Many years ago, a woman I know said she was grateful to god that she only had two sons because ‘whatever said and done, if you have daughters your lifestyle chages. You live in fear, worrying about their safety. And she said, ‘for all your worries in the end, they go and take care of their in laws and you are left alone in your old age.’
I wonder if she exaggerated. I do worry about my children’s safety. I am sure I don’t want even my son in a situation where there is violence; but I guess there would be more concern for a daughter in the same situation?
‘Neera Chopra lived through abuse, poverty and some tough choices to make her once-unwanted girl child, Pooja Chopra, the Pantaloons Femina Miss India-World, she is today.’
Her courage is inspiring. She didn’t think raising daughters was that tough a task. And I realised I had never thought that either.
Then who spreads these anti-girl-child myths?
Dowry? Just refuse to give any. Let the girl be independent and marry only when she meets the right guy.
Instead of dowry, gifts, streedhan etc, daughters should simply have equal property rights (and equal responsibility towards the parents).
If we weren’t so desperate for our daughters to marry by a fixed age and within the community, under any conditions, at any price (dowry) half the problems disappear anyway.
Abuse by in laws/domestic violence: The moment her marriage stops being the sole aim of a girl’s existence, all these become non issues.
The girl’s parents stop living in the fear of the boy’s parents. They learn that loving, involved, strong parents have happy daughters.
Divorce/separation: ‘Doli and Arthi’ sounds impractical even in Bollywood movies. If a marriage breaks, both the partners need support, not condemnation. If we understand this, another taboo, (and the related fear) is shattered.
Care for parents in old age? Again this is changing, and there are plenty of daughters taking care of their parents in their old age.
Fear of violence/sexual assaults? This worry makes many parents not want a girl child. But the reducing girl boy ratio might make the situation only worse.
Hiding never made anybody safer. Getting out and going about our daily lives does. Also if we removed ‘honor’/reputation/’what will people say’ from crimes against women, they will be handled without blaming the victim, and that is the only way to put some fear into an assaulter’s mind.
I think we need to take a fresh look at our fears about the difficulties in raising girl children. Laws cannot make parents keep their baby girls – parents must want girl children.
I don’t think it’s a good idea to make little girls into little angels ever ready to make sacrifices for their parents, and not all daughters can be as successful as Pooja Chopra either. Why not just let them be good, happy, equal and free citizens?
I remember being told once that having a daughter was a huge responsibility, – She must be raised well (shouldn’t all children?) – she must get married to a nice guy (aren’t good marriages equally good for everybody?)
Her happiness did not seem to be the concern, her reputation did. There’s a lot of talk of how important it is that people speak well of her. But does it really matter so much? I thought of what happens to girls who do not have good reputation. The worse I can think of were two girls from my school – we heard stories about them and once when one of them came home with me, my mother said I should not mix with her. (Her eye brows were plucked in class VIII). But for all the ‘reputation’ (not getting into the exact details), both the girls are leading normal lives.
I also wonder what kind of women opt for aborting their baby girls. Many of us have faced gender bias in our childhood. The luckier ones grow up swearing they will not allow this with their kids. The unfortunate ones lose all self worth. They value themselves only as much as their parents/aunts/grandparents/the next door neighbours/some teachers/street sexual assaulter etc valued them. These are the ones we are talking about when we say, ‘Women are women’s worst enemies!”
This religious guru (on TV) was preaching the value of the number of bindis a woman has on her forehead – one if she has a father, one for brother, one for husband, one even for sons I guess… It seems it is a matter of pride to have all the bindis. So what happens to those women who do not have any bothers or sons?