CHANGE ATTITUDES 'TO SAVE THE GIRL CHILD'
- Fr. Cedric Prakash sj *
In yet another shocking incident, a father sacrificed his new-born girl child on Janmashtami night, in order to propitiate his family deity in Gandhidham, Gujarat. Apparently, he had vowed that he would offer a male goat to his family deity if a son was born to him, but would sacrifice the child, if a girl was born.
This is surely not a one-off incident to highlight the negative attitude that exists in society towards the girl child. The fact that the child sex ratio in Gujarat is 883 per 1000 males (as compared to the National ratio of 920 per 1000) did raise alarm bells in the State. Several efforts were made by the Government of Gujarat, the media and by concerned citizen groups to address this reality. It is difficult to gauge the impact of these efforts for want of official data, but a cursory news scan will easily reveal that the general attitude towards women is far from healthy.
When a child is born, an average family will still happily distribute milk-based sweets like 'pedas', if the child is male; but for a girl-child, it necessarily has to be a sweet which is oil-based like 'jalebi'. Discrimination, one is aware starts early when many families want a boy as the first born. The school textbooks in Gujarat also reinforce a strong gender bias and the superiority of the male. While several of the Panchayats have women Sarpanches (since it is mandatory), the hard fact is that, they are relegated to "angutho chaap" and to making tea for their husband and other males of the villages, who are very clear that 'decision-making' is their sole prerogative.
September 8th is celebrated by most Christians the world over as the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus; because of this the Catholic Church in India has also deemed it important to celebrate it as the 'Girl-Child Day'. Discrimination of the girl child often stems from so-called religious sanctions. Religious leaders be it Christian, Muslim, Hindu or others, must provide the followers of their religions with the necessary attitude and courage to save and celebrate the Girl Child.
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash sj is the Director of 'PRASHANT', the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
7th September, 2010
Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052