So far we have mainly put the blame for the obsession with the male child on the man of the house. But have we ever wondered why this obsession is so deeply rooted in our society?
There are mainly two reasons for it. A male child is looked upon as a seed, when watered properly will give dividends in the form of a good job, flow of income, will bring in good dowry and also will support parents in their old age. A girl child on the other hand is a bad investment. Even if she is given a good education and takes up a job in future, her husband will have the right to her income. Second, on top of that no matter how educated and well-employed she is, the father will have to keep a large sum aside for her marriage celebrations. Even if the groom’s family do not expect a dowry they would expect the girl to have enough gold on her, expensive gifts for the groom’s relatives and needless to say a lavish menu at the wedding that would satiate the appetite of the baraati.
In a country where life is still a struggle for attaining basic amenities if such social norms dictate the future of the girl child, then it is inevitable that her existence will be in jeopardy right from the womb itself.
When I was discussing this with a school friend of mine he rightly pointed out that it is possible to stop this heinous practice of infanticide and foeticide if more and more women are empowered through education. I completely agree with him but I also feel that beyond education there is something called mindset. Women might have progressed in leaps and bounds in our country but when it comes to things like marriage, career and independence women most often choose to stay within the age-old societal norms.
I will give an example of the 1996-1998 batch of our Sociology MA class in Calcutta University. We were a class of 60 students of whom around 10 were men (left with no choice but to earn a living). Of the rest 50, around 10 wanted to have a career after finishing their masters and the rest 40 were already serving tea to numerous prospective grooms on Sunday mornings and the MA degree was an extra embellishment with that cuppa.
When I say getting over the mindset this is what I mean. The 40 girls in our class came from the best schools and colleges in Kolkata but what they wanted in the end was a lavish marriage and a perfect groom. Now, if their fathers perceive them as bad investments would they be wrong?
In fact, I even remember the first one to get married in our class was even upset that her father was not buying her the number of gold jewellery sets she wanted. “You know every girl wants to carry a lot of gold to their in-laws place,” was what she said. The words are still so fresh in my mind.
It is absolutely humiliating to think that we still believe the bride will get respect at her in-laws if she carries a good booty from her parents’ home. Why can’t we stand up and say respect us for what we are and not what our fathers pack with us?
I would say women in West Bengal and Kerala are in a definitely better position than their counterparts all over India. These are rare places where the girl child is as much coveted as the boy and in Kolkata statistics show more and more couples are opting to adopt girls than boys. But despite this trend you will always hear an odd father travelling in the public bus talking about saving for the daughter’s marriage and the son’s education.
But there are women who are busting this mindset and we need to congratulate them for that. A friend of mine put her foot down and cancelled her wedding to the love of her life even after the wedding cards were distributed to the guests. Why? Her to-be hubby and his parents turned extremely demanding just a week prior o the wedding. My friend said, “My father had enough money to give them the car and apartment they wanted. But I thought if this is the situation now what will happen in future?”
Accepted that not everyone has the guts to take such decisions in the last moment but one can do things that are possible. For instance a friend of mine and her husband funded their wedding and honeymoon and saved money by not having a wedding trousseau. These are small decisions but these do go a long way in how men/ to-be fathers perceive women.
I will end with a story that has always inspired me. A woman gave birth to her second child- a girl. Her husband and in-laws did not come to see her in the hospital because she had given birth to a girl again. She left the hospital with her two daughters and seared all relations with her husband. The mother went through all the hardships and brought up her daughters alone. The younger daughter went on to become Miss India 2009 Pooja Chopra. http://poojachopra2009.blogspot.com/2009/04/story-of-pooja-chopras-mom.html
I would say this goes on to prove that the future of women in our country largely depends on the decision women are taking in the present. Think about it!