For centuries the veils have been used to mask cultural abuse to women
The following is an article written by Mallika Sarabhai and published by India’s Diligent Media Corporation in their publication, DNA (Daily News & Analysis). This story is more than shocking. It is a call to action….
Nobel laureate Dr Amartya Sen estimates that 100 million women have disappeared from South Asia and Africa in the last three decades. While people might quibble about whether this figure is 100 million or 50 million, the point is that the news should be horrifying, and the trends daunting to the future of humanity. Whether or not climate change kills us, this certainly will. The fewer the women there are, the fewer the children there will be. Five or 10 men might gangrape a woman, but she can still only carry a single pregnancy at a time. Even for those patriarchal so-and-so’s who think of women as baby-making machines, the killing of women and girls is bad news, if not for you, then certainly for your grandsons.
But the future is already with us. The larger Patel samaj in Gujarat realised the calamity a couple of years ago and called a huge yagna to swear to protect female foetuses (As far as I know, no research has been conducted into whether live female births among the 12 lakh people who took this oath have risen). In some Patel villages in Gujarat, there is not a single female under the age of 20 years — a sure sign of genocide against women, on for more than 20 years. People from Haryana go shopping for family wives in Kerala and take back unfortunate women — bought for sex and housework — to families where they understand no one, can speak to no one. And I do mean ‘family wife’, for she is shared by all the males in the family.
Do we, from the so-called sabhya samaj, think of any of this when we plan huge wedding and huger dowries for our daughters? When we rush around buying kilos of gold, hundreds of saris, a new house for the groom’s family, and so on, do we see the direct, possibly the only relevant connect, between disappearing daughters and our own actions?
Woman stoned to death in 2005 for
protesting marital rape laws in Afghanistan
The government takes many steps to curb the killing off of girl children, most of them useless and leading to even more corruption and crime. Most of us know of doctors who, banned from running sex determination tests openly for fear of prosecution, do this very thing and inform the bride’s family by greeting them with Jai Matadi (It’s a girl) or Jai Ramjiki (It’s a boy). And innovative and greedy businessmen have set up rickshaw testing labs which go around slums and villages, giving the families information at their doorsteps.
But this is only one part of the story. Why are we not speaking of dowry deaths, those hundreds of thousands of young women married with dowries, who are tortured and forced to kill themselves or worse, tortured and killed? Did the dowries insure their wellbeing? Or do we just concern ourselves with getting the daughters off our hands and saying to ourselves that we have fulfilled our roles as families? Why has an issue that used to be spoken of with horror become so commonplace that we do not even speak of dowries being given in hushed voices any more? When does a crime become so common and so lauded that it becomes convention?
I can hear some of you say, “Ha barabar chhe pun shun kariye, ena vagar koi paranshe nahi. Dikrine kyar sudhi ghare rakhay?” (Yes, that’s all right. However, there is no alternative, how long would one keep their daughters at home?) Ask yourself this question bluntly — given that there is in India nearly a 50 per cent chance that your daughter or sister will be tortured and killed, do you really want that for her? And then I hear you say, “Pan samaj shun kaheshe?” (What will society say?) Again ask yourself, “Shun kahashe?” (What will it say?) That you are a lousy parent? That this is established practice in ‘our’ samaj? That “kutumb nu naak kapai jashe?” (Will the family’s reputation suffer a blemish?) That your neighbor gave a dowry of 50 lakh and you will be diminished by giving less? That this is the way you show your love and care?
Let them say all of that. Once again ask yourself what is more important to you, your daughter’s life or your “naak”?
Have you ever sustained a burn? And shrieked? Then imagine your daughter burning, from kerosene poured over her, or yet another imagined stove burst. Imagine the million-fold pain she is going through. And know that you are responsible.
I am being harsh, because the time has come to confront the worst in our society, to become an outcast, and to fight for her life. Be the first. Say no to dowry – yours, your child’s or your sister’s. Nothing that society can do to you will hold a candle to your child or you or your sister not being tortured or killed. The time is now. Tomorrow will definitely be too late.