Baby gender inequality set to improve in India and China

Chinese Babies

Chinese Babies

The simple selfie stick is turning into a wand of prophetic political propensities due to untiring efforts of its major user…the present Prime Minister of India. In his latest social message to his country people, Narendra Modi, urged parents to post selfies with their daughters. This advice was to give political and social mileage to the Government’s program of saving daughters and educating them.

So far so good and commendable but then, I presume, he did not realise the level of backlash it would generate. From ‘self-promotion’ to ‘how is it going to help the poor villagers and city dwellers accept their daughters’ or ‘commendable effort’ tags the selfie promotion brainstormed the Indian social media into hyper ventilation.

The birth of a daughter was and regarded as a calamity and education is side tracked in efforts to save dowry money. Daughters, especially from poor families, are forced to leave school in junior level to earn money for their siblings as over the years the hope for a son results in more daughters and debts. It is well-known that in certain parts of India the girls aborted, killed at birth or abandoned, but, we hide behind the response that ‘it does not happen in my family’.

Responsive people, Social workers and NGOs have been working and advocating tirelessly towards giving the girl child her due and over the years there have been changes but a small act, like the December 2012 rape of a girl student in Delhi, set the dice rolling backwards. There have been other rape and dowry instances, it takes all types to populate a village/city/country, and no amount of legislation can keep the landscape clean.

In response to the Prime Minister’s request some parents posted selfies with daughters while others condemned it. The non-joiners argued that the country needs legislation to improve the status of its women. The state of Haryana, from where the original selfie request generated by a farmer and promoted by Modi, has an appalling ratio of 841 girls to every 1,000 boys.

It has the maximum aborted female foetuses and according to the UN Population Fund, if the trend continues India will have a deficit of 24 million women by 2040.Legislation has not helped close down illegal sex determination clinics in India and they continue to proliferate. The wish for a male child to carry on the family name, for support in old age and to receive dowry then to give one will continue till realisation of gender equality dawns on parents. (India ranks 113 out of 135 countries as per World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2011.)

Another reason for continuing discrimination is the sceptre of dowry that continues to haunts parents. The effort to match their neighbours, as an Indian wedding is assuming gargantuan proportions, leads to this skewed idea that an ostentatious wedding is culmination of doing their best towards their daughters. I know of a family where the daughter dropped out of college to learn household skills while waiting for an eligible match. Seven years on she is still waiting. If the parents had enrolled her in skill classes she would have been successfully employed and earned her own dowry. It is awareness not legislation that can bring about change in society.

A few years ago I was in Guangzhou (2011) and walking in a park came across Caucasian couples with toddlers in strollers. I was surprised at seeing more than a dozen at one time and place but thought no further till my friend informed me that the girls were adopted. The one-child policy tempts parents, interested in sons, to give their daughters away or abort them at birth.

Similar to India the traditional Chinese culture gives preference to sons, the sex determination centres declared illegal (since 2001), the need continues. The result is more sons than daughters and “by 2020 China will be home to roughly 30 million more young men than women. That means a large number of men won’t be able to find wives’. This has led to importing wives from Asian countries, including Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam”.*

Hopefully the trend is changing, in India and China, and a girl is more than dowry or an impediment to change and progress.* That she is a harbinger of prosperity as in India the recent Indian Government Civil Services results have shown. The four toppers are all girls…a selfie time for their parents. On a lighter side, a walk on Hong Kong streets where women, local and outsiders, out spoken and involved, outnumber men and you realize the impact of women power.

Reference: In China, More Girls Are on the Way by Christina Larson (Bloomberg Business)


Categories: Human Rights & Social Issues

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