No, I am not announcing the arrival of a baby girl in my life. I wish I did have a baby girl. But nature overruled us. Yet, these same words of joy can instill fear and desperation for millions of people across the globe. Yes, I am talking of a genocide that is of a frightening scale.
There are 200 million missing women in the world today – this number is 2/3rd the population of the US, greater than the casualties of all wars and tragic events in the 20th century put together. Can we even begin to grasp the enormity of this vacuum? 200 million dead women who were killed or aborted for the want of a male child! This gendercide has been going on for a very long time, silently extinguishing a little girl every few seconds, and it is at the fringes of our consciousness, yet we choose to ignore it. And the biggest culprits are India and China – the two most populous nations on this earth who just can’t have enough sons. China with its 1 child policy and preference for sons has forced desperate parents to abort girl children in the hope of a male progeny.
In India, it is the traditional mindsets and patriarchal systems coupled with poverty and crippling girl-negative traditions like dowry that lead to a girl child being unwanted in most homes. Even affluent homes unfortunately, who can give the best of resources opt to have a male child forcing or brainwashing the mother to abort her fetus multiple times. If this is the situation in rich families, how can we even blame the poor? 5 million girls are killed every year in India.
In the TED video shared below, an Indian lady shows a small mound near her home where she buried her 8 daughters that she had strangled with her own hands. Desperate for a male heir, today she and her husband are childless. But they have no remorse or even regret. It instantly makes you hate her smiling face. But then hear her story. Her studies were rudely stopped when she was 15 years old, and she was married off to her sister’s husband because her sister was unable to have children. I wonder if she had any control over her own life to make her own decisions passed on as she was from her family to that of another man. Her most important role was to give a male heir to her husband. A role she tried very hard to fulfill but couldn’t.
It is not to say that things are not getting better. Not all Indians or Chinese are girl murderers. There is a big population of Indian girls who are supported by their families to lead independent lives. But, it is a very small part of the larger picture where male is still the preferred gender. Crimes against girls and women are still very rampant.
Let me share my own story. I was born a seriously sick child, underweight and hanging on to life with a thread. My grandparents were disappointed that another girl was born to my mother and father but luckily they made peace with nature’s diktat and did not force my parents to kill me. My mother and father did their very best to raise their two daughters and one son, equally, never depriving us of any opportunity. Being born in UP, I still can’t forget the words of an aunt who sneered when my excellent marks were being rejoiced about that, “She is a girl and will get married and go away. What is there to celebrate?” There were many more such comments. My parents ignored her because it is time that would prove her wrong. All 3 of us in the family went on to do our MBAs. More than our qualifications, my sister and I are independent thinking individuals. I have seen my father and mother go out of their way to support the maids that worked in our houses and also other girl children in their families. Yes, children learn from their parents. Each snigger and apology, each reaction is recorded in our tiny brains and imbibed. I am confident because my parents taught me by example. I am sensitive because I had the privilege of being brought up in a loving home that accepted me, loved me and showed me that I was not less than any other, gave me education and the right to question and demand. I endeavor to raise my kids to respect women and respect equality not by preaching but by practicing.
What can we do?
First and foremost – look in the mirror that is where we can see where our deepest prejudices reside. Do you see a girl/woman in your family, among your friends or neighbors being ill-treated? Did you do something about it? If not, then you are one among each one of us who is responsible for the vanishing female population in this world. Do you stand up for the girls/women in your family? Do you poke fun at others’ girl children? Are you on an ego trip because you have boys? Attack your thinking and complexes first! The next generation’s thinking hinges on that.
Can you talk about this issue? Can you help spread awareness?
Bring this issue out of intellectual discussions in living rooms into the mainstream. Increase awareness. Let each one of us see the mirror first. The society as a whole needs to pitch in with desperate measures. Right from the grassroots, the mindset towards a girl child needs to be changed. The doctors, the police, the politicians, our panchayats – all have to mobilize resources to make a difference. And social ostracization against the culprits may work too. It is no longer a neighbor’s business only. It is your business and the country’s business as well.
And you and I can do more. Treat our girls well. Educate them. Give them financial independence. Treat our women well. I ask the women to rise up in support of another woman just like them. She is your daughter-in-law, your mother-in-law, your mother, your aunt, your maid, your colleague – give her an extra helping hand when she needs one. Unless each one of us can put our own putrid demons to rest, the status quo will continue unabated.
Do more! It is already too late!
This entry has been written for Indiblogger and Franklin Templeton’s endeavor to speak about social causes. Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012 to bring us some powerful TED talks about new ideas and pathbreaking solutions!
Girl pictures courtesy: news.bbc.co.uk