There are so so many things Indian parents need to teach their daughters but they don’t.
This makes the daughters literally face life and its challenges with naivety – and fall into many mental and physical issues and traps!
I’m listing down top 15 of those for now:
- Menstruation is normal and happens to all girls: This is like the biggest ever conversation which all Indian parents need to have with their little girls.
- None of the menstruation taboos are medically or scientifically true: This is a social battle! You shall have to win yours first and then help your daughter overcome her own social battle ranging from “don’t touch the pickle jar”, “don’t wash your hair”, “don’t pray or go-to a place of worship” to name a few.
- Explain what sex is and what the value of ‘NO’ is: Given the fact that sex Education is absent in entirety in India, it’s almost impossible for parents to get correct and age appropriate literature in their language of choice. Further, it’s imperative that girls be taught the value of NO! And the fact that no one can violate their bodies.
- In ‘being pretty’ vs ‘being strong’ – ‘being strong’ wins hands down! Parents spend an inordinate amount of time and energy and many a times money encouraging girls to be “girly” – beautiful, can sing, can cook, can dance, etc. They do not teach girls how to be physically strong. They don’t encourage girls in outdoor sports and defense techniques like karate, etc. In today’s world it’s imperative that girls learn self defense. It’s more important than Math and Science and English!
- Parents need to save up for their girl’s education and not dowry! And tell the girl’s that! Despite dowry being illegal, Indian parents save for a girl’s marriage and dowry. They don’t save for her Education and help her find a job and make her economically independent! Many parents teach their girls that even if they are doing a job, it shall be subservient to her to be husband’s job! Parents have to stop doing that!
- Parents need to push their girls into Maths and Science for better job prospects. For some reason parents want their girls to study art and learn to be good homemakers. The roundness of the rotis matter – her choice of subject doesn’t. Parents need to go to career counselors and seek advice for their Girl’s future. And share with the girls.
- Parents need to teach their girls that they are second to none – very emotively. In a society such as ours, we have women being treated as second class citizenship on a regular basis. Parents need to reverse this and also show in their behavior towards their girls.
- A girl’s body isn’t “ghar ki izzat” – it’s a human body and nothing more. She is to be given basic human rights over her mind and body and self! If girl falls in love, or decides to have a physical relationship with someone, no family name is being slighted! It’s her choice!
- And MOST IMPORTANTLY, if a girl is raped, her izzat isn’t lost – the rapist’s izzat is lost!!! We have to overtly encourage our girls to know and believe that! And also the fact that they are protected by their families and the law. Many a girl commits suicide due to social pressure and victimization, after the rape.
- It’s not ok to be beaten/ hit by your husband. And you have the right to walk out of the marriage. You also need to tell her that your home shall always be open for her, if ever she needs help.
- You shall not be doing “kanyadan” and you shall not be asking her to “move our of the house”. This concept of Kanyadan as being mahadaan in the Indian cultural context is ever permeating. This needs to stop! And girls need to be told by their parents clearly that they shall not be doing this “ritual” in name or hear and soul. This might give the girl a lot of strength.
- You are in no way inferior to boys. Social taboos and social restrictions always have a situation where the boy is considered superior. The parents of the girls need to enforce this into her mind that that’s not true. And that all girls are equal.
- Girls need to play contact sports. Parents need to encourage little girls to run, climb trees, play kabaddi etc. They need to tell their girls that its fine and acceptable behavior. Many girls give up running when elders in society start asking them to “behave like a girl”.
- Parents need to tell their girls that the prime reason for this existence is not to just to get married and have babies. Gender stereotypes have “good women” being portrayed as married with babies and lots of maternal instincts. But this isn’t true always. And parents need to teach their little girls that it’s ok to be different. And “she” as a choice!
- Make your girls independent financially and encourage them to take decisions. Most Indian women when they grow up are unable to make decisions as all their social and financial decisions were made by their husbands/ brothers/fathers, etc. You need to assist them! And teach them.
I hope that you too shall add to this list after reading this piece.
Taking a moment and putting down a line about my book “A Normal Indian” which has 18 short stories around social issues faced by young people in India today.
A lot of them have young women and girls struggling with social ills and taboos – you may wish to “catch a look-see” A Normal Indian – Short Stories from the Heart of India
I also write about relationships and people on my blog Malavika Sharma – Social Entrepreneur & Activist