If you are born a girl.... requiem for Afreen

If you are born a girl in India nothing can prepare you for what you may endure. You see no one wants girls. So in the very first months of your life, instead of hearing soothing lullabies and being rocked to sleep, instead of tender caresses and loving words you may be burnt, bitten, bashed, smothered and even killed. Ask little Afreen just 3 months old who succumbed to the ignominious treatment metered to her by very one who gave her life. Her crime: to be born a girl. The perpetrator: her own father. The motive: his desire for a son. No one wants little girls. If they are not killed in the womb itself they are likely to be brutalised, abandoned, unwanted, ill treated, abused, traded and always reminded of the fact that they are a burden.

But another tragedy counterpoints Afreen's. The silence of her mother who watched her baby being tortured by her husband for three long months. Afreen's mom is just 19 and in a country where women are too swiftly shifted from their parental homes to the husband's with a one way ticket the options were few, silence being the easiest. The alternative was unthinkable. Where would she go? It  is only when the child was almost moribund that she found her voice. But it was too late for Afreen.

The plight of little girls in India is disturbing. Last week we were 'treated' to three shocking cases in a single news item: a baby girl left at a busy bus stop, she was barely 3 days old; a severely malnourished 3 year old girl abandoned in a hospital and a custody battle for a girl child born in a hospital but not accepted by her own mother! This is the tip of the iceberg, the few cased that have made it to the headlines. Little girls are unwanted. They are more likely to die then their male counterparts. A girl child aged between 1 and 5 years in our country is 75% more likely to die than a boy. A girl child does not get fed the same way as her male sibling, does not get the same support for education. She is often a second class citizen in her own home. Little girls are unwanted. That is the sad reality in a land where Goddesses are revered and worshiped. Little girls are not.

 It is time we did something. Simply watching such news items and clucking sympathetically is not enough. I wonder if such news items make it to page 3 parties. I do not think so. And the reason is that these little unwanted girls are born on the other side of the fence. How can we be so heartless? These little girls are voiceless and need us to lend them our voice, to take up the cudgels for them, to fight for their right to LIVE with dignity and love. What is the use of our so called education if we cannot find compassion?As long as we remain silent such aberrations will continue. It is time many mindsets were straightened the first one being the fact that women are responsible for gender determination. You will be surprised by the number of people, even supposedly educated ones,  who believe that men have no role in determining the sex of the child. Millions of women are repudiated for the simple fact that they are unable to bear sons. But women do not have the much sought after X chromosome. I wonder why family planning programmes never highlight this reality. Were they to do so, many women would be freed from terrible pain. It is also time that the importance of girls in society is given prominence. I find it impossible to understand why little girls are not viewed as potential wives and thus mothers. The very men who hurt little girls have mothers.

Come to think of it the real problem is as always money. Our society has instituted a form of marriage where the girl's family bears the brunt of all expense from the dowry to the actual marriage festivities. Were we to turn the situation on its head and have the boy's family bear the financial burden would little boys be done away with? But jokes apart maybe it is time to bring some balance in wedding celebrations that have become not only outrageous but galling. Why can marriages not be simple affairs and not business transactions where the boy and girl becomes commodities. Maybe we as educated people should take the lead. But will we?

Will the death of little Afreen open our eyes? Or have we mastered the art of looking away to perfection? Only time will tell.