By Madhavi Jadhav:
I was born to my parents 18 years after their wedding, something that is not very common. They were extremely happy when I was born. My father had invited all his relatives and friends to share his happiness. However, to his surprise, a few of my relatives were concerned for him, and they even dared to say, “Itne saalon baad bhi bhagwaan ne diya toh kya, beti (After so many years all you could get was a girl child).” When someone narrated this story to me, I didn’t hesitate to ask my father whether I was an unwanted child. He had a smile on his face and said, “You are my special child.” I was blessed with a loving and caring father, but everyone isn’t that lucky in India.
The sex ratio in India is 940/1000 (female/male), and in each census, it barely seems to improve. Thousands of girl children are killed even before they are born. The sole reason behind this is that in India a female child is considered a burden while a male child is considered an investment. The day a girl child is born her parents start worrying about her wedding. The dowry system is also a prevalent custom in India. It is among one of the reasons that Indians are averse to a girl child. One of my friend’s colleagues told her that it took him four years to find a good match for his sister. He paid around 20 lakhs to get her the ‘perfect husband’ as she was a little plump! Well, husband’s are pricey, aren’t they? So, he had to help her settle with her husband (who came with a price tag).
I still can’t forget the conversation that I had with one of my uncles who wanted me to get married to some obnoxious guy. My uncle told me that the groom’s family had rejected me (as if I cared). My father started blaming me for being rude to the guy. After investigating a bit, I came to know the real reason for rejection. The groom’s parents were worried that their son (the groom) would have to take my parent’s responsibility. Well, WTF! My parents have made me independent so that I can take care of myself and my family. On the positive side, I never met that obnoxious guy again.
Indian parents want their daughters to be perfect. They want her to be perfect at cooking and at household chores. They want her to be an obedient wife and a good daughter in law. They don’t want her to take stands or take risks. They are taught not to talk to strangers but are married to a stranger (which they call an arranged marriage)! They condition her to learn and adapt to these lessons. On the other hand, a male child is taught to take risks. He is not limited by timings or any other restrictions. He is allowed to be on his own. They are never taught cooking or other household chores as these are considered women’s jobs.
Last month, I visited my friend PJ with my nephew and niece. I was having a conversation with his wife so PJ volunteered to make a cup of coffee for us. After we left their house my inquisitive nephew asked me, “Attu, why did PJ uncle make coffee for you, isn’t it supposed to be his wife’s job?” I was shocked, but then I realised that it’s not his fault he is conditioned like that. I just couldn’t resist and shared with him a video about why laundry is a woman’s job.
According to Wikipedia, “Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, personal, and social rights for women.” So, why do I think India needs feminism? India needs feminism because I want to be treated equally with respect to my brother. India needs feminism because household chores aren’t a woman’s job only. India needs feminism because daughters also love their parents like sons do. India needs feminism because parents invest more on their daughters’ wedding than their education. India needs feminism because we need more Indira Gandhis, Indra Nooyis and Chanda Kochhars.