She told us about one village where they had proudly told her that a baraat never came to the village, i.e grooms never came to collect brides from their village, they always had to go to other villages to get brides for their boys. The reason for this? No girl child was ever allowed to survive. They were killed by their own mothers, often by suffocation.

The UNFPA State of the World Population Report 2005, about which the Indian population has the following as excerpted in the Hindustan Times:

She strangled her first two babies to death because they were girls, terminated two other pregnancies because the foetuses were female and lost two baby boys to infections acquired in infancy. Married at the age of 18, Ranu from Rajasthan, said a girl child is killed by putting a sand bag on her face.

Another excerpt:

According to government reports, as many as two million foetuses are aborted each year for no other reason than they happen to be female...

"Missing''-- Mapping the Adverse Child Sex Ratio in India, released in 2003, talked of the decline in the child-sex ratio from 945 girls per 1000 boys in the 1991 census to 927 girls per 1000 boys in the 2001 census accordding to The Hindu


It's the mothers, women themselves, killing their own babies. They do so under tremendous pressure from their families and society at large. It's not going to change unless the men -the husbands and present and future fathers take a stand and fight for their daughters born and unborn. Many do, already, but it's not enough. It has to take on the scale of a nationwide movement-before it's too late.

Ra writes at http://punarjanman.wordpress.com
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#1
Sujatha
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March 28, 2006
02:08 PM

Uttara, thank you for this essay. I feel, however, that the problem is not so clear cut as it would seem. The lady who helps me in do the chores in my house, R, was telling me about her grandmother who was hell-bent on killing her (R's) two sisters as soon as they were born because R had already been born and she (the grandma) felt that one girl in the family was one too many. But it was R's father who stepped in, took a stand against his own mother and stood guard over his daughters day in and day out, not leaving their side so no harm would come to them.

Yes, in this case, the girls were saved because a man, their father, stood up for them. But women need to equally take responsibility for this. More often than not, the family pressure comes from other women. What do we say to all the educated women of South Delhi who indulge in gender selection, women who are supposedly economically independent and therefore, you would imagine, a little less susceptible to pressure?

#2
Uttara
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March 28, 2006
04:39 PM

Sujatha-that's horrible and you're absolutely right, women DO need to take equal responsibility.

I think some of the mothers who kill their own daughters feel it is not worth being born a woman, even if they are educated, because of problems like dowry (lots of south Delhi women bring a huge amount in "gifts" when they marry). The notion, even amongst the educated, that you belong to your husband's family once married and therefore cannot look after your parents or maintain the same ties with them, is one among many problems.

I think men need to play a bigger role, because they are the ones who are still generally more powerful in the family. A man can speak to his mother who is putting pressure on her daughter-in-law to have a son, more easily and with more influence. I recently read an article, it was in Outlook I think, where farmers from Punjab were justifying the abortions of their wives and daughters-in-law. I'm not saying women don't have a role-yes they do. But men need to play a much bigger role in valuing their daughters.

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