The news about the BBC documentary brought to mind the national award winning movie, 'Karuthamma', in Tamil by Bharathiraja. A movie with a strong message, it served as an introduction and a reminder to one of the social evils existent in our country. Karuthamma is a story of female infanticide prevalent in many parts of Tamil Nadu. It shows how the female child is unwanted and killed just after being born, the reasons being, poverty, the cost of bringing up a child and the high demands of dowry. For me who had only heard about it, and read of cases in the newspaper, the movie served as a reminder, of how fortunate I was. It was also a pointer to the ills of the society of which we are all part of.
Preferential treatment of boys is something most of us are familiar with or have been touched by, in various forms. If not from within the family, then we hear it from relatives and friends of the family, or from the society we live in. Also, it can be heard and felt in various ways. It starts from the pride and joy the family has when a boy is born and continues in the form of preferential treatment they get throughout their life compared with their female counterparts, in the choice of toys, food, education, life-partner.
It has to be accepted that female infanticide is rampant today, with science aiding it of course. This is not going to change unless education is seen as a means of empowerment. As a means to be self-reliant. As one of the tools that aid a person to take decisions with the convictions it requires - especially in a society like ours where a girl does not have much of say in her own life. And made compulsory, especially for the girl child.
In the many interactions with students, as a teacher and today as a colleague, there is one disturbing fact that I have come across. When asked what they intend to do after their degree, many girls say that they are taking a degree as it will help get them married well. This has been told to them which they repeat without giving a thought. Today, in India, (along with the IT boom), many bride-grooms like their prospective brides to be educated and well-versed in English as jobs take them across countries and across socio-economic levels. Hence, parents of the brides look at their daughter getting a degree as a means to find better son-in-laws too. The sad part, I feel, is that the purpose of education gets lost. It is not spoken about as a means to make oneself knowledgeable, confident and self-reliant.
This is not to say that every girl with a degree must work or that education gets wasted if one is a home maker. No. The question is, “Isn't the goal wrong ?”. Such education, will it aid the cause of women's empowerment in our country, except in statistics ? How is it going to get translated to the next generation ?
I would love to believe Arun's words. That each generation will take one more step. That the same goal will not be applied to the child. That change will happen, slow and sure.
Fortunate I was, Blessed I am,
To be born, Where I was,
At that time,
To parents, Strong,
Who waivered not,
Who battled long,
To get for me,
What they thought,
Is my due,
Is my birthright,
To Live, Armed,
For birth is random,
With no choice,
And things may have been different,
In another place.