I came across this very interesting, and moving blog recently, thanks to a comment its author left on my blog. It contains many things, personal experiences, horror stories, and plain and simple logic. In short, it raises awareness on an issue that must be spoken about and discussed if we really want to make a difference. One post that left me particularly angry was about an upper middle class family from Eastern UP that forced its daughter-in-law to abort because she was carrying a girl. I find it extremely hard to digest that fact that a mother is forced to destroy her child because it happens to be a girl.
There are two issues involved in this story. The first, and in my opinion, the most important is this obsession with having a son. I grew up in a female-dominated household. My mother has four sisters. One is not married, and the other lived with us for many years, in blocs of a few years, thanks to the transferable Air Force job her husband had. In short, I grew up with two aunts, a grandmum, occasionally a great grandmother and my mother. All women. My dad and grandfather were present, and so was my grandfather’s younger brother. But the women outnumbered the men two to one. Add to this the fact that I was an only grandchild for ten long years, at least until Vidyesh was born in 1992. My grandfather has no sons. Nor do my parents. Not one day have I felt bad about it. Or regretted being born a girl. In fact, being an only grandchild for ten years spoilt me to the extent that I am still given preferential treatment over my cousins sometimes. I am the first, and so I am treated as special by everyone. Including my two aunts who have a son each. Given the background and family in which I grew up, I will never understand why women want sons. In fact, the situation was sort of reversed in my family. My aunt’s first child was a boy. She prayed practically every day during her second pregnancy for a girl. Girls are precious in our family. And will always be.
But, when I step back from this situation and examine the issue objectively, it all adds up. It still does not make sense though. Some time back, I had written about dowry. That’s the issue. Dowry. Girls are considered a financial liability. Not because they must be educated or fed. But because they must be married away. To put it crudely, they are often treated like a piece of unwanted furniture to be sold to the lowest bidder. In this case, lowest bidder because its the girl’s parents who pay the bidder to take her away. So, whoever agrees to take her away at the lowest cost gets her. Have we no shame? How can any self-respecting man ask his wife’s parents to pay him? A car, a house, a couple of lakhs in cash, a few hundred sovereigns of gold, a diamond jewel or two… the list is endless. I am disheartened to see that this trend shows no signs of ending. In fact, it gets more and more fashionable to demand dowry. Even in previously matrilineal systems like the Nairs and Menons of Kerala, dowry is becoming an accepted practice. When will we change, if we ever will…?
The second issue is that of abortion in general. I have come across three cases of abortion in the past two years. All three women belong to the upper middle class. All are well-educated and well-settled. They have the proverbial house, car and dog. They have a decent income. All three are housewives. I refuse to call these people home-makers because the term housewife seems more appropriate. All three have ambitions, not for themselves, but for their husbands. They want to go abroad, settle down there, build a house, buy a car and be generally successful. But none of them want kids. Well, that’s fine by me. If you don’t want kids use contraception. But no, all three got pregnant within six months of marriage. And all three aborted the foetus. To me, that’s cold-blooded murder. There is nothing wrong in not wanting a kid right away. There are a dozen different ways to prevent conception. These women are educated right? Should they not take responsibility for their lapses? I find it impossible to accept that abortion can be used to get rid of a child you don’t want. A child is precious. There are millions of infertile couples trying desperately to have a baby. And these women throw away what they get because they claim children are too expensive to take care of. One husband actually told me that the cost of a child diapers would be too expensive for him to sustain. The said husband is in a good job earning more than 40,000 rupees a month. He does not think twice about taking his wife out to the Taj for dinner but calculates the cost of a child’s diaper? Its simply selfish. On second thoughts, I would rather such people not have kids. At least, the kid won’t suffer.