To Ensure Indian Women Are Equally Paid, First Ensure That We Have The Right To Live

By Medhavi Pandey

On the eve of International Women’s day 2017, the world awaited to take another oath to empower women. In the Bharti Hospital of Mhaisal village, Sanghli district of Maharashtra,  a 26-year-old woman, Swati Jamdade, succumbed to her injuries. Some people had tried to kill her unborn girl child.“We gave everything that the boy demanded as dowry, including 150 gm of gold and ₹3 lakhs cash, along with the so called “basic amenities” of fridge, sofa, double bed, utensils, etc,” said Swati’s helpless father who, at the very least, had expected a happy life for his daughter.

Praveen Jamdade, the man behind the story, wants a son just like any other middle class person in India. Being the “man” of the family, it was beyond his endurance limits to have a third girl child in his family. His second girl was enough to make him cry unconsolably for hours and stroll the hospital corridor with anger. It took several elders to pacify him by saying he could get lucky the third time and have a son.

I believe that no written law has ever been more blindly followed than the unwritten customs supported by popular opinions. Based on them, Praveen forced Swati to go under a sex determination test and when the baby turned out to be a girl again, he forced her to get an abortion, costing her life.

The question is can we really empower women? As far as empowerment is concerned, we need healthy, and most importantly, “surviving females” to be able to do it. How do we empower the dead? The role of the policy makes in the country does not just end with a signature on paper. They need to visit the places and discern realities for themselves. They need to understand that in these areas, ethics are not in sight.

Those who want to object me by giving evidence of the hard work of our ministers, I would remind you of a “little” problem. There were 19 other girls that were left to decompose on the premises. They could not dial 1090 or the child helpline number. Neither the National Commission for Women, nor the police control room reached them till Swati martyred her life to draw attention to a gigantic yet a common problem in our society .

If we take a look at the recent data, decennial records have shown lowering of more than 50 points in the sex ratios of major states of the country. Punjab stands the lowest with 846 girls per 1000 males. But why do we have to compare the number of girls with that of boys? The Indian economic mindset answers this, where boys are considered an “asset”, the girls are a “liability”. Being a woman would not be a terribly difficult task if it would not consist, principally, of dealing with men.

Girls playing hopscotch at Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram.
Indian girls are at a risk from the moment of their conception. Some are killed before they are even born.

But, there is another piece of good news, the amount of girls in some northern states are critically low, where eligible bachelors have to travel a significant distance to find themselves a bride, ironically, to produce a yet another boy. I pity that boy who would then have to travel as much as his father to find himself a bride. The chain will go on. This vicious circle of sex-selective abortion will eventually lead to an exponential increased number of cases of abuse against women and girl children, trafficking, increasing the number of child marriages and polyandry to name a few.

The Preconception and Prenatal Diagnosic Technique Act, 1994, was modified in 2003 to educate the medical practitioners, not to indulge their resources and intellect in such heinous crimes. The cases registered against those who continued this practice ended with a deposit of a fine of ₹300. The life of a girl costs ₹300!

These skewed societal reports are greatly upsetting for the largest democracy of the world that claiming to ensure human rights and a predetermined list of “fundamental rights”. But to the people, we girls don’t need the right to property. Provide us with our Right to Live first and that will suffice!