As a female growing up in an East Indian household in Trinidad, I was exposed to the subjugation of and oppression of women.
As a child, I witnessed that for every puja (prayer service) only men could do certain rites while the women (and I was included here) cooked all the food and cleaned. For certain services, men were allowed to eat first and then the females. Widows could not attend their husband's cremation. For any cremation, only males were allowed to light the pyre. Only males were allowed to perform a puja for a departed soul. Only males.
Something was wrong. My grandfather had ten brothers and one sister. I was shocked when my aunt explained to me that my great-grandparents practiced female infanticide. She never would state how it was done. But then again, my father is one of six boys...
There are other similar stories I can share.
My story seems simple as compared to the tragedy that is so glaringly alarming in India; the motherland of all those Hindu traditions that have been inculcated in me and others. There is a growing disparity in the number of females born in comparison to the number of males. Indian economist Amartya Sen coined the term "missing women" in the 1980's to describe the skewed ratio of women being born as compared to men in Asia. He also drew evidence from Europe, America and Africa to highlight the differences in the sex ratio
The link below is the article Sen wrote discussing the reasons for the disparity in births in the continent.http://ucatlas.ucsc.edu/gender/Sen100M.html
It is often said that women make up a majority of the world's population. They do not. This mistaken belief is based on generalizing from the contemporary situation in Europe and North America, where the ratio of women to men is typically around 1.05 or 1.06, or higher. In South Asia, West Asia, and China, the ratio of women to men can be as low as 0.94, or even lower, and it varies widely elsewhere in Asia, in Africa, and in Latin America. How can we understand and explain these differences, and react to them?
The article may be over twenty years old, but its hypothesis holds true today.
According to the recent census in India, there are fewer female births to male births. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13264301
India's 2011 census shows a serious decline in the number of girls under the age of seven - activists fear eight million female foetuses may have been aborted in the past decade
How does India kill its girls? The terms are; foeticide, female infanticide and gendercide.
Abortion- it is legal. But using technology to determine the sex is illegal. so many backdoor clinics provide the service and an abortion is conducted.
Smothering- the infant is covered with a pillow.
Drowning- in milk or water
Here are some others- poisoning, buried alive, force fed liquids, left exposed to the elements, wrapped in a wet blanket and abandoned.
There are other more inventive ways that adults use to kill their children.
The male preference stems from the tradition that only a male can light a parent's funeral pyre and carry on the family name. Moreover, the practice of dowry (the bride's family gives gifts to the groom's) has also been attributed. Some women begin to work as children to be able to pay for their weddings. Some poor families cannot afford the prices of dowry as it includes gifts like money, motorbikes and appliances. Many women are abused, burned and murdered when dowries are not enough. Interestingly, the practice of dowry was made illegal over thirty years ago, but is still done in many poorer regions.
Here is another harsh reality- When women are widowed in India, families consider it a burden to feed, clothe and keep them. Many are dropped off by their families at temples where they beg for alms and sometimes sing at the temples to earn a few dollars. Some women are prostituted by families to pay for dowries and also after they become widows. (There is an interesting film, "Water
" by Deepa Mehta that highlights this practice)
According to the website http://www.dnaindia.com/india/column_missing-girl-child-euphemism-for-murdered-girl-child_1559843
A recent poll suggested that India was the fourth-most dangerous place in the world for women. Afghanistan and Congo, in the grips of a civil war, were first and second, Pakistan was third. The poll was conducted amongst 213 experts on gender across the world.
India's government is aware of the situation, even labelling it a national crisis. The government has started providing incentives to families to have female children and schools offer places for females in the regions where female birth rates are the lowest.
Even as more women are educated and empowered, the culture is male-dominated and the caste system (this is outlawed too, but still done) rests on a patriarchal society.
How does centuries of a tradition become replaced in the matter of a few generations?
There were two very illuminating pieces that address these issues.
One is a fantastic film, "Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women
" by Manish Jha. I found no full length upload on youtube but I purchased a copy years ago. It portrays a future dystopia of an Indian village that has no women. One girl is located and married to five brothers and their father.
The second is a documentary called "UNDESIRED
" by Walter Astrada which can be found at http://mediastorm.com/publication/undesired
The film-maker has been able to get very graphic images and has interviews with women who have been victims of abuse for keeping their female children
To be born female in India...