Not everything obviously, but quite a lot.
The reason why patriarchy is held responsible for women and girl children not being valued is this,
Patriarchy means some children (girl children) have to be sent to live with the families of some other children (sons).
India being a rigid and traditional patriarchy, it’s still normal for parents to give in kanyadaan their children to another family. Frequently, the parents are not sure of how happy or safe their girl-children would be once they go to their ‘own homes’.
Since most parents would not accept this cheerfully, we use religion, culture and tradition. ‘Kanyadaan‘ is seen as a duty (punya) and responsibility and parents who do not give away their girl children in a kind of slavery (which depending on her luck could sometimes mean joining a family where women are treated with respect or atleast she is valued – but generally she has little control over her own happiness/unhappiness in her marital family).
Did (does) the girl-child have a choice in this?
Staying unmarried was not a real option because unlike men they were not allowed property rights, sexual rights, right to have children, right to earn or live alone. Social pressure, violence and honor killing were (are) used to ensure they comply. They were kept in complete dependance.
What if the parents rebelled against this uncertain future for their child?
The girl child’s safety was at risk, the system accepted sexual harassment and rapes as a method of controlling women’s lives.
The concept of ‘manliness’ was a means to control younger men’s lives. Aggression, violence, controlling the sexuality and personal lives of female members in the family and community, were seen as responsibility of men.
Aggression and violence were seen as desirable qualities in men because the system was too oppressive to survive without enforcing of rigid rules via religion, custom, culture and a lot of violence. (Some women were also roped in to do this, these women were the more powerful members of Patriarchy, like mothers and sisters of sons).
As a result of this families dreaded having girl children. (those who support Patriarchy still do that).
When parents had girl children, they made an effort to detach themselves and prepare themselves for an inevitable separation. We have numerous folk songs where this trauma is described, the girl child’s fears of the unknown future and her hopes of finding a loving sasural (marital home) and the fathers’ and mothers’ helplessness.
Most Indian parents believe a girl child’s happiness is not in their hands and since it is believed that sending the daughter away is not something they can control, they start preparing her from baby hood for a challenging future.
What part of the future is in the parents’ hands? They could make her life easier by teaching her to be submissive and obedient. A rebellious young woman was not convenient for patriarchy, or her family or the society.
The parents of sons became powerful. They knew parents of daughters dare not upset them because, they could send the girl back home for all kind of random reasons not in her control, including,
a. Her lack of appeal for their son,
c. Her inability to bear male heirs for her spouse’s family (in Patriarchy women have neither names nor heirs nor vansh of their own)
d. Her parents’ and all her relatives’ lack of display of subservience,
e. For something her brothers, sisters or other relatives did.
f. Her lack of house hold skills
g. If she had a medical problem.
i. Unsatisfactory dowry and gifts anytime in her life.
Hopeless situation? Yes.
But there was one thing that made life easier for her. What was that?
A male child. The more male children she had the stronger her situation in her marital home and the entire society.
Having girl children meant the family had to prepare for an uncertain future of their children, they also had to be prepared to support her life long, give her dowry, wish she would break none of the rigid rules of patriarchy – i.e. would not attempt to choose who to marry and sleep with, what to wear, how to laugh, walk, talk, what to do or not do… she was taught from childhood not to think she was a boy (which actually meant, not to think she had any rights, freedom or feelings).
Did the parents of daughters have much choice? If a young woman returned to her parents’ house because she was unhappy in her marital home, then her marital family and the community could actually demand that they send her back. But, if her marital family sent her back, that was also seen as a failure of the girl child (often a minor when she was married). There were no individual rights. Like the dhobi is Ramayana, anybody could control a woman’s life. Might was seen as right. Parents of sons were empowered to dictate how families of daughters lived (no love marriages, no breaking from norm etc). Is it surprising that everybody wanted atleast one, but preferably a hundred sons? And even today Indians in maternity wards are willing to exchange their own children for a stranger’s male child [link].
Since daughters were unwanted and unwelcome, their rights were neglected. E.g. Child abuse didn’t matter so long as the girl didn’t get pregnant and her chances of being accepted as a daughter in law were not affected. (Her trauma didn’t matter so long as her reputation was not sullied and she could be married off)
Her well being, health, happiness and personal growth also did not matter because it was enough to train her to be a good daughter in law – hard working, obedient, self effacing, willing to accept her fate and willing to accept blame for things beyond her control. (for not bearing male children, for not keeping her husband happy, for her father not being rich enough, for not being fair, for wanting more from her life, for wanting love, respect and or for having interests beyond what her great, great grand parents had chosen for her etc)
Since the Indian girl child was seen only as a future daughter in law who must bear male heirs, it did not matter if she was happy or not, but it mattered a lot that she was light skinned, fertile (hence as young as possible), easy to control, had no disease, came from a same/certain caste and was hard working and to ensure she was not carrying another family’s heir, a virgin.
Younger daughters in law were preferred because they were seen as easier to control, would stay fertile longer, could work harder and would be available to provide elder care to their frequently much older husbands and his parents. So who was to provide elder care to the daughter in law? If she bore a son, and found him an obedient, hard working and dutiful wife, than this daughter in law was to provide elder care to her. So she must train and control her sons and their wives well.
Is it surprising that women choose male children and tolerate sex selection and female infanticide?
Why does this evil system survive?
The training begins from even before the birth of the child. There are elaborate prayers for male children, girl children also join in these prayers and wish for brothers to ensure they are treated well in their marital homes. Lots more brain washing, that would make many posts – but the point is that all this made easier for Indian parents to choose to avoid having a girl child than to fight for her rights and be called male-bashers, bra-burning-man-haters etc.
And there’s more. Educating the daughters or making them self reliant goes against the entire system. Patriarchy can’t survive without mentally, emotionally and financially dependent women and obedient young sons. If women stop fearing random neighbor’s uncle’s nephew’s opinion of them; if young men start choosing careers that make them happy even if that doesn’t provide for their sister’s dowry, or if they start marrying the women they love even if they don’t fit the entire family’s idea of ideal daughters in law – then it would become difficult for traditional Indian Patriarchal system to survive.
How are sexual crimes against women caused by Patriarchy?
1. If patriarchy did not control women’s sexuality and allowed young men and women to interact, young men would begin to see women as people – as sexual people, not as providers of sex, mothers, goddesses, child bearing machines etc. Respect for women would automatically bring down street sexual harassment. Sex would not be seen as a tool to humiliate and control.
2. Sex workers would be seen as equal citizens who have the right to deny consent. The sense of entitlement to consent (amongst other things) that men in Patriarchy are brought up with it would bring down sexual crimes.
3. Parents and families of girl children would value their daughters enough to fight for their right to safety. As of now, 50% of the population and their loved ones, don’t seem to realise that they are being denied the right to public spaces, public transport and safety on the basis of their gender.
So, self reliant women (and men) who are able to choose who to marry or live with, but who do not see Getting Married and Staying Married and raising male heirs as their only goals in their lives are the biggest threat to Patriarchy and associated evils. All those who are fighting against Choice marriages are fighting against this inevitable change, where a few powerful community members would not be able to control what the rest of the community members eat, drink, wear, earn, do in their free time and who they socialize, marry or live with.
Patriarchy can’t survive without the oppression of it’s least powerful members – the foot soldiers of Patriarchy – without obedient daughters in law.