Sweets if it’s a boy. But faces hang when a girl is born. That’s how an attendant at a government hospital describes the arrival of a newborn in Delhi.
This lingering stress of bearing girls without giving birth to a boy allegedly drove a 27-year-old woman in Ambedkar Nagar to kill her three daughters and attempt suicide on Monday. Despite social campaigns, stricter laws and welfare schemes, many mothers are still tortured for producing a girl child. And not just domestic violence, women have to go through emotional stress, frequent jibes and insufficient meals as a price for not bearing a son.
“Since I raised my voice against my husband and in-l aws, I have come across several women who shared that they had to go through multiple abortions because their families didn’t want girls. One woman was made to abort five or six times. Things have just become worse,” said Dr Mitu Khurana, the first woman to file a case under the PNDT Act in 2008. Her husband’s family tricked her into having a sex determination test when she was carrying twin girls and later forced her to terminate her pregnancy.
“There is no support system for women like me who want to make a choice and bring up their daughters. When I went to the authorities to complain, I was told to go back and give my husband a son. The government says Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. But how can a mother do that?” Khurana asks. The ministry of Women and Child Development identified five districts of the Capital in 2013 that had a skewed child sex ratio (CSR). Of south-west, west, north, north-west and east, south-west Delhi had the lowest CSR at 845 girls per 1000 boys.
In a UGC-funded study by the Institute of Home Economics in 2011, 44% of 200 married couples said they wanted a boy as their first child. Sixty-one percent of them were graduates and 4% were under treatment to have a son. “It’s still a huge problem cutting across all strata. Patriarchal mindset is deep-seated in our culture which says that daughters are a paraya dhan while a boy can provide moksh (salvation),” said Soha Moitra, regional director-North, Child Rights and You.
Most women who do seek help from NGOs or Delhi Police find it difficult to demand action against their tormentors. “Those from poor backgrounds simply want us to counsel their families so they can get back together. They hardly even admit being hit. They know they have nowhere to go as they are not independent or educated,” said a Delhi Police official dealing with women’s issues. “However, those from well-off families are clearer about walking out of the marriage. Women in such situations suffer from huge emotional trauma,” the official said.
“Mothers are very happy to have a child be it a girl or a boy. It’s the fear of the future that troubles her,” said Vartika Nanda, associate professor at Lady Shri Ram College, who works on women’s issues.