As a girl child growing up in India, I have had an insider’s experience of the conflicting double standards enveloping the gender-based bias in my country.

It is like this highly convenient framework of ‘traditions’ that validates prayers and blessings for the birth of a baby boy, simultaneously allowing to serve food to young girls, who apparently ‘star’ as goddesses only for the nine-day ‘episode’ of Navratri.

To be clear, these kind of behavioural quirks are not specific to the uneducated and appear just as frequently in the modern educated intelligentsia. Well of course, the beliefs are guarded by a range of loose-ended defences, varying from the perpetuity of family name to the label of the weaker gender. The condition worsens as you approach the rural settings where remorse can even be directly proportional to the number of daughters in a family, literally like that is a measure of the impending doom.

The beliefs are guarded by a range of loose-ended defences, varying from the perpetuity of family name to the label of the weaker gender.

It didn’t really come up as a surprise when The Times of India revealed in 2011 about the tragic statistics of child abandonment in the country. It was disclosed that ninety percent of a whopping 11 million abandoned kids were girls. It was ironic how this came from a country that thrives on a culture that believes in the supremacy of the female deity. With this state of circumstances, if you are an Indian girl and are reading this, you are indeed lucky to have got education in this ‘land of diversity’.

Why is it that the expected basic ‘education’ of a girl is not education but a practised and seasoned hand in the kitchen and daily chores? A girl speaking her heart out is ‘expected’ to behave like a girl! Even today, a girl’s behaviour befits norms of ‘expected behaviour’ only when she is meek, docile and pliable.

Why is it that the expected basic ‘education’ of a girl is not real education but a practised and seasoned hand in the kitchen and daily chores?

Recently, I was watching a debate on a news channel with two female journalists, a female writer, one Khap panchayat supporter and a man with ‘Guru’ prefixed to his name. The topic of discussion was the appropriate legal age for marriage of a girl as per the Indian law. Quite understandably, the journalists and the writer started recounting their journeys and hardships faced, one after the other.They further raised the issue of mental and physical health as well as of the significance of education. So far, so good. In response to this, however, was a screeching protest by the other two ‘gentlemen’ who claimed how dishonour and shame follows the family where girls aim for worldly goals and forget the ‘God-given duty’ of child bearing and housekeeping!

The numbing pressure of dowry is not-so-surprisingly one of the leading causes of child abandonment in the country.

If the shock of a human being taking pride in being a Khap panchayat supporter wasn’t enough, it was the blatant advocation of subordinate status of women that got me questioning everything around me. Even in modern India, men, educated in all fancy standards, stay muted while they are blatantly auctioned by the hands of their parents in the name of dowry. Exactly what sort of honour does dowry bring to a family who literally ‘pays’ a guy to marry their daughter is beyond my understanding. The numbing pressure of dowry is not-so-surprisingly one of the leading causes of child abandonment in the country.

This inheritance of mentality has led to a society that thrives under a passive acceptance of this reality, but we need to change this now.

The lifetime abandonment of one’s own child stems from the equations of conventional Indian parenting where the child is a property of the parent – an idea that somehow validates some parents playing God even for the most basic rights of a child. This inheritance of mentality has led to a society that thrives under a passive acceptance of this reality, but we need to change this now. Every human being is born equal and something (gender) that you were born with should not dictate the realities you live your life with.  This form of society is not sustainable even for men, who are regularly reevaluated for every tear they shed. Every change begins at home, so reconsider every sexist stand you make from now on. Then only can we make this world a better, liveable place for the future generations.

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