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“He Wanted A Boy To Carry His Legacy, But All He Got Was Girls, Four Of Them.”

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By Veda Nadendla:

“When we had the first girl, he was agitated, but hopeful. After the fourth, he began to hate me and after that I lost my place in his life and home. I was nothing but a slave for cooking and raising the girls. He wouldn’t spend enough on us, young girls have needs and I took up a teaching job to support the needs of my four growing girls.”

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This is the story of my grandfather who wanted a boy to carry his legacy, but got only girls, four of them. My grandparents have always shared a mutual hatred towards each other. Over the years, my curiosity for the reason behind their hatred has led me to realize what a struggle life has been for my grandmother, my mother and her sisters and how it is a pressing concern in our country that is destroying the lives of millions of girls. None of them will ever forget their disturbed childhood for it was filled with his scorns and disappointment.

Why are girls so unwelcome in a country which identifies itself as feminine?

Our lives and cultures are dictated by patriarchal values which are extremely discriminatory. Like my mother and her sisters, millions of girls across the country are born into families which don’t want them, labelling them a burden and a reason for expenditure. Some of these girls are not even allowed to be born.

In many families, a girl is considered ‘paraya dhan’ (someone else’s property, not worth investing in), a burden whose safety needs to be ensured, who need to be paid for during marriage; while boys are highly preferred for their ability to inherit property, their capacity to be financially independent and look after parents in their old age. Many women who give birth to girl children are forced to undergo sex selection, termed unfit for motherhood and treated like outcasts by their own families and communities. This prejudice against girl children has penetrated the urban-rural boundaries, not only causing a skewed sex ratio, but a rapidly declining sex ratio which raises some serious concerns about the discriminatory practices prevailing in 21st century India.

The Annual Health Survey 2013- 2014 (source) highlights the worsening state of sex ratio at birth and sex ratio between 0-4 years in nine Indian states. These are states which showed improvement in sex ratio in previous surveys. What does this tell us? Is it safe to say that at this rate, the female sex is headed toward scarcity?

Despite the increasing liberalization of the Indian market and household in the past two decades, traditional and archaic beliefs against women, seem not to be leaving our mindsets. The occurrences of sex selective abortion, female infanticide, foeticide, neglect of girl children and early marriage prove that patriarchy is an oppressive and criminal belief system prevailing in India.

Here are illustrations describing everyday patriarchy on the internet.

children of india

wikipedia

Where are the girl children among the children of India? The second illustration shows the Wikipedia page of Child Sex Ratio in India. This section is nefariously focused on the trouble caused to males due to the shortage of females to marry and the repercussions of this shortage on the generations of males to come, with not one mention about the impact on the female population of the country.

Similar to the above illustrations, a large part of India prefers sons to daughters. Despite an increase in female literacy in the past decade, child sex ratio of children (0-6 years) has dropped to 918 girls from 927 in the previous decade. There is awareness, there is activism and yet there is no action. What does this nation need immediately?

We need to fight patriarchy, together. We need to squash gender insensitivity and sex selective practices. We need to encourage the inclusive growth of girl children in our families. There is a pressing need to educate girls and let them choose a time for marriage. The need of the hour to equip girls and boys will the same skills for survival and let them grow as members of the community with a shared responsibility. This may sound very straightforward to achieve, but it is not. Patriarchy is a deeply ingrained belief system and a way of life for many in India; expecting them to change their beliefs overnight is asking for a lot.

One person, one family, one community at a time, we need to start somewhere. My grandmother was the catalyst for change in my family; she worked as a teacher for 25 years, ensured that her daughters studied till Bachelors, made sure they worked for a living and learnt the value of money. Her decision prepared her daughters to lead independent and successful lives. My family and I have already begun, when will you?

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  1. Babar

    It is women themselves who pass taunting remarks at the birth of a girl. And even after female infanticide and foeticide in India, the sex ratio remains nearly the same because of the high suicide rate among boys and men. Of course, that does not make news because men are not human beings, because people sympathize with women’s causes only, and because the media highlights women’s issues only because it is good for business. Many people would much rather have a girl instead of a boy because even if a girl is not good at academics, she can still get married, settle down, and have a good life. Boys do not have that option. Also, if you have a boy, you have to worry about your child being treated like a disposable piece of item in all aspects of life, as it is girls who have legal, economic, and societal privileges and advantages.

    1. PansyParkinson

      Babar, I’m fed up of seeing you post bullshit on every available blog there is of YKA. Be it feminism or gender equality or even child marriage, I don’t think someone hates women the way you do. You have been successful in turning every topic around and blaming it on women. Initially, I tried to ignore you, as every person is entitled to his/her opinion but, you have had enough. I strongly suggest you to write a blog yourself, to put forward your “views” on these topics and justify yourself about it. Even if you feel, that you don’t need to give an explanation, you should do it; considering all the hate you are spreading against women on all these write ups.

    2. parkart

      @PansyParkinson:
      Whoa! Whatever happened here? Is he not allowed to post comments on this website even if he may or may not write a blog? What hate is he spreading? It just seems that he is jealous of some girls having more privileges.

      @Girl:
      He may post utter garbage, but who the hell are you to tell him what to do and what not to do? Be responsible for yourself and stop reading his posts if they bother you.

    3. Girl

      I agree with PansyParkinson. I’m quite tired of your shit Babar. I can’t seem to ignore it anymore. You’re really not worth our time or our breath so please stop posting random crap.

  2. MANU SINGH

    Veda brilliant write up. This is a deep rooted social problem which is due to the mind-set nurtured through ages. As they say u can harm the body but his thinking, we males have born and brought up in a male dominated and male chauvinist society, due to this there is particular mind-set in us which makes us feel that we are more than a girl in every other field and they can’t be equal to us. Stating that the mentality of not just men but women also needed to undergo a major transformation for a country to achieve gender equality,, since u r the one who give birth and is more close to the new born,,,u have to inculcate the particular kind of thinking to them is that both men and women are same………… If possible do watch episode of SATYAMEV JAYATE SEASON 3 FINALE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRKmyzen0Vw

  3. PansyParkinson

    A very nice write up Veda.. It’s been a while since I’ve come across a text which isn’t a rant plainly about feminism. It is a very well thought, properly put together piece. People do need to change their desire of having at least one boy in their family. On one hand they do accept girls as daughters but they still feel the need to have a boy in their family. While, they show no such desire to have a daughter if their first born is a son. This mentality needs to change. This ridiculous necessity and hype of “family-name” needs to end. And citizens like you n me need to break this system down one crack at a time. 😛

  4. Anand Ujjwal

    Well, I have had, long ago, perhaps earlier than you. I spent my childhood in Chhattisgarh (sex ratio – 991). I had more girls than boys in my class. When I moved to Patna, Bihar in 2011, life changed dramatically. Here, sex ratio is 916, and I had only few girls in my class. The consequences are too far reaching to be discussed here. M not supporting my aunt’s arrange marriage. I suggest you to figure out how that opposes patriarchy. When a girl disrespects me, I hit her exactly how I would have hit if she were a boy. I am supporting gender equality

  5. Monistaf

    Female infanticide, if not addressed, will probably be the biggest cause for social unrest in India. However, putting all the blame on the “Patriarchy” absolves social, cultural and religious norms and practices that contribute as much, if not more. It is this blame game that I have a problem with. We, as a society, need to accept the fact that not all social evils can be attributed to the so called “Patriarchy” because it implies that everyone else is in the clear. The brutal irony of femicide is that it is oftentimes an evil perpetrated against girls by women. The most insidious force is often the mother in law, the domestic matriarch, under whose authority the daughter in law lives. Policy efforts to halt infanticide have been directed at mothers, who are often victims themselves. I am not saying that this is always the case, but we cannot ignore the fact that it is a significant contributor. If we are going to address this issue, let us see beyond our own individual prejudices against “The patriarchy” and recognize that there are plenty of other contributors to the problem of female infanticide, including the “Women” of the “Patriarchy” that insist on preserving gender roles and preferences.

  6. Ravi kiran

    Veda – Well written! You have actually spoken about the actual problem. Babar…what u say is actually a very rare scenario which is once again implicated by the social stigma. No mother can wholeheartedly do it after nourishing the baby for 10 months in her womb. Just imagine!

    1. Babar

      It is grandmothers who taunt their daughters-in-law at the birth of a girl.

    2. Templetwins

      Ahh the whole motherhood worship again, tell that to women who abort their fetuses with impunity. ‘It is very rare’ is an excuse on a rare phenomenon ie foeticide, female infanticide.

    3. Ravi kiran

      I’ll definitely tell that if I see a women like that dude…But i think, here we need to concentrate on the other factors as well than hanging with just one!

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