In the winter months of the Hindu calendar, Durga Puja is celebrated in India. The festival celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil demon king Mahisashura. This festival is celebrated for a period of 9 days. In the 8th day of the festival, called Maha-Ashtami, many devotees perform what is called the kanya pujan or the ‘’worship of young girls”. In that form of worship, it is believed that Goddess Durga herself takes over the body of the young girls and visits the devotees to give them her blessings. When I was a religious
Hindu, I was amazed to see this form of worship in my ancestral home. My grandmother used to bow before the tiny feet of those girls and ask for blessings. It looked beautiful. A foreigner visiting India might be fooled by this festival in believing that women are highly regarded in this country. The reality is very dark and cruel.
In the same country where girls are worshipped as goddesses in the winters of Durga puja, more than 30 million have been killed as foetuses in the last three decades. United Nations calls India one of the worst places for a woman to be born. A comparative analysis of the Sex ratio from 1981 to 2011 shows a steady decline in the number of girls/ 1000 boys.
Parween Khan is the wife of a labourer in Madhya Pradesh state of India. When she first got pregnant, her husband started pestering her to get an ultrasound check up to determine the sex of the foetus. She knew what it was for. If the ultrasound revealed a baby girl in her foetus than her husband would kill that child. He wanted a boy – a boy that could carry on his lineage – a boy that could grow up to help him in his work. He considered a girl as a burden, a liability. After months of torture, when Parween lastly had a girl, her husband couldn’t do anything about it. One afternoon when he came from his work, frustrated and angry with the ‘’burden’’ of his daughters, he jumped like a wild animal on his wife. He chewed off her face and scarred her for life. Parween had to undergo multiple surgeries to save her face. Currently she lives alone and is fighting a criminal case against her husband. I know that someday she will get justice. I know that her husband will be punished but think about that girl – that unwanted child whose father tried to kill her mother only because she was a ‘’girl’’.
The problem of sex-selective abortion is rampant is almost all parts of India. If a person feels that he doesn’t wants a girl child than the only thing he needs to do is to go to a gynaecologist, get an Ultrasound of his wife and abort the foetus. This abortion does not take place with the consent of the Mother. I believe that it should be nobody’s business other than the mother about the termination of her pregnancy. In India sadly, this is not the case. A woman is tortured by her in-laws and husband to abort her child if it is revealed to be a girl. If the child is born, she is either buried alive or choked by feeding husked rice to death. Also, the status of education in India is not that great for women.
You see, most of the women in India have been suppressed since the last many centuries. They are treated as second class citizens, like machines to produces babies for their husbands, like a warm blanket in whose comfort their husband can sleep at night. Her rights are no more than the bed on which her husband sleeps. She is treated as a slave. In the current time, I am happy to say that this is not the norm in the country. Globalization, Education and Information age has changed a lot. I feel proud of my extended family that has given equal opportunity to my sister cousins and who are now working in top government and corporate positions.
A normal woman living in an urban city is told from her birth that once she is married, her husband’s place should be her heaven. She has no right to her parent’s home. Even if her husband beats her, she should still be with him. A girl is told from her childhood about her duties towards her husband. The perfect example of an ‘’Aadarsh Naari’’ or Ideal wife in Indian societies is called to be Sita. She is a mythological person from the epic tale Ramayana. She along with her husband Rama is highly revered in most of North India. I have always found Rama to be an immoral person. He abandoned his wife Sita when she was pregnant. When Rama rescued Sita from the capture of Demon Ravana, he asked his wife (who was kidnapped and tortured by Ravana) to give an Agnipariksha or a test by walking in fire to prove that she was still chaste. How can such a person be revered? How can such a woman be an ideal wife? She was a poor woman who was suppressed by her own husband. For me, she would have been an excellent real model if she had used a pump-action shotgun against that fake God of Ramayana.
It is the social conditioning of a girl from her childhood that makes her so vulnerable and weak when she is married. She thinks that it is her duty to face the brutalities of her husband and still serve him. This conditioning of servitude should stop immediately in the country. Most of the women are also not employed. Therefore, they fear to leave their abusive husbands who ask for the abortion of their foetus. If women are educated, taught about dignity and self-confidence and are educated, I can bet that sex selective abortion and harassment of woman will severely decline in India.
Men in different parts of the country take their wives for sex diagnosis. This diagnosis is banned in India under Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994. Some doctors still do it for easy money. The companies that manufacture ultrasound machines rely on the sales persons to cover up monthly selling targets. It has been found in a survey done by an NGO in Rajashtan state that the sales people go to doctors and ask them to buy the machine and tell them that if they use it for sex-determination and abortion; they will all become very rich. Money is the reason why doctors agree on an illegal practice of sex determination and abortion. Most of the Gynaecologists are women and still they agree on this heinous crime. Apart from money, another reason is that these doctors do not think this as immoral. The guilt is shared and the doctor makes himself feel that he is only helping a person. This business in India is currently worth 20 Billion Rupees.
Today, the sex ratio in some of the states has decreased so far that the boys in those places are unable to find a bride. In Alwar district of Rajasthan alone, 15000 girls are bought every year from poor families in other states for marriage. The dwindling sex ratio has created a new market. I fear that in future, girls would be bought and sold in large numbers in the illegal markets of India. According to one estimate, only in a decade, around 20 million boys in India will not be able to find a partner for themselves.
The future of India depends on the education and employment of its women. Without it, India will collapse and so will its men. I hope that we understand this situation and start doing something against those asshole doctors, men and even women who discriminate against girl child and call for their death.