Women face music for birth of daughters in J & K

As 30-year-old Sobia gave birth to her third girl child at Kashmir’s maternity hospital recently, she was not happy and was not even eager to look at the newborn child. In fact, dejection was writ large on her face. She was not the only one to be disappointed with the new arrival. Outside the labour room, her husband, mother-in-law and other relatives’looked dejected after a nurse broke the news of the new baby girl’s arrival.

“After the birth of two girls I was expe­cting some good news. But alas!” Sobia’s husband Arshad told Deccan Herald.  “Three years ago when my wife delivered our second daugther, at that time also I was unhappy. I wanted a son who can carry forward our family name. I was the only son of my parents and now my wife can’t deliver a son as all deliveries were through Caesarian. Who will ensure that my family name continues,” a crestfallen Arsh­ad asked.

Sobia’s mother-in-law was angry when asked why she was unhappy with the birth of her granddaughter. “Please don’t irritate me with these stupid questions. Everyone knows when the son grows up he is a better economic provider for his old parents while a girl is a liability. A family just isn’t a family without a son,” she said.

The story of Sobia isn’t an isolated case in the Valley’s lone government maternity Lal Ded Hospital here. The scenes outside the labour room and operation theatre in the hospital reveal how people react after receiving the news of birth of a son. Families in which a son is born celebrate. Where a girl is born dejection and disappointment is palpable. A senior nurse at the hospital, seeking anonymity, said a few years ago a woman after delivering a girl child had pleaded with a doctor for help to give the baby for adoption. “The woman was afraid that her husband will divorce her if he comes to know that she has delivered a girl child. The doctor couldn’t help her and one day later the woman had abandoned the girl child and fled from the hospital,” she revealed.

There are several cases in Srinagar alone where women were divorced for not bearing a male child. Zeenat, a gover­nment employee, was divorced by her husband a few years back when she delivered their second daughter. “My in-laws used to taunt me and they blamed me for not delivering a son. I was tortured so much that I had no option but to agree for the divorce. My mother-in-law and others used to allege that I had a problem and that is why I am not able to deliver a boy,” she said.

After divorce, Zeenat now lives with her daughters. “I want to give the best education to my daughters so that a day will come when my in-laws will see that daughters are not inferior to sons. I want to convey to all mothers to give the best education to their daughters which will empower them in this male-dominated society,” she added.

According to 2011 census report, Jammu and Kashmir has the third lowest sex ratio in the 0-6 age group after Haryana and Punjab. While in 2001, the number of girls per 1,000 boys (aged between 0-6) stood at 941, the latest census found that it has plummeted to 862. At present, there are 82 fewer girls in the state per 1,000 boys. The state has seen the single largest decline in sex ratio in the country.

Researches reveal that the rate of families with at least two girls, deciding to have another child is higher than for all-boy families. The preference for boys seems to be largely driven by fathers.

Parents of girls are quite a bit more likely to try for another child than parents of boys, which suggests that there are more parents hoping for sons than for daughters, researches reveal.
Dr Anisa Shafi, former Head of Depa­rtment at Kashmir University’s Sociology Department, blames patriarchal society for the problem. “In patriarchal society, males are dominant and also our society is traditional. Usually, the boy is termed a bread earner of the family.

Girls are often treated as inferior to boys, both within the home and by society at large. Girls are as good as boys, and in certain cases they are better than boys. Look at the records in colleges and unive­rsities, girls are outshining boys. Most of the time, girls keep values intact and they care more about their parents compared to boys,” she said.

Discrimination against girl child is a worldwide phenomenon, but in Kashmir and particularly in rural areas it is a big problem. Girls are not being taken care of well and again it is women who discriminate against girl child. It is a grandmother usually who inculcates the feeling among other family members that a son is more important than a daughter,” she added. Asima Hassan, who teaches sociology at a government degree college here, said that girls are discriminated against right from their birth till death.

“The birth of a daughter is looked upon as a calamity and she is treated as another man’s property, an extra mouth to feed. With the birth of female child one can see the glum faces of near and dear ones.

The sadness is due to the fact that parents have always desired for a son,” she said. “It is not always the poor and illiterate who are battered, but the rich and educated are equally tortured by their husbands and in-laws,” she added.

Asima warned that it will create a feeling among girls that they are good for nothing which will create low self-esteem among girls. “The day is not far when there will be an imbalance in sex-ratio in Kashmir which is against nature,” she said.

(Names of the victims have been changed on request)

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