Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sex-selective abortion and demographics

I came across an article in NDTV (link expired, I can't find the article) a short while ago detailing the horrors of sex-selective abortion and its impact on demographics in India. This, coupled with a conversation with my neighbour's mother a few days ago, set me thinking about why exactly a girl child is such a burden. Forget the traditional religious belief that people without a boy child will go to hell. The modern parents' reason for killing off a girl child are more practical. As the article mentions, a boy is considered an investment. But, not for the reasons Ms. Sharma details. Judging from my conversation with Mrs. Next-door-neighbour, it seems as though all the money spent on the upbringing and education of a boy will come back with interest when he gets married. How else am I supposed to interpret her statement that the going rate for a well-educated and employed bridegroom is about Rs. 1, 000, 000 in cash along with 500 sovereigns of gold (4 kilogrammes) and 20 kilogrammes of silver? All this is the dowry. Apart from this, the girl's parents bear the entire cost of the 5-day wedding that may add up to another million. To put it bluntly, the parents of the groom sell their son off to the highest bidder. If I had to pay so much to get my daughter married off, I would probably end up encouraging to her to elope! Or, educate her enough to help her live life in her own terms. But, doing this requires more courage than one can possibly imagine. It is not easy for the parents to go against convention and society to refuse dowry.

Given this situation, how can one raise a girl child and get her married off in a way the rest of the world wants the parents to? Little wonder then, that parents prefer to kill off the girl before she is even born. I am not trying to justify their behaviour, or even explain it rationally. I am simply pointing at a more fundamental problem that lies at the root of this kind of behaviour. Just why should I pay someone to marry me when I am going to be cooking and cleaning for him all my life? All this even when I am as qualified as him and earning as much. In short, such men get an unpaid maid who will take care of them for the rest of their lives, bring loads of money for them to burn, and be available for sex on demand. My case is not against marriage or men. It is against this insane system of dowry-giving that results in millions of baby girls being denied the basic human right to be born.

And, what does all this do to demographics? A lot of harm, to cut a long story short. In many parts of Haryana and Punjab, men are unable to find girls to get married to. There is a real shortage of women in these states. I would like to see men survive without women around. It is the basic law of nature. Men and women need each other. They are two parts of a whole. The basic biological fact is that without women, the human race will eventually become extinct. I only hope we, as human beings, understand this basic truth and stop looking at women as a burden. After all, we form one half of humanity.

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