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“My Husband’s Family Deemed Me Impure”: The ‘Curse’ Of Giving Birth To A Daughter In India

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Is giving birth to a daughter in India really a curse? Ask Sumitra (name changed) from Jaipur, 22, who gave birth to a daughter when she was 19 and was deemed “impure” by her husband and in-laws. Subject to physical violence, snatched of her right to a roof, Sumitra had to go back to her parents’ house – treated like a liability, passed around as a burden.

silhouette of a mother and son who play outdoors at sunset background

During my pregnancy, my household responsibilities did not reduce as they were supposed to. They (in-laws) picked fights with me and refused me food – I don’t know how they knew it was going to be a daughter. Though everyone was around at the time of her birth, no one seemed too happy. They told me they had wanted a son.” Sumitra tells us.

Wanting a son is not unheard of in a country that has abysmal rates of child sex ratio. The preference for a male ‘heir‘ is one of the causes of gender-biased sex selection. To make matters worse, this patriarchal idea of son preference renders women and their daughters helpless, subject to violence, and denied of their right to property and a safety net. Shockingly, inheritance laws in India are not overarching – what rules apply to you depend on the religion you belong to. If you are among Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs, preference is given to men over women.

The lack of autonomy of a woman also renders her helpless in preventing similar treatment meted out with her “useless” daughter.

For Sumitra, like thousands of other women in similar situations in India, the battle started immediately after she gave birth to a girl child. “I was expected to resume household work after a mere 10 days post-delivery, whereas when my sister-in-law had a son, she was taken care of for 2 months! My husband’s family deemed me “impure”, and stopped eating the food I cooked. Small issues turned into big fights. If my little daughter dared to go out to play, they beat me for allowing her to step out. When she or I fell sick, they never took her to a doctor or took care of me; unlike how my sister-in-law’s son was attended to. All of them ill-treated me for the sole reason that I had borne a daughter. In fact, my husband went on to say that she was mad, and that they will not keep her in the family.

I had to come back to my parents’ house. My parents tried to talk to them a number of times, but they didn’t change their mind. And then we received a notice – my husband had filed for divorce. The reason he had cited? That I am mentally disturbed. Members of my family have been running around since then, trying to sort the matter out, but to no avail,” she adds.

Had Sumitra had her right to housing, it would not have taken away her ability to self-determine her present, and her future. If she had had something to her name and control, would she and her daughter be shunted from basic care, love and dignity?

I want to go back. They haven’t been able to give any proof of my “sickness”. While proceedings are on to finalise the alimony amount, I don’t know what happened at the counselling centre. Right now, I’m taking sewing classes. My husband has come by a number of times, but never meets me. Or our daughter.” Sumitra adds, hoping for a better and safer tomorrow for herself and her daughter.

Inputs given by Sanskriti Pandey.

You must be to comment.
  1. B

    My mother and aunt were tortured by my grandmother, who wanted to control both her daughters-in-law and treat them like slaves. This is the norm in a lot of families. Mothers-in-law torturing daughters-in-law.

  2. nidhi keshri

    why do these people forget that they are in this world just because of a lady. ? if she would have refused to give them birth then what would have happened? these people are mentally sick . they use to dislike a girl child or even try to kill them in the womb and during Navratri they go out and ask their neighbours or relatives to send their girl child for pooja. we live in a society where male child is preferred over the female child. if there will be no females then who will give birth to their MALE CHILD. i really dont understand what will happen if they continue to do so?

  3. D

    I find it appalling that a woman is mistreated because of giving birth to a girl child, when biologically, it is the man who gives the X/ Y chromosome. A woman always has the X chromosome.

    There is a need to spread awareness about this basic biological truth.
    More than looking at the birth of a child as a repsonsibility/ fault of one of the parents, there is a need to focus on the upbringing and empowerment of the girl child. Girl children have the right to a family that respects them! I hope and wish that Sumitra and her daughter find more strength to fight for their dignity!

  4. Amlan

    Ultimate solution lies in ending Patriarchal norms which leads to son preference. Patriarchal family is based on a sexist fantasy that every family will have atleast one son who will hold the existence of the family line in future. Hence existence of such a family in future is dependent on the existence of a son in the family.But, naturally and biologically speaking, to the disappointment of the patriarchs, is not the always the case. Hence, such a system does not suits the natural, highly random, God’s way of gifting families with children. Son preference and highly skewed sex ratios are a result of humanity’s sin of trying to force nature to kneel down to ‘Man’- made, impractical, gender biased family system, which again further leads to so many other problems.

    Solution:- Humanity Kneel down to nature and God instead of the other ‘conventional’ way around.Since, its not always that a family will have a son. So, the criteria that only a son should hold the family lineage, itself be removed. ie, replace patrilocality and Patrilineality with lineality and locality based on Birth Order.That is, the eldest or the youngest child out of the two, irrespective of gender, will hold and pass on the family name, stay with parents to take care, invite his/her spouse(of the opposite gender generally, as in majority of the cases, and of the Opposite Birth order) to join the family in a marriage. While the other sibling joining his/her spouse’s family in his/her marriage. In this way every family and aged couple will have either a son and a daughter- in-law or a daughter and a son-in-law to be with them and hold the family. Then, no matter if couple a is having 2 daughters or 2 sons or a daughter and a son, the family’s future will always be safe. Gender of children a couple is having will cease to be of much relevance . And subsequently, Son preference will see a drastic end.Couples with single child can get their child get married with other single child family in their adulthood to form a joint 4:2:1 or 4:2:2 family.

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