It is interesting indeed, the kind of innovation that gets created by necessity, in the face of not just adversity, but what seems like insurmountable odds. Today I’m thinking of a long standing problem for India-Female feticide and what can stop it? Lots of people, policy makers and common men included have put their heads to the issue which is not new, but seemed to have gained momentum in the last few decades. The dwindling female:male ratio of the Northern states bearing testimony to the fact that people had become quite adept at using modern techniques to find creative ways of solving traditional ailments. So quick ultrasounds at doctor or quack clinics, to reveal the gender of the foetus, followed by a quicker abortion if it was female, did the job. And was well concealed. With the inevitable result that the offspring was always male (Some of my so-called well-wishers, obviously not knowing much about me, and displaying pity after the birth of my first daughter, had suggested this route). With the dwindling female:male sex ratio reaching alarming proportions, to the extent that three Hariyanavi* brothers had to share a wife, a la Draupadi, the policymakers were forced to sit up and take notice.
And what better way to do that than to try and stem the issue? So ultrasound clinics were banned from revealing the gender of the unborn child, with strict penalties and surveillance in place for doctors. And abortions coming under the scanner too. All these had their impact, somewhat reducing the gender selection dilemma. But, surprisingly the problem seems to continue, perhaps abetted by even more innovative means, which may have been discovered by desperate people not wanting a female offspring at all.
What is heartening to note, is the amount of attention this issue is getting. Last week, a cyclist from Punjab,” Gurjeet Singh” started a country wide cycling trip to raise awareness of the issue- his mission “Save and Educate the Girl child” . A heart warming gesture indeed. A slew of other awareness initiatives are to be seen; funnily enough some creative radio jingles by the “Ministry” encouraging people to have more girls. A man, ostensibly “ Mr Gupta” proudly proclaims, on a ministry sponsored advert – “ I have two girls, both are chartered accountants. And they help me run my company- my turnover has gone up five times. And now I have named the company “Gupta and daughters”. Laudable indeed, Mr Gupta and the ministry of women and whatever, but is this enough? Goading people to have daughters by naming their companies so and so. Or, is something much more drastic, something really innovative needed to stop this poison?
My thought is, India needs to dig deeper, find the root of the issue and then pull it out. In a patriarchal society, even primitive at times, men hold the upper hand. Be it freedom to move around, dress and loiter (to prove this point , a group WEloiter has been setup,where women are simply loitering about the way men do in India, thus asserting their rights to this activity, hitherto the prerogative of some useless men), ownership of assets, or simply the family name, women are always disadvantaged, with very few exceptions (Such as the Nair community of Kerala). So, in effect, we may need to do more to reverse the tide.
Being a woman should simply be the “best “ that can happen. Be in in property, taxes, employment, education, civil rights or anything else you can think of, the policymakers will have to make it unfairly advantageous to be a woman. Swinging the scale somewhat to the other side. Just to get the balance right, which you can achieve only after rebalancing, and tilting the other way. Some measures that are in place already- free education, the tax free interest deposit account for girls for upto Rs. 1.5 lakhs , all good, but need to be upped. Why not make property transfer to a woman free of stamp duty ? That way, a lot of property will get registered in a woman’s name. And as we all know, property equals power. Reinvigorate the parliamentary reservation bill for women which is still gathering dust. Puny measures will not help in solving the issue, but bold, innovative steps are what are needed.
Dear readers, If you have any suggestions about how we can unfairly advantage women, do write to me .. Amblingindian@gmail.com. I will be happy to compile an innovative list of ideas for the cause of women in India and post it too.
* men from Haryana, a state in the North of India