While millions of unwanted girl children live on streets or stay abandoned in children's homes in the country, Kashmir opens its arms for the girl children. An engineer of Power Development Department is happy to be the father of two daughters. He would little mind to have a third daughter rather than a son. So is true with a senior police officer, who too is the father of two daughters.
The case of a class-IV employee of state education department is even more glaring. He is the father of five daughters. Despite meagre resources, he gave education to all his daughters, and appears a very contented person. A trader with five daughters and one son says that he would have no remorse, had he been the father of more girl child. "Daughter is an embodiment of love. She is more affectionate," he says proudly and loudly.
"The female-babies are as welcome in Kashmiri families as male-children," says Dr Abdul Gani Madhosh, a prominent psychologist and educationist. He says that there could be some cases of sex determination and foeticides in some upper-class families but these were negligible. "That is why we don't see street girls or boys anywhere in Kashmir. Some boys or girls could be found begging but they are not an abandoned lot. They are more often escorted by their parents," Madhosh adds.
Even as the official sex ratio in Kashmir is 935 females as against 1000 males, unofficial reports say that the females outnumber males in Pulwama, Anantnag and Budgam districts.
"There are few instances of gender discrimination in Kashmir," says Khursheedul Islam, a sociologist. "Kashmiri parents welcome male and female children alike. On occasions, we find parents more caring about their daughters," he adds.
Instances are galore where parents put their sons to work and send their daughters to schools. Ashiq Hussain Tantry, a 19-year-old boy gave up his studies after 12th class to work as a truck driver. His father Mohammad Hayyat Tantray is proud that while his son works, his daughter Amita Bano is doing her master's degree at Kashmir University.
The reasons are stated to be more religious than social. "To bring up girl children with more care and affection is a religious-binding on Muslim parents," says Mir Mohammad Assadullah, an advocate and a religious scholar, who himself is the father of six daughters and a son. "Prophet Mohammad has promised janna'h (gardens of eternity) in the life hereafter for the parents who will bring up their daughters with proper care and attention," says Mir adding, "Prophet himself had four daughters."
For the issueless parents too, girl child is the most sought after for adoption. It is after a laborious search and persuasion of around one year that a scientist of Agriculture University in Srinagar got a girl child for adoption. He chose for adoption of a girl child despite the fact that there is not a single male child in the entire family of the scientist. His elder brother is the father of five daughters and the younger brother also has two daughters.
The scientist is not just alone in the crowd. Even as no official or unofficial survey has been conducted on the subject, a casual observation of the social set up and traditional behaviour of Kashmir reveals that issueless parents rarely go for son adoption. This correspondent spoke to several parents for their preference for the girl child. Most of them feel that a daughter loves and cares for her parents even after her marriage while the case with the son is otherwise. "He (son) can desert any time after he gets married," said a couple, who, despite having two sons, has adopted a girl.