By Arush Emmanuel Michael
In January 1997, in a small district of Tamil Nadu, a girl by the name of Vijaya had just turned 18 years of age. Her mother Lakshmi decided to hold a huge celebration in order to tell the whole village that her daughter had finally come of age. She wanted everyone including the relatives to know that her daughter was all grown up and was ready for marriage. The ceremony was a costly affair and is considered as one of the many expensive ‘burdens’ a family has to bear in order to send off their daughter after marriage. Dowry, an illegal demand put forward by the groom’s family is the actual killer. This dowry represents a family’s life savings at times and can be destructive for the family.
Raising two daughters is considered an impossible task in many parts of India. Many families consider the path of female infanticide if and when they discover the child is a female. Lakshmi was also suggested the same path when she had her second daughter Vijaya. She confesses that she felt a lot of sorrow about giving birth to a second female child and considered the prospect. However, Vijaya’s grandmother refused to have her own grandchild murdered and let her live life to the point where she is all grown up now.
The second girl child in many parts of the country is termed as the ‘girl born for the burial pit’. Even though the spine-tingling reality above might be from 1997 but things haven’t changed till today. Each and every week there are stories of female infanticide in all parts of the country. Female infanticide is not only limited to the less educated states but has its roots deep inside every nook and cranny of the country. Over the past 25 years, we might have developed ourselves by leaps and bounds in the terms of economy and infrastructure but the stigmas and myths are still prevalent in society.
In Vijaya’s district, the Indian Council of Child Welfare received funding from foreign backers and made efforts in order to help educate women and instill skills in them so that they can support themselves. Nurseries were set up to save children who had been abandoned or left to die just because they were born as a female. Counselling and awareness programs are conducted at every level of society for the purpose of bringing female infanticide to a halt but the people of the country refuse to change their mindset. The stories stay the same and the chauvinist culture persists inspire of efforts.
This doesn’t mean that we as a whole stop awareness just because it is not working. It necessitates the need for better approaches to infiltrate the deeper sections which refuse to budge. Education is a powerful weapon and if a child is educated from birth about gender equality they shall implement it in life. The fact that for a society to flourish everyone needs to have the same opportunities and rights is needed to be understood by everyone.
Dowry is a sensitive topic in many cultures and more now than ever it is kept hidden. In India, once a girl child is born most families start worrying about dowry and the fact that they’ll have to lose all their savings just to marry their child pinches them day and night. Dowry is one of the biggest evils that reside in our nation. Everyone knows it’s a wrong practice and that is why no one speaks about it openly but most people refuse to take a stand against it. The worst part is that many families who are highly educated and well off are the ones that demand the dowry. It needs to be emphasised that if a mother gives birth to a girl child, the family should think of a bright future where they educated her and help her be in the profession she chooses so she can stand on her own two feet.
Counselling and strict implementation of laws are necessary to ensure that female infanticide as a whole is eradicated from the face of our nation. The government every year speaks of goals and achievements in terms of GDP and an increase in the number of jobs. The numbers pertaining to female infanticide are the ones that need to be dropped down to zero. Human rights are taken for granted in our country so much so that a murder which is female infanticide is ignored.
Many girls are not as lucky as Vijaya who survived the wrath of society. Gender equality has progressed in our country, there is no denying that but completely achieving it's practice is still a far off dream. Women may have the same opportunities and jobs in the government but when their families insist on not getting them educated and instead focus on marrying them off they shall always be at a disadvantage. This disadvantage in turn results in a situation where female infanticide is promoted and refuses to succumb. The change starts with the citizens of the nation who should be ready to accept the facts of the matter and refuse to give in to traditions just because they are the way they are. Change is necessary when people are suffering and dying at the hands of society.