— by Jemi Thomas, MA Clinical Psychology
Since 1990, 17.3 million girls in India have been aborted (killed, to say it as it is) due to sex-selective abortions and other forms of pre-natal selection. 17.3 million girls!
The answer is painfully simple. These girls were considered a burden by those who begot them. This notion that a girl child is a burden prompts people to determine the sex of the child in the womb and eventually abort the child. Such perceptions and attitudes that undermine her value, lie at the core of illegal acts like sex determination and sex-selective abortions in India.
So, in an effort to alter these attitudes and eventually bring an end to these practices, we examine here 5 myths about the girl child still prevalent in the society:
She can’t carry on the family name - Khasi, an ethnic indigenous tribe in Meghalaya, has a matrilineal society. Khasi children take on their mother’s surname. It’s a way of honouring the mother for carrying the child within her. The point here is, if an entire tribe can survive for centuries through females, any family too could survive through a female.
She can’t support us when we are old - It is difficult to understand the origin and basis of this notion as varying estimates across different countries clearly indicate that 57-81% of all caregivers of the elderly, are women. In most cases, female caregivers are wives or adult daughters of the elderly person.
She is a burden - Komal Ganatra who hails from a small town in Gujarat left her NRI husband and her in-laws because of their incessant demands for dowry. To get away from social shaming, she then moved to a village in Bhavnagar, worked as a government school teacher earning ₹ 5,000 per month and struggled on to become Komal Ganatra IAS. She credits her success to her father who believed in her and taught her to dream big. Her story, like many other, is an example of the asset a girl child can be.
She is a Paraya Dhan - This is a tough one. Not because this notion is true but because there is an endless list of successful women to bust this myth. Check out our social media campaign #SheCanToo to learn about inspiring women who broke stereotypes and made it despite all odds.
She needs to be protected - If you believe this to be true, then you probably haven’t met Mehrunnisa who works as a bouncer in a club in Hauz Khas, New Delhi. Describing her unconventional work, she says, “I am very proud of what I do, it's not an easy job. Taking care of people is a very big responsibility.”
John Watson, American Psychologist, once said, “Give me a dozen healthy infants, and my specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take anyone at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, and, yes, even beggar and thief”.
While John has his critiques, he does raise an important point— whether a girl child is an asset or a burden, comes down to the kind of environment we are willing to provide for her.
Women today have proved themselves capable, above and beyond, in every facet of life. Decades back, they could have been seen as a burden, considering the lack of opportunities, rights and education given to them. But the scenario is changing now. And change in times calls for change in attitudes.