May 8, 2012

Hypocrisy and the State of Denial on Gender Inequality and Female Infanticide

In the last few days there was a lot of hype about a new TV show with Aamir Khan, one of my favourite artist, in the lead. I really liked the title song for this TV show called Satyamev Jayate. The main reason why I was looking forward to see this show was because Aamir is known not only to put his 100% in whatever he does but also creating an air of mystery before revealing his works.

The first episode of this show revolved around the concept of female infanticide and to what extent this practise is rampant all over India. What surprised me the most was not the gory depths  to which people fall for a male child, but the complete ignorance of the general public about this practise. What this show validated was the level of ignorance of the people of India. More than ignorance it quantified to a large extent the state of denial among the people. All the statistics are available in publicly available datasets such as the census of India. Newspapers such as the Hindu have over time published a large number of articles on this issue. One just needs to do a search on female infanticide on any search engine to see the gory details of this madness.

The most surprisingly section of this episode was when two journalists were invited to speak on their sting operation that was carried out in Rajasthan. The journalists whose works were presented in most news-channels say that "राजस्थान मैं ही नहीं पुरे देश मैं हल्ला मचा!".There are two points I want to make on this statement.
  1. अगर सच मैं हल्ला मचा होता तो अभी तक कुछ हुआ क्यूँ नहीं? Why has nothing yet been done? This operation took place years before this show has been telecast and yet nothing took place. There have been elections after this matter was exposed and yet nothing was done by the political class and the voters. Who is responsible for the lack of action then?
  2. Why are the people who saw this episode being surprised now? It only means that either this message despite being broadcast on most of the news channels did not reach them or they chose to ignore it then. The later is the most likely explanation of what actually happened.
Both these two points highlight the level of ignorance and the state of denial among a large section of the Indian population. The state of denial was the most important thing that this episode actually showed. The last census clearly showed that female infanticide is common among the literate people (I do not want to call them educated as there is a difference between literacy and education). There has been a lot of work done by the UK government that showed that the sex ratio was terribly skewed among the families that come from the Indian sub-continent. For example have a look at this article titled UK Indian women aborting girls [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk/7123753.stm]. Despite this information being publicly available the people watching this show were amazed when Aamir presented these facts. This just shows the ignorance of the people. This ignorance has its roots in the state of denial that everything is fine in my neighbourhood and the problem lies elsewhere. But rather than being in the state of acceptance (which is 3 stages away from denial according to Kubler-Ross) we continue to cling on to the state of denial by choosing to be ignorant. It is time we accept the facts and use them to see where we actually stand. It is time we realize that the problem of female infanticide has its roots on the issue of gender inequality which is a much more larger problem. 

The state of denial on the issue of gender inequality has its roots on the fact that girls are not considered equal to boys in India. No matter how much Indians say girls are equal to boys this is not true. I was a part of this hypocrisy up to a few years back but I am changing. Take a simple test to see where you stand. Consider that you live in a neighbourhood with three schools that have the same level of teaching; one only boys school, one only girls school, and one co-education school. If you have to select a school for your child which school will you select? Now let me make it scary. You did not ask why is there a separate boys school and a separate girls school in my neighbourhood. (This is the first question a European might ask). You are perfectly fine for having a separate school for girls and a separate school for boys and yet at the same time want to tell that girls are equal to boys. This is the hypocrisy I am talking about.  My question is why in a society which we call open minded do we still find a school only for boys and a school only for girls. If girls were equal to boys all schools shouldn't all schools be co-education schools? Now how many schools in India despite being co-education have separate class rooms for boys and girls? For the time being, forget schools, lets go to college. When I studied engineering there were six engineering colleges in Pune only for girls. Can any one tell me whose children went to these engineering colleges? Were the parents of these girls illiterate? How many sent their girls to these colleges because the education was good? How many preferred this college because it was a girls only engineering college?

In summary, the main objective of this post is not to highlight the issue of female infanticide, but to highlight two issues that are responsible for female infanticide. First is the the issue of the larger problem of gender inequality. Second is the state of denial which we use as an excuse to be ignorant and vice-versa. I want to end this by asking: Are we living in the times of Savitribai Phule who had to create a separate school for girls because girls were not considered equal to boys? If you want to send your child to a school please select a school based on the quality of education and not because it is a girls only school or a boys only school. I just wish for a time when all schools in India becomes co-education schools. My only hope is that this post creates some kind of awareness on where we actually stand on the issue of gender equality and female infanticide.

3 comments:

Vikram Gupta said...

Hi Ashwin,
I was also about to write a similar blog after seeing Satyamev Jayate, while highlighting the hypocrisy of us Indians.
You have already done it. Kudos.

-Vikram

Vikram Gupta said...

Hi Ashwin,
I was also about to write a similar blog after seeing Satyamev Jayate, while highlighting the hypocrisy of us Indians.
You have already done it. Kudos.

-Vikram

Ashwin Rao said...

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article3409175.ece