By Shaina NC
Smt Mehra is a prosperous housewife in Amritsar, anchoring her 5-member family through the peaks and troughs of modern existence. Her husband, 2 daughters and 1 son share her reverence for Maa Vaishno Devi, the mother Goddess who’s considered the fountainhead of energy. The family diligently makes an annual pilgrimage to the shrine. A nice happy story! Or is it? Smt Mehra, assisted by mushrooming illegal sex-determination centres, aborted 3 of her unborn daughters in order to bring her son into the world.
One can be excused for believing that there’s nothing unusual about this, given near-universal preference for the male child. The striking point is that Amritsar district has one of the highest per-capita incomes in the country. Another study empirically proved that South Mumbai (again one of the richest enclaves) has the highest per-capita number of illegal sex-determination clinics and abortion centres in the entire country. What’s going on here? Is it not a fair assumption that economic prosperity would mitigate some of these practices that draw their inspiration from age-old beliefs and supported by ubiquitous clinics that promise the perpetuation of khandaans through the instrument of male offspring.
The worst child-sex ratio as per the provisional results of Census 2011 is in many districts of Punjab and Haryana, otherwise amongst the most prosperous districts. Even the National Capital Region of Delhi that otherwise enjoys highest levels of education and wealth, suffers from abysmal child-sex ratio. All this data, empirical and anectodal, demolish the myth of economic prosperity driving progressive social change. One fact that truly seems hypocritical is that millions of families, especially in North India, worship Maa Durga, invoke Her blessings, go for annual darshan, but refuse to blink even an eyelid before aborting a female foetus. It can be even worse for girls who are allowed to be born, because they can then be subjected to all kinds of physical, verbal and emotional abuse at every stage of their miserable lives. This hypocrisy plays out equally in urban centres, far from the feudal hinterlands, although there’s some merit in assuming that the feudal mindsets have some resonance in nearby towns and cities as well. My take is that such behaviour towards the girl-child stems from deep-rooted socio-cultural fears about insufficient security for her, the ancient belief that girls are ‘property’ that must be preserved, and a general callousness that a feudal mindset seamlessly provides.
In this era of shrinking distances, hanging on to medieval beliefs and attitudes not only hinders our much-promised progress, but also means that we have no right to be counted as a modern nation that thrives on universal values of humanism and equity.
(You like this article? Please respond to [email protected]; The writer is a Social Activist and Fashion Designer)