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  • May You Be The Mother Of A Hundred Sons

    ApuBACK FROM THE DIWALI break, I was chatting with the elderly lady who comes to sweep our street everyday. Though she is employed by the municipal corporation, the wages are paltry so residents usually help her with small tips in cash or kind. As I handed over her Diwali tip and a small box of sweets, she blessed me saying, “May you have male children year after year!” Quite apart from the fact that overburdened India doesn’t need anybody producing children year after year, what is with this obsession with the male child, that simply refuses to go away?

    If anything, technology only seems to be ensuring that parents can select for gender more effectively. A recent book, Disappearing Daughters reveals that the female-male sex ratio across five north-western Indian states is abysmal, and worsening. Nor does affluence necessarily seem to improve the situation, because upper-caste families, more likely to have access to land and education, are no better. As InfoChange India mentions,

    In four of the five sites surveyed, the proportion of girls to boys had declined since the 2001 census. In one site in Punjab state, there are just 300 girls to every 1,000 boys among higher caste families, the report says.

    A few months ago, I read Elisabeth Bumiller’s ‘May you be the Mother of a Hundred Sons’, the title of this post. Though the book suffers from some generalizations that would be obvious to an Indian eye, I thought that it did a pretty good job of covering many of the issues faced by women across the country. The pity is that though the book was written almost 20 years ago, we don’t seem to have progressed much on some of them.

    One of the things she brings up in this book is sex-selective abortions. The dilemma is this: on the one hand, it is important that women have the right to abort as an inalienable right over their own bodies. On the other hand, to prevent the rampant killing of foetuses identified as female, the government has made such identification illegal. Then, is this equivalent to giving a woman only partial control over her womb? You may abort, but only for reasons that we approve of–is that what we are saying?

    To me, while this is a dilemma in theory, circumstances in India may need a different solution. For one thing, it is a well known fact that irrespective of what the law says, many Indian women do not actually have any control over their bodies. Whether contraception is used at all, for how long, whether to keep the foetus or abort it–these decisions are rarely in the hands of the woman, or even of the couple alone. Social norms, the economic situation and the wishes of family play an important role. (Here is an interesting account of a program to promote knowledge of contraception and change in child-bearing patterns in rural India, which shows that community involvement is important.)

    In this situation, it is not feasible to say that any reason for abortion is valid–are women really exercising control over their bodies, or are women’s bodies being controlled by others to fulfil the demand for sons? (There will of course be some women who say that it is entirely their choice, but I’m talking about the majority here.)

    Legally outlawing sex-selective abortion is not a panacea by itself. As the data shows clearly, it is not working, and will not work, as long there are plenty of unethical medical professionals. Poor law enforcement means that the culprits will rarely be booked, let alone punished. States like Tamil Nadu which have implemented the Cradle Baby scheme, find that there is no drop in the number of babies being dropped off there, showing that unless fundamental attitudes change, only the means of disposal will differ.

    For poor families, girls are seen as an economic burden: they will not bring much into the family kitty and will deplete it as the cost of marriage is shouldered by the girl’s parents. For more well-to-do families, dowry may be one factor but there also seems to be an element of pride attached to having male children. This is closely related to a patriarchal society’s handing down of assets. So until girls are seen as economic assets–as people who can earn their own way–this practice is not going to stop. For girls to be able to do that, they need to be able to live, get enough to eat and then get to school, before they can learn a skill and start supporting themselves. This is apart from attitude changes towards dowry and marriage.

    This then is the dilemma in a country where girls are blamed for being unproductive assets and killed before they can ever prove themselves: how do we bring up our girls to be productive citizens when they are rarely allowed to get here in the first place?


    22 Responses

    1. ‘economic assets’? i don’t think many indian men are ‘economic assets’ either. whatever baba marx might have said, i don’t think economics is the only thing that drives all human values & endeavour and not just in india. and patriarchy is a cultural value that isn’t supported by ‘rational’ economic reasoning- example- let me talk some rough economics: if all women were in the industrial workforce, wages would come down by half and the prices of all manufactured products go down considerably- the net result being every household would have greater real disposable income (even after the wages have come down). so, why aren’t employers chasing women? and why aren’t more families sending women to work? if you think the lack of education and ‘unemployable’ skills, among women, are the major reason: let’s look at the the indian government ( i mean the central government). it employs around around 35 lakh people (excluding the armed forces and the cpsus). only 17% of them were women in 1990 ( the numbers- the total and the percentage of women has actually come down since, if i remember right). do you think there aren’t/weren’t 17.5 lakh women matriculates or undergraduate degree holders in india (even in 1990)? or at least 10 lakhs or so? there were more male competitors, of course. which explains male domination in the bureaucracy but not the continued existence of the patriarchy because the men who failed to grab those skilled jobs were more in number than the women (i.e, more men failed at being ‘economic’ assets)

      and in india, class hasn’t got anything to do with it either: you say the poor regard women as an economic burden and unless those girls learn to support themselves they wouldn’t be considered ‘economic’ assets. apart from working at home, girls/women do a major portion of the work in the informal sector in the country, which includes agriculture- that’s the sector which employs the great majority of the ‘unskilled’ in india (and 93% of all workers). so do the lower social classes regard girls/women as an economic burden? let me quote from aa article on similar (as the one you quote from) survey:

      ‘In a recently completed study in Mehsana district in Gujarat and Kurukshetra district in Haryana, undertaken with the support of HealthWatch Trust, it was observed that the last births had a stronger preponderance of boys than all other births. Although more than twice as many boys as girls were reported among the last births by most groups of women, among those women who belonged to upper castes, whose families were landed and who were literate, there were more than 240 males for every 100 girls in the last births.’
      (from here: http://www.india-seminar.com/2003/532/532%20leela%20visaria.htm)

      note ‘among those women who belonged to upper castes, whose families were landed and who were literate’…

      one could say, the poor or the lower social classes do value women more as ‘economic’ assets than those higher up the social hierarchy. so, bringing in the question of economic ‘worth’ of women is a tactic, a trap set by patriarchy. a debate along those lines would strengthen patriarchy, in my view. and the roots of patriarchy are for a major part, socio-religious.

      but i am nitpicking, i guess, i do agree with a lot of what you say in the post. thanks..

    2. […] Aparna Singh discusses abortions and sex-selective abortions: The dilemma is this: on the one hand, it is important that women have the right to abort as an inalienable right over their own bodies. On the other hand, to prevent the rampant killing of foetuses identified as female, the government has made such identification illegal. Then, is this equivalent to giving a woman only partial control over her womb? You may abort, but only for reasons that we approve of–is that what we are saying? Linked by kuffir. Join Blogbharti facebook group. […]

    3. I just want to comment on the aspect of “For poor families, girls are seen as an economic burden: they will not bring much into the family kitty and will deplete it as the cost of marriage is shouldered by the girl’s parents.”

      If you see what’s happening really in the field, you will find that the rich are actually the worst culprits of sex selective abortions. On the face of it, it does seem like girls are an “economic burden” and hence not desirable….but actually most people ( and I am talking middle class and above) do not even have “lack of money” as an issue. Patriarchy is a culprit yes…as it perpetuates the passing on of legacies which can only go to the male child….it is more to do with what position women hold in society and all that u said in conclusion.

      Interestingly, poor too desire male children…but they don’t resort to sex selective abortions as much as the more educated rich people. In the field where I work on this issue, the poor are “god fearing”, so they consider killing of a foetus as sin, so they continue to produce children till they finally get a boy. They are more scared of the police, of it being a crime and the fear of being caught….as opposed to the smarter counterparts who will neither worry about the cost involved or the means.

      Also, we aren’t saying “You may abort, but only for reasons that we approve of”, we’re instead saying, that sex selection is WRONG even if you want to abort a male child and favour a female child as that is the work of nature. No matter what the circumstance humans ( not men or women) do not have the right to choose the sex of the child and is discriminatory at best. The right to abortion must be UPHELD under all circumstances and should never be confused with sex selective abortions. I am saying this here, just because there is a huge danger of confusing the two….and for “anti-abortion” people to pick up the argument and take away the right of the woman over her womb.

      She is free to choose how many children, when to have them, if to have them etc etc…the operative word being “children”, not boys or girls.

      Great article!

    4. Kuffir – thanks for the detailed comment. Apologies if the last few paragraphs give people the impression that I think the problem is purely economic or related to class. As the Infochange India link I cited clearly shows, upper-caste (and presumably better-off) families are no exception.

      I agree that socio-cultural factors play a big role. However, a lot of it is also probably rationalised using an economic lens? I thought there have been some cases where the state putting a deposit in the girl child’s name has helped.

      Also, whether or not the men actually prove to be economic assets, that’s how they are perceived isn’t it? (I didn’t quite get your argument about women entering the workforce leading to lower wages and prices)

      Chandni, thank you for putting it better than I could! This is why the Elisabeth Bumiller’s book left me a little dissatisfied, since she conflates the two.

    5. Great comments, Kuffir and Chandni.

      “Interestingly, poor too desire male children…but they don’t resort to sex selective abortions as much as the more educated rich people. In the field where I work on this issue, the poor are “god fearing”, so they consider killing of a foetus as sin, so they continue to produce children till they finally get a boy. They are more scared of the police, of it being a crime and the fear of being caught….as opposed to the smarter counterparts who will neither worry about the cost involved or the means.”

      Yes, I believe this is true. In fact, Gita Aravamudan does say this in her book Disappearing Daughters. I interviewed her about the book and this was the thing she was most affected by in her research as well. She said that the more affluent the family was, the more likely they were to abort female foetuses. Disturbing because then we can’t even claim it’s lack of education. Although, it is, in a sense, because our education system really doesn’t address the gender problem, does it?

      What would it take to change such attitudes? I think it needs to start early, through primary and secondary school–a focused module on the equality of the sexes and the value of girls, maybe, so that the next generation grows up thinking differently.

    6. i tend to agree with Chandni on this… its actually the rich people in small cities (i want that believe that though i know its not 100% true) are the one who indulge in this the most… infact i am ashamed to say that my own aunt was adviced to do so couple of years back and i am proud that she didnt…. its a matter of great concern and there is a great difference between the right to abort and the right to choose the sex of my child… the first i think should be a fundamental right of any woman… its body and its my right to decide whether i want to use it for child bearing or not but the right to decide what could be the sex of my child.. nah……

      fantastic article… this was my first time here and i am sure i am going to visit her more often now

    7. chandni,

      ‘(I didn’t quite get your argument about women entering the workforce leading to lower wages and prices)’

      yes, i realize i didn’t quite express it well. 🙂 i am going to elaborate on the issues i’d raised in my earlier message (more to clear my own mind):

      * women are already in the workforce in all countries- most sane economists would acknowledge that they work more than men.

      * in modern/industrial/capitalist etc., societies work is valued in terms of wages

      * if, one says, patriarchy doesn’t value women as ‘economic’ assets, would it value them more if there were more potential wage-earners among women?

      * i’d tried to point out that there are more potential wage- earners among women capable of taking up more jobs in the sectors where organized capital operates in india- government, public sector, large private corporations which are listed on stock markets. organized capital/labour go together with urban india/upper social class/educated in india.

      * now if you look at that particular section of our economy (organized sector) and that particular sections of indians- upper caste/educated/urban indians, you’d find that there aren’t as many wage-earning women as there should be. there’d probably be a 10-15% gap in literacy/training levels between men and women belonging to those sections. but why is the composition of the organized workforce so skewed? 85% men and 15% women?

      * if all women (urban/upper class/educated) who are potential wage-earners work in the organized sector- wages would come down (which is good for employers), production would go up (good for businessmen/employers again), real incomes would increase(average household would have two instead of one wage-earner) because consumption wouldn’t increase at the same pace as incomes (you might buy three, and not four, instead of two bars of soap in a given period etc.,). now, that’s a theoretical situation..but i guess it helps in explaining what i am trying to say.

      * so, when everyone stands to gain from more potential wage-earning women becoming actual wage-earners, why isn’t that happening? does organized capital dislike women? and so much that it refuses to expand (employment in the organized sector has remained around 7% of total employment in the last twenty years in india)? one could relate a major part of that refusal to expand to the constraints imposed by the regulatory and infrastructural environment but..

      * the fact that more women (more than 30%) are employed in the mostly rural unorganized or informal sector (which employs, as i said earlier, 93% of the indian workforce) seems to support the idea that organized capital does dislike women. but, across the world, is that true?

      * this slightly old, but interesting article in the economist says (http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=6800723 ) women have been saving organized capital in countries like the u.s., and sweden. a growing trend in the last couple of decades in those countries has been more women are joining the organized workforce and this has helped those countries grow faster than more conservative (note- the article, as far as i could notice, doesn’t use the word patriarchy anywhere..it resorts to euphemisms like prejudice :)) nations like japan and italy. one line from the article which sums it up:

      ‘Furthermore, the increase in female employment in the rich world has been the main driving force of growth in the past couple of decades.’

      * one could say, organized capital doesn’t dislike women. even in the unorganized sector in india the share of women in employment is much more than 30% because i’ve read somewhere that around 40% of rural women workers do not work for wages (and by work, i do not mean household work which gets no wages anyway)- like those engaged in farm work etc., which means unorganized labour is more exploitative- or unorganized capital dislikes women more.

      * to conclude, women not working (for wages- especially from urban/educated/upper social classes) in india isn’t related to economics or due to their limited access to requisite skills. the hold of patriarchy among these sections seems to be stronger than on the rest . they seem to be killing more girl children than the others, as chandni too suggested, and also, quoting again from the same article (as in my earlier message): http://www.india-seminar.com/2003/532/532%20leela%20visaria.htm

      ‘However, we observed some differences between women belonging to higher social groups and those who belonged to scheduled caste and other backward communities with regard to the influence of the in-laws in these matters. The high caste women had to inform and consult their in-laws but the low caste women had to obtain the consent of only their husbands for abortion. The influence of the extended joint family was not so strong on the decision of the women from lower caste groups.’

      this idea might seem counterintuitive, but i guess we need more research.

    8. i’ve incorrectly addressed my last comment to chandni. it’s for aparna, actually. sorry.

    9. There are two reasons why the rich or the poor want to get rid of a girl child even before birth:
      1) Dowry and the marriage related expenses
      2) The myth or the belief that a male child will support the parents in old age.

      Dowry is an integral part of many Indian cultures even today. To name a few, there are Marwadi’s and the the Andraites. These cultures spare no one. Rich or Poor, King or beggar. Everyone has to give dowry to the daughter when she gets married. I have seen many Marwadi families who get the gender determined even today through illegal practices. If it a girl then they get the foetus aborted.

      These days it in only a myth that the male child will support the parents through their old age. If a girl child is given proper education and values then I am sure she could do the same.

      The values need to change from within. A change in the attitude is most important. I don’t see that change in some of the educated families either. We are stuck in the middle where we obtain education and nice jobs but somehow our mental shift never happens.

      I also blame the media to some extent. India needs progressive thinking where women are not portrayed as cattle. We need to portray women as acheivers, go getters who can support themselves without being stomped over.
      The effect of media on all sections of the soceity is tremendous.

      It is a cascade effect. The portrayal of women is sure going to change the perception of a woman. Perception of a woman as a self-supportive human being will change the mind of people.

    10. Dear All,

      This is my first post here and I am very excited about the kind of space this is.

      What is seen above is a speculation on why some of us Indians would want to get rid of their female fetus or kill it after its birth. The answers range from the economic, socio-cultural etc., to saying that it is irrational, barbaric, superstitious etc. Solutions offered tell us that education might help, attitudinal change is necessary etc.

      On the other hand, the facts reveal that there the rich who are involved, and that a girl provides income as well, which defeats the theory that it is economic status that drives people into making such decisions.

      I suspect we are missing on a crucial aspect here. Let me put it across. In very spiritual texts found in India’s past, one can see statements about the semen being the amsa of a human being. The semen it is believed carries both parents’ life/action and when carried on, helps in relieving the parents of their karma. That is, a son is needed so that semen passes, and the actions of the parents are found in the son, for assessment, if not for forgiveness or reward. There are complex aspects to this understanding. Please let me know if I have gotten across.

      Now, you will ask me, do these rich and poor people actually know that the semen was believed to carry one’s amsa. Perhaps, literally they don’t. But they might be following these practices, because remembered history tells them so, or simply because their forefathers practiced this. You may further ask me, if this is even scientific. I do not know the answer to that. But I presume that people would think that if ayurveda works, astrology works and yoga works –all knowledge systems of the same origin, then why would this belief be false? To that, we have no answer yet. We often easily brand ‘others’ stupid, religious etc, without quite knowing the complexity of issues at hand.

      If you are a great believer in science, and modernist at that, you might argue that ayurveda, astrology, yoga are all false, and so, desiring a son is irrational. But the problem here is simply this: we do not know enough about the ideas about the human body that an ayurveda or a yoga has within it. We may partially agree that they cure us, or we may not. But in any case, we do not know the principles fully. Or even if we do, we will be forced to come face to face with questions of koshas, vata, pitta, jiva, deha, sleep, dream, consciousness and deep questions about healing, that we may at another time simply dismiss.

      I think it is arrogant on the part of us feminists to conclude very quickly that people need some enlightening. We probably do. Who knows! It is better to accept ignorance rather than simply speculate or produce weak theories and still claim that these practices are wrong. Continuing to say ‘we know better’ is so shockingly similar to British views on India, that we would not want to do that.

      At best, we could say, these practices are avoidable.

      I am not saying we should allow these practices etc. Or that everything is OK with this practice. We do not know enough to conclude as to what criteria we must use to deem these practices right or wrong. If you want to argue about preciousness of human life etc, then too we come up against a set of difficult issues. I am not even saying that female feticide is one practice where these questions are applicable, they may not be, but we have few criteria to say even that.

      Don’t get me wrong. All I am saying is that there is an intellectual question here that we have avoided, we need to work on it, and we need to confront it at least. Meanwhile, we need to raise more questions and give up completely on the ‘holier than thou’ attitude.

      Looking forward to comments


      Sushumna Kannan

    11. “If you are a great believer in science, and modernist at that, you might argue that ayurveda, astrology, yoga are all false, and so, desiring a son is irrational”.

      I am confounded by this argument. Let us assume, for argument’s sake, that I do believe in the scientific value of ayurveda, astrology, and yoga (our trinity of Indian scientific traditions), then desiring a son is natural. Let us even assume, for argument’s sake, that a large section of our nation, aware or unaware of this biological impulse, decides to kill females in the womb so as to ensure that their karma/needs are recreated/rewarded/punished through their sons. Does this mean, we have to absolve families of selectively killing females, because females do not have the necessary equipment to contain karmic debt? I don’t see the difference between this argument and the one that states that families kill female babies because they don’t have a penis. Oh, wait…it is the exact same argument. We are, in effect saying, that we kill females because they are females.

      Demographic data suggests that strictly biologically speaking, males have higher mortality rates (both during gestation and post-natal) compared to females. Controlling for other social norms (like son preference), this data is fairly clear almost universally. So, the central topic is not whether there is a biological impetus for more male children; it is whether there is a biological impetus for desiring more male children. Even while couched in a biological/religious/cultural data, the argument above is about social norms. If the above impetus were really true, why don’t we see these patterns cross-nationally, and even cross-culturally? For example, why don’t people from other nations (presumably, their biology works the same way ours does) also have this impetus to desire more male children and systematically select only males?

      I do not mean to dismiss Ms. Kannan’s argument by my fairly sarcastic tone. I certainly hope I have not misunderstood it. I am in agreement with her when she states that “We often easily brand ‘others’ stupid, religious etc, without quite knowing the complexity of issues at hand”. This is why I take her claim seriously, and I disagree with her for many reasons. To me, this argument is interesting only in what it attempts to do. It attaches a fairly (im)plausible biological impetus to explain a fairly hideous practice. I am not accusing Ms. Kannan of any such nefarious intentions. However, I hear these explanations often enough to ponder: whom do these explanations absolve, and to what purpose? Should marked differences in biological disposition (if it were ‘true’) be justification for unequal treatment? A brief look at history will reveal it never favors females (even if it appears to).

      So, I take umbrage at her statement: “We do not know enough to conclude as to what criteria we must use to deem these practices right or wrong”. I think we do. We do know enough to know: Killing women because they are women is wrong. That doesn’t mean that the circumstances are not complex. There is a moral, ethical complexity to the issue that can’t really be captured by assuming that all these families are misogynist or misguided (although most might be). At the same time, they can’t be explained away by attaching biological urges. The original question is still relevant: why are women not valued in our society?

    12. Dear Nivi,

      Thanks for the reply.

      I dont know what you mean when you say biological impetus or biological impulse. I did not say anything like that at all. So I do not know what you are saying in that entire paragraph.

      I said that there were well-worked out forms of indigenous knowledge systems, which we fail to understand. If not for the modern discourse about human rights and the preciousness of the human life, there are few tools with us to confront the indigenous knowledge systems. And these tools seem to fall to short, for, they come from a different context and are not responding to these knowledge systems at all. So, actually we have no argument or have very feeble attempts to convince people not to kill the female fetus.

      It is one thing to worry about the effects or the social implications of something, and another to actually provide arguments against a practice. Unless we see the people who are committed to these practices as superstitous, barbaric, dumb etc etc, we would not ask them to stop their practices on the basis of the implications of their practice alone. If we truly respect them, we should provide intellectual arguments as to why they should give up a practice.

      We are not able to do that as of now, it is our failure. Ideally, we should be able to show to them that semen does not contain the amsa of parents or that there are other ways to get rid of Karma. The task though difficult is not impossible, but feminists have not bothered to try even. An intellectual description of what enlightenment is, could clarify a lot of things and convince the members committed to the practise that alternative practices should be tried etc. To know, and say that semen is not amsa is the task ahead, that is the decent answer they deserve. Unfortunately, we never walk on the path of tradition to test it!

      The issue here is not the anxiety-ridden situation of someone abou to be kill someone. It is an intellectual one. You are reflecting on the situation, on the various possiblities and aiming at a justification process for what you say. And moral or ethical complexity is not free of justification either.

      Maybe women are valued for different things in our society. Are we not the ones that changed!

    13. Sushumna, what you seem to be saying is that we should be able to argue with people who abort female foetuses on their own terms – first of all, I don’t agree that the reasons you’ve given are the reasons for the practice, and arguing on their own terms could end up in some pretty vague arguments. (Showing them how to get rid of Karma? How does one do this objectively?)

      Secondly, while it might be politically correct to say so – I don’t believe that “I think it is arrogant on the part of us feminists to conclude very quickly that people need some enlightening” – people who are aborting foetuses for the reason of their gender DO need enlightening, and I have no qualms about saying it. If highly educated, well-off people in a city like Mumbai, think that only sons will carry on their line etc, isn’t that a medieval attitude? What is so wrong in condemning it upfront? I don’t care if they justify it as amsa or karma or anything else. Just because something has a religious angle is no need to tip-toe around it. It simply means they attach more importance to what religion says than to the worth of living women.

      I would agree with Nivi when she says, “So, I take umbrage at her statement: “We do not know enough to conclude as to what criteria we must use to deem these practices right or wrong”. I think we do” Of course, if you are saying that it will be easier to get people to change if we use certain arguments, I agree – but it’s not clear to me what those arguments may be.

    14. What those arguments may be may not be clear to us at this point, but that should not rule the intellectual honesty required in accepting that we need to do more intellectual exercises to figure things out.

      These are not some reliigons, you could wish away. They are part of highly scientific and well-worked out indigenous system of knowledge. Not dogma. But, products of keen observation.

      By the way, whats medieval attitude? How come you have bought into the narrtive of modernity so easily?

      How does one show objectively that Karma could be rid in a different way, or whatever the insight may actually be…is a valid question witha valid answer. The phiolosphers of the Indian tradiiton were doing just this. They were discussing enlightenment, suffering, karma and could differ from each other and hold debates. We need to reconstruct these debates for our own general good.

      I am not saying the politically correct thing here. It is intellectually honest thing.

    15. Aparna, I found your article very thoughtful and well written. I am still trying to make up mind on the issue of banning sex-selective abortion.

      I have been blogging on the issue of female-feticide in Punjab and the more I read and learn about it, the more I am troubled by what’s happening in my community. I agree with you that banning sex-selective abortion is not a solution by itself. However, although I totally support women’s right to abortion, I am beginning to believe that in the current circumstances of Indian society, such a legal ban – if implemented with a strong will and when used in conjunction with other approaches such as education and empowerment – can play an important role.

      Setting aside the question for now about who decides what a ‘productive citizen’ is, I find myself walking away from this blog with the question: “how do we bring up our girls to be productive citizens when they are rarely allowed to get here in the first place?”


    16. I have no idea what Sushma is trying to say? What sort of a future are we facing we if there are fewer men than women? Has she considered the sexual violence that would be unleashed on women in a society where there was a shortage of them? Does she know what happens in male-only prisons? Has she even thought through the implicatons of a population that has so few women that it cannot ensure its own survival?

    17. On another (perhaps more trivial) note – one of the things I’ve done often since EB’s book is, in any situation where a man has done something for which I’m thankful, or a blessing is appropriate, is to tell him “May you be the mother of a hundred sons!” It’s fun to see most of them recoil, and counter with, “Why not? Indian women have been blessed like this for millenia. Since it’s obviously so desirable, I’m just kindly wishing it back to you!” Or to those who say, “At least if you had said father….”, one can ask, “Why is ‘mother’ worse?” and hope that a light bulb or two will get switched on.

    18. Preeti,

      I saw your reply only now. My answer would be this: To think of the implications of a certain situation (in this case, the sex ratio) and then abhor a certain practice is a completely differently kind of logic than the one that was used earlier (the one that I was objecting to as well) on this blog.

      One would then (if implications were the focus) not accuse someone else of being barbaric etc. But would simply point to the larger implications (statistical data of which kind is very recent in history) of a certain set of practices.

      In most cases, such a logic has resulted in changes in Indian society and the most traditional of people/communities have not resisted the change. However, appealing to ‘rationality’, as if it was evident that the practice in itself was an irrational one, or calling a practice ‘barbaric’, doesn’t yield much, not even a conversation, leave alone protection of women!

    19. Hi, i really liked the article. I just wanted to share something with everyone. I am north indian, 27 years of age and have been married for 3 years. My family has lot of girl childs and even though I have seen son’s getting more importance than the daughters, the situation was still ok. Girls are educated and working. There is no objections on what to wear, whom to talk to etc.
      Its totally opposite in my husband’s family. His grandmom has 5 sons and no daughters. My husband has 12 brothers – 2 real brothers and 10 cousin brothers. Even after having no girl child since last 2 generations, none of the family members want a girl child even in the next generation. Initially I could not believe my ears when I heard this from my mother in law. She was talking to my sis in law (who was pregnant at that time) and said in clear words that she only wants grandsons and they should have atleast 3 sons, no less and the same goes for me too. I was so shocked and later on, I argued and tried explaining that I am educated and working, earning as much as your son, then why does she think that grandsons are better than granddaughters. Anyways my sis in law amazingly also gave birth to a son. So now I am under lots of pressure, which I have not succumbed to. Even though my in laws wanted me to have a baby immediately after marriage. I am scared to even try. Even though I would love to have a daughter more than a son, I dont have a way out. My sis in law feels whatever respect she gets in the house is only coz of her son.
      And the worst part is my husband also doesnt want any daughters and education has nothing to do with mentality. He is a MS graduate and hehas been living in US since last 8 years.
      I have no choice but to not have kids till atleast my husband changes his mentality (which is not possible, I know).

    20. I know this is such a sorry state I am in.

    21. xyz, thanks for bringining in real-life situation in this discussion, which was otherwise therotical only.

      In north India, the concept of Kanya Daan is into the core of each of every person. Till the last gen, ladies literally gave up their parents and saw them only when ‘permitted’ by in-laws. And that is alive at moderate levels in todays gen too. If not immediately, a bahu is expected to let-go her parents gradually – financially, emotional.

      Now this is a social thing and anyone breaking this rule is looked down upon or laughed at and such.

      Now since this bahu was a daughter for 20-25 years, it hurts bad. And there is no outlet cause, well, thats how it is.

      So what is the solution ?
      Marry out of this milieu and escape ? How many matches can you find ?
      Marry into a liberal family ? They all turn out to be the same eventually.
      Marry a liberal man no matter what family ? Well family bonds are strong in India and it eventually gets at the couple. Atleast after they have their own kids.

      Now this whirlpool is the reason why most in-laws ask for gender-determination and most mother go for it too.

      To stop the chain.
      So the world may go to hell, but her child may not suffer ever.

    22. […] EVERY FAMILY wants a hundred sons, but not even one daughter, where infant girls are killed using many ingenious methods, or even simpler, not allowed to be […]

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