Friday, July 13, 2007

To be a woman..

This news shocked me. Whatever my personal sensibilities might be, I am pro-choice. I believe women are the best judges of whether they can bring another life into the world and sustain it. I would be offended if I had to explain my choices to an impersonal, strange official from the government!

That said, I don't think this measure would solve the issue of female foeticide. Why do people in the village of Usilampatti kill female infants? Because --

-- Dowry. It costs lots of money to get a girl married off.
-- A woman is technically lost to the house she was born in after marriage. She is "owned" by her husband's family. Therefore, there's no point in educating her or depending on her earnings.
-- Shame that follows when a woman is unmarried after a certain age.
-- Vulnerability a woman faces when she's unmarried -- roving eyes, an unhelpful police system that sometimes aids in rapes/murder and of course, the burden of carrying the "family honor"!

We place a great deal of worth on a woman's "honour" or chastity. I've sometimes felt that it is exaggerated to a ridiculous extent, partly by our maudlin movies and bloated emotional sensibilities. In fact, it is so ridiclously blown-up that a rape-victim is forced to die rather than face societal castigation, shame and cruelty. First, defiled for no fault of her own and then humiliated for that! And men abuse it even more because they know that this is the ultimate bargaining weapon. There's no second chance for women.

Female foeticide will vanish when the men of India learn to respect women and their choices. This proposed measure will do nothing to help any of the problems above.

And if you ask me, it serves everyone right that the female:male ratio is dwindling. Maybe, that'll teach people a little more respect.


Badhri said...

> Female foeticide will vanish when the men of India learn to respect women and their choices.

I won't take a chauvinistic stand here, trying to clear all the blame off men. But the approach to the whole problem would be erred the moment we start bifurcating the issue along the gender lines.

The receiving end is always clearly composed of women, but there are also women who endorse, actively participate and lead female foeticide and they are equally culpable (that they do it 'cos of what they had to go through is no excuse in my view).

> I believe women are the best judges of whether they can bring another life into the world and sustain it.

May be among the upper middle-class and the upper class. But those in the low-income group and villages tend to be indecisive while the power-wielding men are arrogant and ignorant.

If the whole program had been launched as a counselling for pregnent women where they would get expert advise for as much cost as the regsitration it would be more efficacious, like the family planning campaign (Remember the inverted red triangle?).

That is my opinion. A good social topic to discuss!

Venkatesh Gopalan said...

Weird as this may sound, I couldn't agree more with you. In fact this is the first sensitive issue that I think I think I agree with you on...

I am pro choice and have always felt "chastity" is given way too much more importance than is needed...its almost like women don't have to have a personality, just chastity!

Sriram said...

"Female foeticide will vanish when the men of India learn to respect women and their choices.'

Imo, this along with other issues arise due to the doublespeak we indians seem to be ingrained with. on one hand, we boast that we worship women as our mothers and call her 'Mother India' and crap and with no remorse turn a blind eye to atrocities against women that happen everyday. what else can you expect!!

Kishore Reddy said...

Well i do agree with you...But you know the only solution would be education. Education would be the only way to prevent this... what do you say

expertdabbler said...

i'm sure this will be a bigger curse than the problem it tries to solve..

That said, fundamentally there are two things which stand as the root cause:

Economic/Financial independence, and
the indian woman's reluctuance to use it even when she has it.

our women tend to confuse being assertive and being nice. they think its mutually exclusive.

Sridhar said...

some sweeping comments in this section...hmmm. seems people are ready to dub elders and in particular villagers as dumb merely because they haven't being "educated", "independent" etc. As far as I am concerned no woman is independent and so is man. Rather no man/woman should be independent except in higher plane spiritual senses. We convenient forget about the necessity that forced our villagers to start and to continue the madness of killing female child and foetus. if we merely attribute this malady to the backwardness in terms of female independence (be in assertivness or economy or whatever it is) or male chauvinism then why only a selected few pockets of india had this wretched method (usilampatti area and a few pockets in rajasthan area predominantly), when the cited reason is common across the nation? there is a historic reason behind such a "habit", which should not have arisen as a "solution" even during those days and definitely should not continue. for our information the women in these area are more assertive, stubborn and mentally strong than many other women (especially urban) and many other men (again urban area), given the problem these women (and their men as well) face day-to-day in their life. Just because they have continued a sinful practise we cannot sweepingly trivialise their knowledge and problem and attempt some shallow comments as "solutions". sorry to use such a strong word, nothing against any particular individual.

Evilness in the form of extortion dowry is not the cause but a symptom for the female infanticide/foeticide. The cause has to be diagonised and removed, the tangible form of this cause -- the dowry, is not the right pain area that needs the treatement.

Do we know why this dowry came to picture? It was because the traditional practice was abolished by late moghul and british "kings" of india. Until then women had their equal share in the property which was lost when these alien kings abolished them. This resulted in giving away equivalent money which has lost its sanctity nowadays. As kanchi paramacharya said dowry has no relevance today and it must be abolished. He, being a mahathma, has rightly given the direction to the solution for this malady -- societial change in attitude and not any other way. A convenient practise of the society when it turns out to be an evil on its own doesn't make the people of the society to realise it because of being in the center of the issue. The external body has to merely enlighten them and that society will, by itself take the remedy.

Unless that society is willing to come out of this cocoon any other forceful ways or trivialising statements would do little and could be even counter-productive.

similarly is the woman-as-commodity and transfer theory. it is also a shallow thought merely attempting to paint the symptom as the cause. again i understand subha that you have merely reiterated what people feel nowadays.

finally is the unmarried. yes that is a issue but how that amounts to female oppression. for that matter male is silently slighted for the same reason unless the male opts for sanyasam. our society largely does not support unmarried grahasthasramam be it a man or woman. since women has other problem this insult to injury is explicit.

Coming to emphasis on chastity, i believe it should be there -- though not just for women it should be there for men and women. A society that is going to lose its disciple and morality whose one of the mixed individual parameter is chastity, means it is in the path of ruins. freedom, democracy, rights all should not be emphasised merely for individuals but collectively to the people. they should not be atomised but should be elementary. it is how the nature expects. that is how animals live -- collectively with their own discipline and so should be human. The statement "man is a social animal" does not mean the discotheque or bar or any form of fun-get-togther. Just because chastity for women alone is emphasised people should not altogether ignore it (I know Subha your intention is not that but I wanted to wipe of such intention which is prevalent in many). If we emphasis any discipline into only one side it is going to be counter productive, again. the downfall in the society is not because of some "oppression" on women in the name of chastity but the loss of chastity in men. this loss in men lead to the oppresive and chauvnistic mentality in men and suprisingly in women as well against women. when chastity in men also rises to the level of women we can see the balance in the society. balance will not neutralise by taking away the stuff from the heavier side in order to bring equilibrium with the empty side. this approach would create void in human. rather stuff has to be added in the side where it is lacking.

issues of society cannot be solved by passing laws (as rightly observed by Subha).

finally woman is not the only best judge of bringing a life into the world. it needs to be collective, non-coercive, well thought, unbiased decision arisen out of the family with equal importance. yes the family must have the choice. but abortion, i would equate to death penality, has to be exercised with care and discreet.

bunch of jokers in the name of law and religious dictum cannot dictate what a family has to have. at least to my knowledge in hinduism when god was living as human people (mothers) tried out abortion -- classic example gandhari. that attempt failed albeit different reason not because god's curse or some crap.

Sridhar said...

achchacho...seems kupps' blabber is lengthier than to be a woman ;)

pardon me.

expertdabbler said...

We are half-baked urban idiots all right and yeah we comment to kill time.

But can some one say if
female infanticide happens in families where the mother is educated, well off financially, can think independent and gives shit to traditions which always reinforce that women are 2nd class citizens?

Thanks to educated/wise commenters now we know the external symptom, So what about the cause? If it's just a habit. Why did this habit come in the first place?? Why did people chose to kill their daughters rather than try and abolish dowri? Do we folow every other custom we had since the moghuls? So how come this alone stuck with us?

Do we expect the women - who need to work every day to make their ends meet amidst demanding husbands/in-laws to just wait and hope that their extenral body will enlighten them one day?

If dowry is a symptom of female infanticide, how come we do not hear higher female infanticide issues in urban Andhra among Reddy and Naidu communities where dowri is perhaps one of the highest in the whole of India.

Female infanticide,foeticide happens across India.
Because women are not independent in most of the places in India.

Just because rural women put up with all their hardhips does not make them assertive. It means they do not have a choice.

When someone says chastity is stretched to a ridiculous extent, do they advocate irresponsible behavior?

And yeah, we do make sweeping statements because we are pretentions here...

I like to be proved wrong, but let it be more persuasive than merely saying what one believes and what Kanchi Paramacharya said.

In what way is that less sweeping and better baked than my half-baked comments of mine i do not know.

From whatever litle i have read, its a mindset that women are a step inferior to men. This is the bottom line. This is reinforced in countries like India in several ways.

And its the women's responsibility to take charge of their own lives and self respect and their gender. It will not be given. Certainly not by men. Its gender politics.

I rest my case.

Subha said...

I agree. Not making it a gender issue here. But just my observation that women seem to be motivated to kill of the female child to please their husbands/fathers/father-in-laws..


Your idea of chastity still is different from mine. I'd still adhere to the fact that chastity is important. But if it is robbed unwittingly, then the woman cannot be held responsible. That's my contention..

Sriram, true..

Subha said...

Kishore, education is just part of the equation. You find well educated, intelligent, modern, urban youngsters indulging in eve-teasing and denigrating women with "ottardhu" as an excuse..what do you say to that? Is it really that much fun to make fun of a person for no reason??

Subha said...


You've debunked the reasons I've given tagging them as "symptoms" and not the "cause". But you've failed to mention what the cause is?? What is the cause of foeticide?

"If dowry is a symptom of female infanticide, how come we do not hear higher female infanticide issues in urban Andhra among Reddy and Naidu communities where dowri is perhaps one of the highest in the whole of India."

The answer to this is that they've money enough to meet the dowry demands..:) Financial independence and education do at some level, help in eradicating this evil. But then there's the invisible weapon of "approval" of in-laws and "Kallaanalum kanavan" type beliefs..Without the help of men, I don't think emancipation of women alone will eliminate this..

Kishore Reddy said...

Hey subha ,
I thought the topic of your blog was foeticide and not teasing.. I do agree that it is none of some ones business to eve tease others...

Sridhar said...


The reason i gave for female foeticide/infanticide was not straight forward and i guess, despite not agreeing to the views i expressed, PK has found it in his these straight statement-questions especially the moghul and habit part.

Why did this habit come in the first place?? Why did people chose to kill their daughters rather than try and abolish dowri? Do we folow every other custom we had since the moghuls? So how come this alone stuck with us?

Honestly I do not have answer to the above questions. Infact I too have in my mind. This does not mean that the statements I have made were some baseless, merely-to-debunk-the-common-belief(or held reasons), I do have some data, which made me to think in this angle. I am not here to prove my statments because of two reasons. one, i cannot substantiate (again that doesn't mean mine has to be wrong) and two, it is of no use as it doesn't help in solving the issue. I do not have the solution i think i have the dignostic answer to some extent. None of these are solutions, so no use.

Standing in such filmsy ground should I have stated strongly in my early comment? thinking from different mood than that day of posting, perhaps I should not have. But one thing I am clear here is that my intention wasn't to make sweeping statement that others are idiots (as PK implied and it's seemingly correct so if i read now).

Just reiterating one point, female infanticide is in some pockets of india not throughout india. Though this doesn't mean to play down the demonic activity.

On a final note I do want to urge you all that you should perhaps acknowledge that there could be a different reason as well behind these issues, even if it is not obvious and you may not believe so.

dinesh said...

I agree with you. Not to say that the concerned women or men are the best judges when it comes to giving birth to and raising a child. A lot of people make bad decisions. But the decisions are personal decisions and the government has no business in such a personal decision. The intent of stopping female foeticide is a good one, but the proposed solution will not work. Also, I read badhri's response to some of your comments, and I have to agree with him This really is not a gender problem. It really is not about men who want to disrespect women. Put another way, men who disprespect women are as much at fault as women who tolerate and in some ways endorse the disrespect that's meted out to them.

Madhu said...

NDTV had a discussion with the experts after this ruling - they invited Renuka Chowdhry, a couple of fertility experts, Dr. Hinduja (The test tube baby pioneer) and a few others..I dunno if you saw it but in my opinion, it was such a joke. It reminded me that we are still in a country where even the educated are unable to seriously analyze a social problem and its ramifications from all possible angles. So, when we can't define a problem in its totality, how do we expect to find a solution?

sridhar said...

The problem lies in the lack of having an education , which serves in building charater of a person, and not an education that makes the person a money making machine. An education that makes a person realiza that everyone is same as oneself. This is the purpose of a true religious teachings. no amount of education is sufficient , if a person doesnot realize that all others are same as self.

Swami Vivekananda says: Any society that suppresses Woman and poor people will never ever rise to propserity. Imagine the kind of respect a woman deserves , if saints like Swami Vivekananda says above words?

Even the essence of the entire religion is to treat others as same as yourself, instead of just as a mere brother or sister or father or brother etc. When you start treating others as yourself, then, you will strive to endure any amount of troubles and still raise the kids, rather than kill the kids in the name of some false troubles.

Infact, Woman gives life to the individuals, and the life is so precious, that it can be used to liberate oneself from the clutchus of the nature. If India had any troubles, in the past, one main reason for this is purely because of its soppression of Woman and reducing them to that of the kitchens with out character building education.