So what could make even the average, selfish, money-minded Indian family welcome baby girls?

So I blogged about how if we Don’t treat the Cause, the Problem (Skewed Gender Ratio) will never go.

But is it too much to expect any social changes in a society that seems to take pride in some of it’s ills?

The truth is all these changes are already taking place – with a little support and awareness the benefits can be made available to more people who need them. There is also resistance from those who refuse to see beyond their immediate interests.

1. Family Name. (‘Vansh’ etc)

Can be changed. Is changing. Let every child carry both the parents’ names. Birth Certificates, Schools and Banks can make it mandatory.

Example, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Kislay Usha Chandra.

This also applies to many other religious rites and customs being reserved for either gender, like women fasting for the long life of male children and male siblings and spouse etc. This is changing with couples fasting together and mothers fasting for all their children’s good health and long life.

Widows being denied pleasures and festivities. This too is changing, though painfully slowly. I blogged about my mother, and about a young, hard working slum dweller who actually envied her widowed sister her life without abuse.

2. The present Joint Family System. (Patrilocality) 

The Patriarchal Joint Family system means the girl-child has to be ‘trained’ from birth to live with and serve another family.  One look at popular Indian TV serials will show how this Patriarchal Joint Family System makes it difficult for parents to want to have girl children.

Choice Marriages (or love-marriages) and Nuclear Family – both make it easier being a woman in India, and directly make it easier for parents to accept girl babies. 
 Also, Khap Panchayats and Ram Sene kind of organisations need to be banned.

Happier couples mean happier families and a better society.

3. Dowry.

Most parents pay up in the hope of better treatment for their daughters. But they feel they can’t do much if she still isn’t treated well.

If Getting Married-and Staying Married stops being the only goal in an Indian woman’s life, the pressure on her parents to get her married at any ‘cost’ would also reduce.

‘Court Marriages’ under Special Marriages Act also cut down on avoidable expenses.

In Gujarat there was an effort to discourage such marriages by demanding that two adults needed their parents’ permission to marry. I feel such bans are unconstitutional and should be firmly dealt with.

4. Honor.

A girl child’s existence is also threatened by her personal life and choices being treated like matters of community honor.

Any gossip, sexual harassment, a relationship with the ‘opposite sex’ or a premarital pregnancy can become life-threatening situations. This influences her prospects of getting married and generally makes a girl-child a difficult child to raise. Basically all the responsibility and very few rights makes raising a girl child a challenge.

Again, let women see Self Reliance and not ‘Getting Married and Staying Married’ as their goal in life. Married women should be encouraged to be their parents’ ‘budhape ka sahara’ (like any other child).
 This needs massive campaigns.
Government could encourage TV serial makers to create serials like Pukaar, Udaan, Ladies Special etc. 
Movies like Matrubhumi, Lajja, Mirch Masala, Astitva, Honeymoon travels private limited and serials like Pukaar should be aired on the TV.

I don’t approve of censorship, but since we do have censorship, we need to firmly ban scenes that show a man slapping/beating a woman to teach her to be a good Indian woman. Rape scenes should be monitored to convey horror not titillate, and dialogues that imply a sexual assault means an end to a victim’s life, should be reworded.

The law enforcing agencies need to be sensitized to crimes against women. I wish we could protest like this, and we do need more than just Fast Track Courts to try cases of sexual harassment.

5. Economic Independence.

Whatever she earns belongs to her in laws. If she does not work, she can’t even walk out of a marriage, even if she ran a house or raised children.
Women should be encouraged to be financially self-reliant.

I hope this Bill becomes a law – it should enable a non-earning married woman to be financially self-reliant.

For married women and mothers not earning, should not mean not being self-reliant.

Though the matrimonial property gets accumulated through the active contribution of the home-maker wife, the husband exercises exclusive ownership rights over it. So when a marriage breaks down, most women are rendered destitute. A woman’s right is confined to a monthly maintenance dole. If the woman has an independent source of income, she is denied even this meagre amount. During divorce proceedings, substantial sums can be secured to the wife only through negotiations during court proceedings in the event that the husband (wants) a hasty divorce.

All these points have been discussed in the comment section of this post – I was glad to read I wasn’t the only one who saw these changes as the only way to make Indian parents want to have and to raise daughters

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116 thoughts on “So what could make even the average, selfish, money-minded Indian family welcome baby girls?

  1. The scenario is changing no doubts. But still so much is yet needed to be done. Carrying both family names is good thing we see nowadaysbut laws regarding divorces ke the women weak.. Its not purely fair the way its dealt.
    And one thing i want to be mended in society is… We girls spend almost half life in our parents home, they spend on our every need as equally as boys, educate us, we are married off as soon as we start earning, and ten that earning goes to the in laws along with huge dowry as per rituals… Why can’t we atleast serve ou parents a little for all they did for us whole life by giving that earning, that we earn because of education they provided, to them?

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    • Deepika, I have heard someone say snidely, “He does not want to get his daughter married because he wants to live off her earnings” about a thirty something girl’s father. Tell me, which father would like such things to be said about him?

      On the flip side, no one says such things about a son ….

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  2. agree with most of the stuffs but not the censorship thing, its just portrayal of character, a character should be allowed to do anything.. as chosen fit by the creator.

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      • i dont either support cigerrate smoking scenes ban, art cant be killed for social good. creative expression should not be interfered with. instead teach whatever you want to teach in schools

        Me – I guess I agree with you Maya…

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      • I have to agree with Maya. Censorship never results in a stronger society. How does it make us any different from the Moral Police if we decide what is and is not appropriate for audiences to see? The whole idea of democracy is lost if freedom of speech is curtailed.

        As such, people who don’t agree with the ideas in these serials don’t watch them anyway. And not watching serials is not going to make people think any differently.

        Me – I agree Simbly Bored, I also dislike the very concept of censorship – what I was suggesting was that since we do have censorship, they could censor more prudently…

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    • @ maya:
      Ekta Kapoor had single handedly pushed an entire generation of women backwards. My friend who was in Australia for seven years returned to find the culture completely changed and women behaving weirdly due to all the serials. Those living here are perhaps unable to see the slight but insidious effect of these crappy serials.

      @IHM:
      Beg to disagree. It is imperative to ban cigarette smoking on TV, imo. Cigarettes are shown to be “cool” in some of the silly movies and people lap it up. Methinks we do not have a mature audience in India to a large extent.

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      • Fem,

        No she did not. No TV producer, or any one person is influential enough to single handedly change the popular culture of a country. Correlation must not be mistaken for causation. It is imperative to remember that there are a lot of other factors at play too. For example, the increasing popularity of Ekta’s serials coincided with economic liberalization and a massive increase in the traditionally right-of-center, conservative middle class. It also coincided with an increase in globalization which has been shown to make many people much more rigidly traditional.
        The day people start finding the saas-bahu shtick crass is the day we can truly claim victory.

        Banning patriarchal representations of women is neither the solution, nor is it politically justifiable in a democratic society. None of us has the mandate, or indeed the right, to protect adults from themselves. People are entitled to be immature, patriarchal and stupid and they are also entitled to watch rubbish and screw up their own psychologies if they so choose. The solution is not to remove all stimuli which may result in patriarchal ideation, but to reduce the number of people attracted to such stimuli. Then, and only then will things really be different.

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      • @PT

        I am not so sure about economic liberalization making people rigid. It may be so in general cases, but in this specific instance, Indian market was liberalized in 1991 and Ekta Kapoor started her devil’s work in the late 1990s. In the interim, if I remember correctly, though I was but a child then, all we saw were English shows and most of my friends moms would not be stuck in front of a TV. Her shows may reflect society, but society also in turn reflects her shows in a vicious circle. One cannot deny the influence these shows have on people. I am not a big fan of censorship either, and I agree people must want to stop watching these shows, and I am also at a loss how to get them to do that.

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    • I’m not a fan of censorship either…it become a slipperly slope where you draw the line. Might be more constructive for the government or anyone with the sense and money to produce more enlightened films/serials as a counterpoint.

      Agree that the media only reflects society’s taste but it does also in turn influence society and at some point needs to take responsibility. For example, newspapers in India today print a load of nonsense of their front pages. One might argue that this is only what people want to read… but I think at some point, newspapers have to own up to their responsibility and take a call on what’s important, and give people a chance to read that too.

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  3. Last I checked, the Indian feminist was asserting a woman’s unalienable right to smash foetuses. What changed?

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      • Abortion is a woman’s right no matter what and why she chooses to have one. It is her body it has to be her decision. The problem here is how that decision is reached, through coercion, manipulation- reward and punishment, social censures, threatening life circumstances or better treatment and life chances and so on…

        When a woman chooses to terminate a female fetus she is abiding by the dictates of her immediate family, community, society and each one is more patriarchal than the other. Like wise when a woman chooses to keep a fetus because it is male she is buckling down to her survival needs- better treatment by family, community and society…

        @Formerly Anon,

        Who is this Indian feminist? Is she representative of half a billion of my kind?

        Abortion and sex selective abortion are two different issues and cannot be colluded. One is right and the other is an abuse.
        Peace,

        Desi Girl

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  4. You have gone right to the heart of the matter. One thing you have neglected to mention is that religion should be taken with a pinch of salt. All the traditions that are followed so blindly have some religious basis to them. You have mentioned kanyadaan in one of your previous posts. A lot of girls still believe it is a matter of “punya”. Also, the impurity of menstruation has a religious basis. The exclusion of widows from so many ceremonies and even from their own children’s marriages are also religious. How shall we address the religious angle of this? Bring up a generation of atheists? 😉

    Warning: If any radical, defensive Hindu wants to take me up for despoiling the Hindu religion and why we do not talk about other religions, let me say I do talk about them, and you will find a tough fight in your hands. It is a pet peeve for me.

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  5. The change is indeed happening right here and right now.

    The process is slow, but it’s happening.
    I think hyphenated last names are a good idea. My wife uses ‘Sen-Talwar’, which is okay, I guess. The downside is that hyphenating the last names in cosmopolitan communities can result in some pretty weird combinations (like “Agnivanshi-Bannerjee”). Sikh people are lucky that way because as far as I know, the concept of family names doesn’t really exist for them. All male Sikhs have Singh as a last name females have Kaur. Even the first names aren’t really gender-specific.

    I echo Haresh here. “Choice marriage” is a much better way to describe it than “Love marriage”. As most married people know quite well, marriages and long term romantic relationships don’t have as much to do with love as negotiation, partnership, and shared experiences. The opposite of arranged is not love; it is un-arranged (i.e, “by choice”).

    My admittedly anecdotal experience tells me that nuclear families tend to do a lot better when it comes to equitable power sharing arrangements. The joint family system in North India, at least is geared towards patriarchy and it’s extremely difficult even for men, to effect change in the dynamics of the whole unit. Nuclear families are a lot more flexible and the dynamics of family life can be adjusted much more easily to meet the needs of the principals in the relationship. Moreover, one is not forced to listen to taunts and “free advice” from everyone and their uncle. That might not seem like a big benefit but anyone who has lived in a joint family for any length of time will know what I’m talking about.

    Dowry is an absolute NO. No one should give dowry, and no one should expect dowry. Of course, no one should rob banks either. But I think the onus is on the parents on both sides to reject this outdated practice. There is simply no justification for it any longer, and no reason, apart from unbridled greed.

    Family honor is a vile concept but I am not in favor of controlling the media. The media is the symptom; it’s the thinking that’s the problem. We must realize that people who make TV serials are basically pandering to the lowest denominator – they want more people to watch the show so that they get more money. If they make idiotic serials, it means that people want to watch idiotic serials. I have absolutely no idea how we might go about changing the thinking of millions of people but I do believe that these kind of concepts will fade away once stereotypes and rigid gender divides are abolished.

    Financial independence needs no qualification. It is immensely important and probably easier to achieve than the other four goals.

    I think it might also be a good idea to engage parents in the discourse, instead of focusing only on the younger generation. Because, like it or not, parents do play a huge role in defining the lives of most young people in India.

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  6. Loved the coinage “choice-marriages”. Did you make it?

    I wonder if treating some of our outdated traditions and religious beliefs with ‘irreverence’ (for lack for an alternative word) would help. I discovered this app today and I so want to shove it in the faces of our dear dowry-hungry parents:
    www[.]dowrycalculator[.]com

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  7. A lot of this is women driven – I really like that. Keep wishing I had included my mom’s name with mine….it’s not too late even now, I guess. Kept my maiden name but that was still patrilineal.

    Something needs to be said about cultural practices and everyone needing to examine tradition before following it. A few of my marwari friends were given a new name when they got married, a way to obliterate their past identity and ‘take on’ (read as be forced) a new identity after the wedding. One friend just didn’t respond (she took on the name and everything) because she didn’t even realize she was being called! It was a joke for sometime and they all buckled in after that. As is evident, it still rankles in my mind.

    Another major way we can change things is by parenting our sons and daughters differently. Feminist parenting is the only way to go.

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  8. Forgot to mention last time…

    Economic Independence can play a really crucial role in helping a woman live a better life, a life that she always deserves, I believe.

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  9. Excellent ideas. I think the idea of Family Names is the one that’s going to be easiest to implement and yet have huge consequences. But I think you specific suggestion – of children carrying both parents’ names – is not a great one in the form you suggested. For one thing, only a mother’s first name is being passed on and that as a middle name. This leaves the father’s family name to carry on the Vansh forever and that’s just same-old same-old.

    Instead, if the system could be replaced by two simple things:

    – wife does not change her name after marriage, and

    – first child gets ONLY the wife’s last name, second child gets ONLY the husband’s last name, and then if they have more kids, they continue to alternate such that every odd-numbered kid carries the wife’s name and every even-numbered kid carries the husband’s.

    I think this would work really well, as well as result in a state of affairs where both wives and husbands have equal vansh-extending status. That would be a big deal!

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    • Considering that each person has 4 grandparents, the number of names that would have to be carried could become enormous very quickly as the tree grows! So why not create a new surname for all the children starting with some basics from the names of all the 4 grand parents? Of course, the woman does not change her last name. Or if we would like to go really really radical, both the man and the woman give themselves a new last name that would be of significance to them!!

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      • I’m constantly told that “names are such a small thing, it doesn’t matter”. But these very people then cannot contemplate why a woman should keep her own name – if it doesn’t matter, then why bother changing – or (gasp!) want her children to have her name.

        I kept my own name – and surprisingly it seemed to bother even some of the younger women in my family – but the real test was when my son was born.

        I am not a fan of hyphenated names. As PT pointed out, if husband and wife have long last names, it becomes a huge pain. I have also noticed that when wives take on hyphenated names (thus saddling themselves with spelling out two names when doing stuff on the phone), husbands stick with their own name. I just don’t get that. Better to take on your husband’s name than put yourself in for a lifetime of filling in forms with a hyphenated name.

        I had several huge arguments with my husband over my son’s name. Frankly, I would have been very surprised if he agreed that my son take my last name. He didn’t surprise me and finally I gave in. I think our generation may not be ready for that just yet, but at least I created awareness that my husband cannot just take for granted that our children will have his name. If we have another child, I may push it further, though I’d like both our kids to have the same last name.

        I think the best solution is for the new family to take on a new name, any word that means something to them and they like the sound of. Anyway, most of us aren’t carrying some great and proud legacy with our last names.

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        • My niece did not change her name and gave their son two names, the middle name is her surname (not her dad’s name, but the name of the community she belongs to), so it is more like Sanjay Rao Bhansali, than Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Sanjay Leela Bhansali probably added his mother’s first name because her surname was her father’s or husband’s name anyway.

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      • “Anyway, most of us aren’t carrying some great and proud legacy with our last names.”

        So true. I shall never change my name because I am comfortable with what it is. It is the one I have used for 29 years and if someone comes and tells me I have to use another last name from now simply cos I’ve decided to spend my life with him, he is going to get a big surprise, and not a pleasant one either! Besides, who cares what our grandparents did! Most of them, as The Bride says never did anything that justifies such a pride in the last name. I also feel one should give first names as much as possible and only use last names for where it is unavoidable. After all, the first name is the individual and the last name is collective.

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      • Hmm, maybe hyphenated last names aren’t all that great after all.

        You know, I actually remember being mildly amused when my (now) wife told me, right out of the blue, that she’d use a hyphenated name. Kids were never (and are not) part of our plans for the future, so I really didn’t care what name she used. I probably wouldn’t have cared even if we did plan to have kids.

        As The Bride says, it’s not like I’m the scion of some kind of aristocratic family with a blood line dating back to the 1476. No point harboring delusions of grandeur.

        Right, I get it. I’ve lived long enough to understand some basic stuff about how life works. The first rule is pretty simple – you don’t matter. Not in the big picture. Not in the big scheme of things.

        At the end of the day, I’m basically just a lump of organic matter on a dusty planet, in an otherwise unremarkable planet system, revolving around an unremarkable star located near the outer fringes of an unremarkable galaxy, which is just one out of billions of others. On a cosmic scale, I’m pretty much a speck of dust. Probably less important. In the time it takes for the universe to blink, the last human would have been long gone. “I” would be a bunch of random atoms. My family name? Are you kidding me?

        Names are a matter of choice. It’s like deciding what car you want to buy. You don’t buy an Ambassador just because your dad had one and you want to continue the tradition. Okay, maybe you do. Or maybe you just don’t care. That’s fine, buy an Amby. But keep in mind that your spouse is going to share it with you. You can’t impose YOUR traditions on someone else, now can you?

        Here’s how it works : Negotiate, decide and enjoy. Either get a car you can both agree on or have separate cars. If you’re both okay with the Amby, great. If not, find a compromise. Replace “car” with “name” and it still works the same. I find it silly that people seriously do think of their names in terms of “vansh” or some such nonsensical affectation. It really is delusional thinking – people assign way too much importance to themselves.

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  10. Whoo, I’m in demand lol. A crore for being myself! How cool is that, huh?

    It’s almost as though the sex ratio was skewed the other way and men were in short supply…

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  11. Totally agree with what you say. Would like to add a few more things, though. We need to teach the next generation to change. Ads like “Fair and Lovely” and that other commercial with the adult son complementing his wife’s cooking in front of his mother (you have blogged about it earlier) must be ridiculed and explained to the younger generation. Children do not grow in a vacuum. Even if they do not actually look at the TV while these commercials are airing, they internalize it. If parents assume that the children will not pick up on these things, they are passively allowing gender bias to grow for one more generation without check. Teachers need to be trained to stop overt and covert and sometime subconscious gender bias in the classroom. When I was growing up a very mild teacher used to ask a question in Physics and immediately turn to the boys side, while several girls had their hands up to answer that question. I even confronted this teacher and asked her why she did this. It flustered her. She changed for a few classes, but went back to her old self. The point I am making here, is that this has to be a systemic change. It is not enough that teachers have some degrees in the subject that they are teaching. They need to be trained to be sensitive. If they don’t have that training, they cannot be allowed to teach. Similarly it is not enough that we teach our kids science, math, literature, economics.. whatever. We need to teach them to really see what is going on around them. Have a 30 minute period at least once a week and get them to catch ads like these. News stories that show innate gender bias. Ask them to analyze it. Ask them debate. Make them involved. If not, we will just be the country that can produce brilliant engineers and scientist, but one that cannot take care of its own self. Hmm.. I am beginning to think that I should probably just blog about this myself. Sorry for the over long comment!

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  12. Excellent suggestions there, IHM! Double thumbs up to all of them. Hope more and more people realize the importance of bringing about these changes in their lives.

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  13. I know dowry gets a lot of flak – and it really is a ridiculous and damaging custom – but even in society’s where the marital gift works the other way around, patriarchy remains. In Chinese society, it is the husband who has to pay the girl’s family a hefty sum – the logic is that the girl’s family is losing a worker and the husband’s family gaining one (which makes more sense to me). But Chinese society remains patriarchal nonetheless. It may be because property and lineage gets passed on only through males. I think the big change comes with economic independence. I see that as the difference between Hong Kong Chinese and Mainland society – in Hong Kong the women are pretty much on par with men in the workforce (though defintiely there is still a slight bias in favour of males) because they are as well educated and earning and supporting themselves. In the Mainland, this is slowly starting to happen, and in urban areas, young couples are showing a preference for a girl child.

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    • The Bride,

      It shouldn’t work the other way around either. There just shouldn’t be any dowry, period.

      Attaching immense monetary value to marriages is bound to screw up the dynamic in some way. I firmly believe that marriage should be about individuals, and not about money, family, religion, tradition, customs, laws, tax benefits, kids, housework, networking, social status or any of that shtick.

      As well, in the Indian context, I think we need to explicitly point out to some of the youngsters (especially younger women) that they have the right, both legal and moral, to marry as late as they want and also to NOT marry at all. A lot of people here seem to consider it shameful if they are still unmarried after 25.

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      • @PT:

        Hear, hear! *claps*

        “You are not getting any younger, are you now?” – No, I have my own magic potion made by Harry Potter that keeps me ever young.

        “But you need to ‘settle down’ sometime!” – I am settled, thank you, with my own home, work, and other necessities of life.

        “Why are you so stubborn? Do you think you are perfect?” – Yes. 😉

        “Your views are coloured. Just let it go and trust in someone.” – That someone will not be you!

        “You are so selfish! Just think of your poor parents!” – I do, which is why I am releasing them from such a burden of ‘looking’ for me.

        “Soon you will not be able to have kids.” – When did I say I wanted any?

        “All the good boys will be gone, the more you wait.” – I may be requiring a man instead.

        “Who will take care of you in your old age? You will be left all alone!” – As are you!

        “We all need companionship in our old age.” – Who is to say he will give me any or even live that long? IF I require companionship when I am 60, I will marry at 60!

        Some of the comments you have to deal with if you remain unmarried by 25. Women consider shameful because these remarks are made to her on a daily basis. Not just from close family or nosy neighbours, but also by friends (married AND unmarried) as well as colleagues at work! Plus randomers you happen to be meeting for the first time, and in my case, the new maid I hired recently! I kid you not! Oh, and these are some of my cheeky responses to make them quit stalking.

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      • PT, totally agree that it shouldn’t work the other way around either. I mentioned that the Chinese custom makes more sense because I at least see some logic there but basically, I don’t all these giving money/expensive and forced gifts business should be done away with. I have seen the reverse here in HK where the poor guy is harassed by the girl’s family – who are happy to have the upper hand for once I guess – to give more and more.

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      • PT, totally agree that it shouldn’t work the other way around either. I mentioned that the Chinese custom makes more sense because I at least see some logic there but basically, I think all these giving money/expensive and forced gifts business should be done away with. I have seen the reverse here in HK where the poor guy is harassed by the girl’s family – who are happy to have the upper hand for once I guess – to give more and more. Either way, it sucks!

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  14. Hi,

    Just started reading your blog seriously.Good job!!!

    I’m extremely proud to belong to a family which does not believe in the practice of giving or receiving dowry and which welcomes the girl child as enthusiastically as it does the male children. My grandparents have three daughters (my mom being the eldest) and they refused to entertain any dowry demands from the prospective grooms,even during the 1950s.My younger sister and I have had a wonderful childhood and the only thing our parents insist on is getting a good education and standing on our feet.Like I said,I’m extremely lucky and proud to have parents like mine.

    Whether you are a son or a daughter should not matter.You are your parent’s child.I think the only tool which can be used for such matters is education.If people get it through their heads that daughters are NOT a liability in any sense of the word,some of these problems will automatically vanish.Of course,it’s easier said than done.If people are killing their daughters because of the dowry problem,the practice should be abolished from the root.

    No dowry=relieved parents=non-skewed sex ratio.

    Me – But how do we make parents stop giving or demanding dowry? Why do girls’ parents accept such demands? Do you think it is because they fear their daughter will not find a ‘suitable match’ if they refuse to give dowry? What would happen if their daughter doesn’tget married in time? I would like to know what you think…

    Economic independence for females will also go a long way in establishing their worth and non dependence.

    Finally,I’m sure many of us have read the following quote:

    “A son’s a son till he gets a wife;a daughter’s a daughter all her life.”

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    • But Pallavi how do we make parents stop giving or demanding dowry? Why do girls’ parents accept such demands? Do you think it is because they fear their daughter will not find a ‘suitable match’ if they refuse to give dowry? What would happen if their daughter doesn’tget married in time? I would like to know what you think…

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      • The answer to this lies deep within history.If you go back to the Vedic times,women were held in an exalted status,almost akin to God.They enjoyed all sorts of benefits,had freedom,could study for as long as they wanted to et al.All this changed during the Aryan times.And the status of women has been on the decline ever since.
        Another answer comes from the point of view of lineage.People thought a son would carry the family name forward,whereas a daughter would get married and adopt her husband’s name and leave the family forever.This can explain why parents thought it was more economical to invest in a son rather than a daughter.

        Also,if you take the scenario of very early times,when man had just begun forming societies,it was the menfolk who led the battle and waged wars.Women were considered a liability on the field,and therefore,any families with more daughters than sons were weak from a war standpoint.

        Now,the question of dowry.I don’t know about its origin and therefore cannot comment on that,but I’m sure it had started off as an innocuous practice which got warped over time.If you ask me,modern day weddings are simply an exercise in grandeur and opulence,with every family wanting to outdo their neighbors/relatives/friends.Whether or not they can afford it is not a consideration.The practice of dowry makes poor people incur massive amounts of debts which are impossible to clear off in one lifetime.All this,because they want their daughter to be “well received and treated” in her in-laws’ home.Now I ask this: if all the boy’s family wants is money,why not dress up a stack of notes and put it in place of the bride? There you have it.Go take the money and be happy.Do you want a wife or a banknote?
        Parents giving in to dowry demands in these modern times is something I cant never digest.If girls can put their foot down firmly,staunchly refusing to marry someone with dowry designs,things will change.
        Another good question you raised was the “too late for marriage” thing.What is the right time for a girl to get married? Who decides this time? I’ve known happily single women in their 30s and 40s who do not feel the need to get married anytime soon.There is no one who can predict the outcome of a marriage so it’s silly trying to rationalize that giving more dowry will ensure a better marital life.In our times,women work.They are financially sound and do not need to get married for economic safety.If parents start understanding the core reasons behind the practice of giving dowry and not bow down to societal norms,things will definitely improve.

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      • My friend has this interesting viewpoint that traditionally agricultural societies such as Egypt and India gave their women greater freedom than the military or societies based on husbandry. I think there may be something to it because even within India states like Rajasthan (which was not mainly agricultural) have this notion of honour more deeply entrenched than say, Tamil Nadu.

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  15. Haryana along with Punjab and Jharkhand have the worst sex ratios in the country. I recently read in the papers that Haryana has realized it’s folly at it’s own expense. There has been a steady rise in crime against women, disintegration of social fabric and a growing army of bachelors. Each village has anywhere between 100-200 bachelors!!!

    Now efforts are being made and several campaigns have been launched to save the girl child. I hope people realize a woman is as important (if not more) than a a man.

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  16. Pingback: The problem with Section 375 « Lawst In Translation

  17. As a female, I always believe dowries are nothing but an insult to all daughters. To have a dowry is like telling a girl that she is some kind of piece of property sold off on her wedding day rather than a dignified human being entering into a new chapter of life. Sadly, dowries still exist in this day and age especially in some parts of Asia and some Asian communities around the world. Dowries should be done away with for good and allow girls to be treated as human beings with dignity and honour.

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  18. Great points, IHM.. I agree that financial independence should NOT be a pre-requisite for gaining respect and being treated as an equal. Today, I am financially independent only because I like my job..but what if I start hating it some day and all I want is to sit at home and do nothing, or be a home maker, or pursue my hobbies (or studies) which wont pay or in short do what I like doing and not get paid. But doing so, should not make me any lesser of an individual in the marriage. Same applies to the other partner, as well.

    I do support all these laws which oppose dowry, ensure the woman’s well being/security in marriage etc., but I wonder .. making laws is one thing, and changing the mindset of people so that these laws will not be required is another thing. Because forcing the people to follow these laws will not ensure that their mind set will change. I am sure they will find loopholes in the laws as well, and get what they want. I think “social awareness” should be made a part of curriculum, so that children learn about these issues from young age. Having an aware child who raises his/her opinions at home is more of a teacher for the other un-aware members at home.

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  19. Great suggestions, IHM. While we do have some laws (against dowry, for example), a lot more needs to be done by way of raising awareness among parents that daughters are NOT a liability, and that, given equal scope, can earn a comfortable living for themselves.

    The other major change that needs to be brought about is how women are perceived as symbols of the family’s honor. This association of a woman’s sexuality with the family’s honour is totally outdated in today’s society and parents and their daughters should be made aware of this.

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  20. Is this the wrong thread to comment on the punishment for rape convicts?

    Why cant we have stronger punishments? Why not tit for tat? why not public castration?

    Like

  21. well, my hubby helps me with all household work and support me in every decision that I take. I remember the mom-in-law telling me in his absence to ask him not to help me with the dishes. 🙂 whenever he was not around, she used to councel me on how husbands are akin to God and how we commit crimes if we do not honour them. Thank God, the husband respects me for who I am. I earn as mush as him, put that much effort to my career, and yes, I am physically weaker. Why the hell should I scrub and mop the floor alone?

    Again luckily, i come from a society where there is no tradition of dowry, or arranged marriages. Most marriages in my state are love marriages. I will write about it someday. Both the families spend money equally on the marriage so, that way there is lesser pressure to have baby boys and women in my state do not change their names after marriage too.

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  22. Well Strongly believe that education can do wonders! But there are things as rightly said in one of the above comments- ingrained passively from childhood which we do not realize.
    I have grown up in a joint family and i am an independent women who moved out of her house post 12th standard, I have high regerads for my maprents for giving me what i have and for making me what i am.
    Both my parents are educated and well regarded citizens, but i do feel that sometimes they are still stuck with old school of thoughts.
    Just to give few examples

    – I have had a intercaste marriage but They wanted to give dowry and my in laws did not want anything- now i do not understand this compulsive need to give gifts/ money/ dowry to daughter everytime i visit them
    – they still are hesitant accepting gifts from me- specially a high value item
    – they want me to take my husband’s name- which i have not taken even after 4 yrs of my marriage- husband and i am perfectly fine with it.
    – Again- biggest thing- GIRL HAS TO ADJUST MORE IN A MARRIAGE- i am lucky to have a loving husband and extremely understadning in laws. but we had a case in family where a girl left the house because she was not getting along with husband and i know for sure that husband was at fault- but still they believe she should not have gone since she is MARRIED.
    – Some stereotypes- i have never been the dressed up sindoor, mangalsutra kind of person. But mom wants me to abide by these symbols so to say.

    Similarly our education system sucks

    – i know of schools and colleges where girl and boy cant sit together.
    – sex education is not part of curriculum
    – creating stereotypes- i dont get the concept of needle race for girls – just want to tell them to cut the crap.— why have such a thing…Homescience classes only for girls!!!! Come on grow up!!!
    – gender equality is not encouraged – sometimes goes against boys- eg: the kind of punishment one will get- poor boys get beaten up for the same thing for which a girl might just get a note ( btw- i am not promoting hitting in class)

    these are things which impact us – can make us accept us or sometimes can make us rebel!

    Knowing yourself is important- and empowerment can come thorugh education & increased awareness only- but our current education system is not sufficient for this

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  23. I don’t know if this is off-topic, but it has irked how some Indians (particularly those that were born in the states, believe it or not!) think that an Indian woman magically becomes her husband’s caste or ethnicity simply because she has his last name. My mom is a UP-ite married to a Punjabi, and people have told her “You are Punjabi, because you’re married to one.” So, a white woman becomes Indian if she marries an Indian man? I don’t think so.

    Or, the offspring of a couple are assumed to only take after their dad and not the mom. I’ve also had people tell me that I’m 100% of what my dad is, and that my mom’s background doesn’t matter.

    I think this is silly.

    Like

    • ^I wanted to add that this mentality shows how much patriarchy is ingrained. To disregard a woman’s ancestry and heritage isn’t fair in my opinion….

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      • Heh, I told a few people “I relate more to my mom’s side. If you can go fully by your dad..then why not the mom?” They just gave me a weird look.

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  24. I read this blog soon after I see this obnoxious and highly popular “Dowry calculator” application on Facebook. The state of our society is well-reflected when educated, brilliant and supposedly **modern minds** conceive and develop such ideas.

    On the topic, I think the life-long duty of protecting a girl-child from abuse in every sense is the biggest reason deterring families to want a girl-child. I remember my mother telling me every now and then how to be safe, not travel alone, not fight too much with guys etc etc. I thought its so easy for her to bring up my brother than me – moreso because I never really listened to her. I was flabbergasted when my grandmom told me not to talk to the neighbor uncle my father’s age . Reason: “too much mingling with a male irrespective of age, relation and reason can be considered rumor-worthy! ” I went nuts and created a havoc!

    With all this responsibility and more, sometimes I think parents must feel.. one-time dowry is easier to give than to keep protecting a female for life. And thus start accumulating dowry for their baby girl the day she is born.Offloading this burden to the husband and ILs would ease the parents. This might seem callous and harsh but in some sense I think is true.
    Probably this is why daughters are considered liabilities and sons assets.

    If it was safe for a girl-child to survive,more parents would want daughters. The numerous ways to ensure same have already been listed above.

    I am sure I want a lovely daughter- I have a selfish reason too. I want to make her a rebel like I am. And I want a son too – I want to raise two kids in the same manner. That is an ambitious claim but I pray I can do that!!

    IHM..kudos for your posts!! They rekindle the lost sparks and ideas!!!

    Like

    • I think if you had looked more clearly at the dowry calculator you would have realized quite clearly that it is a joke and a parody. That can be clearly seen when the creator dedicated the calculator to “all the nosy aunties of India”.

      Like

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  34. I agree with most of the article. Very well written and thought through.
    I did not fight to give my child my last name. Didn’t want to make a fuss and hurt anyone for that. I am still unsure about that decision.
    Second, I often find myself sitting with Indian women who take pride of some sort when telling stories of their parents not visiting them often and not staying in their house for any long time. Even if they do have to stay bacause of some reason they pay it off with ‘things’ or ‘gifts’. I don’t know how to react. I hate to stay quite and I am so angered by these things. But I don’t have the heart to tell them that they were raised like a second grade citizen and what a shame it is that their parents are also second grade individuals in their family.

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  62. I am from Europe, so I have a different perspective on all this, a rather more “radical” one, I daresay:

    1: Give couples the right to choose either the wife’s or the husband’s name for both themselves and the children. It is legal in my country, and has not destroyed civilisation, or whatever people fear it might do. The conservatives just choose not to take the wife’s name, and everyone is happy.

    2: Nuclear family is good, that’s how it works where I live (most of the time), but wouldn’t it be better for women to stay with their parents, if those parents are supportive? Where I live, that wouldn’t be possible to implement because if you still live with your parents at 30, you are considered to have failed at life, but as this is not the case in India, why not change things around?
    This would also change the financial problems that come with having a daughter.
    Women are vulnerable to violent husbands in nuclear family units, too, so them living with their parents would prevent that. (I don’t know how that is in India, but here, women often stay with violent men because they are “in love” with them. Maybe that is not a concern in arranged marriages, but I feel that some women could profit from their parents keeping a close eye on the husband).

    What I don’t understand is why parents send their daughters back to violent husbands. Wouldn’t it be better for selfish, money-minded people to keep the daughter and grandchild(ren), if the daughter is a well-educated young woman who earns a lot of money, and the grandmother has time to care for the kids?
    Of course the husband might become even more violent and attack the family of his wife, but I think most men are only violent towards their wives because they know the wives can’t fight back.

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