Missing Women?

I came across an article on Yahoo! India today, that said that women in some villages are forced to marry more than one person from the same family due to a shortage of women. Some of them end up being married to 4-5 brothers in the same family. I had come across a similar article a long while back in India Today. I think I was in school then. The presence of this article on the site today, shows that the situation has gone from bad to worse. This horrifying scenario can be pretty much attributed to one single factor- female foeticide. Girls are simply not being born to keep up with the number of men, and society has to resort to such measures to keep their families moving forward. I find this concept, horrifying, disgusting and more than that frightening.

These families justify their stance saying that a single wife in the family will ensure that their property will not be divided among many households and some such drivel. But just imagine the plight of the woman. Lets think about why a situation like this has emerged. Since the institution of dowry started, there has been a steady decline in the number of the female half of the population. Leave alone villages, even in metros, parents consider a son as a blessing- someone who can earn and take care of them in their old age. Whereas a daughter is always a burden- someone you bring up only to get her married off, with a sizeable dowry to ensure she stays alive, and if at all she happens to be employed, the minute she is married her in-laws will have more claim on her salary than her own parents. There is no guarantee that her parents will be taken care of. And among some staunch Hindu’s, there’s the belief that only a son performing the last rites will ensure moksha for them. To this day, I hear people repeating this. And if a couple is not blessed with a son, in spite of having daughters, it is always a nephew who gets to do the last rites.

I digress. Daughters are a burden- in addition to the hefty dowry and the money “wasted” in educating them, there is also the angle of safety. Who in their right mind would want a daughter in a society where abuse starts right from the hospital bed where the girl is born? Sometimes, in spite of all the safety you can provide a daughter, tragedy still strikes. And that kind of “disgrace” is the worst kind- it doesn’t matter if it was for no fault of the girl. She will still be blamed. Sometimes, even I feel scared when I think of having a little baby girl. What guarantee is there that I will be able to protect her in this society? There are none. She could be assaulted, raped, shot, killed, have acid thrown on her face- disgraced in every way possible from the minute she is born. A son, on the most part, needs no such taking care of, no such protection. So why not avoid the headache and have a son instead of a daughter. Sex selection and foetal sex determination are banned in India. Yet, it happens. The rich decide to get the pregnancy terminated, while the poor, who often have no access to such facilities usually wait until the kid has been born to take action. The number of cases (reported & unreported) of female foetuses being killed, girls being abandoned minutes after birth and even killing of the girl child has shot up drastically. And recently, I read about a motion to legalize sex determination in our country. That will be the end, I tell you. We might as well be heading towards an all male society. Women will become a scarce resource soon.

The article I read today also mentioned that for most poor villagers with daughters, this scenario was a boon. Their daughters are a scarce resource, and they have the power to bargain now. In olden days, the guy’s family had all the power when it came to a wedding and the dowry demanded was often hefty, something that a poor farmer could never be able to afford. Now the tables are turned. Women are in short supply and so, their parents have the power to bargain. They see this as a golden opportunity to get their daughters married off sans dowry. In some parts of India, the situation is so dire, grooms families are paying the brides parents to give them their daughters in marriage. And for these parents, the fact that their daughter could be married to 3-4 men does not matter. They are simply getting rid of a headache. Simple. And does this situation teach these people anything? No. Am sure once the woman is married off, to one or all the brothers in a family, she will still be under pressure to produce a son. And the vicious cycle continues.

For the rich, educated class of society, dowry is still one of the reasons most prefer to have a son rather than a daughter.After all they have to give their daughter enough depending on their social standing. For some it is a matter of passing on the family business etc onto the “responsible shoulders” of a son. For some it is all about having someone to carry the family name forward, since the daughter is always “paraya dhan”. For some it is about the security of having someone stay with them and take care of them in their old age. The reason and excuses abound but, the fact remains, that these excuses make no sense. All these are non- issues if you make up your mind about it. If you decide not to give dowry, then it ceases to become an issue. It is as simple as that. Somehow people fail to see that. Some are scared that without dowry their daughters will be ill-treated in their in-laws place. It is a legitimate fear, I agree. We hear and read about these issues on a daily basis. But a hefty dowry again, does not ensure a daughter’s happiness. She could be tortured in spite of it. There is never any guarantee.

And thus the male: female ratio keeps dwindling. In spite of the best efforts of the government and various other non- profit and non- governmental organizations, the situation has scarcely improved. The numbers have steadily fallen and one sees no signs of it improving anytime soon. Something needs to be done to change this mindset of people. The government has to crackdown hard on anti- female practices and policies. The time for surveys and studies and declarations are over. This is not the time for false promises or fake declarations to implement suggestions. This is the time for action. This is the time to come down hard on stupid rituals and policies that make a girl unwanted and unloved. This is the time to effect a massive change in society. Lets all pray before it’s too late. Else, am sure the day is not far off, when “women” will be a category on India’s list of imports.

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One thought on “Missing Women?

  1. Extremely well written!And I must add here that the “Nair” sect from Kerala was originally supposed to be a matriarchal system,but sad to say even that is dwindling now!

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