International Women’s Day 2016

So much has changed since I was a little girl. More women work, many of my girlfriends are happily single, some live on their own, some with men and some with girls. We seem to be freer. The garb that was considered shocking twenty years ago is now considered fashionable attire. What we considered worth fighting for are not even issues anymore, at least for us Urban women. Extrinsically, things seem to be looking up for us. So why do we- the strong, independent, do as we please women, keep harping on the same issues, you may ask? Here is why.

We are still considered to be LESS THAN MEN! Don’t start rolling your eyes. You may think that female infanticide is an issue of the poor, but sex selective abortions are quite prevalent in the Urban scenario. The 2011 census shows that there are less girls in the cities than there are in the villages. In Mumbai and Delhi, the sex ratio is 853 and 863 respectively. For every 1000 boys in the cities of India (age 0-6) there are only 902 girls.

In the South of India, the statistics show that the prenatal sex selective abortions are less and in the North and West of India they are higher. States where the income is generated from the farmland, like Punjab and Haryana, show the highest number of  sex selective abortions. The child sex ratio of Punjab is 846 and Haryana 834. In fact, Action Aid UK, in a document titled, The Disappearing Daughters of India states that, ”Most shocking of all are the figures for high caste urban Punjabis, at just 300 girls for every 1,000 boys.”

I come from a Sikh family and I can vouch for our obsession with the child bearing the phallus. Two decades ago, my sisters were fighting with their parents for their right to pursue a higher education,  fighting for their careers and  for choosing their own spouses. Two decades later, most of them despite the law granting them equal status, will never be a part of the family business and will not even get a share in the parental property. In the poorer classes we can blame the gender bias on a dearth of resources, on the dowry system plus a lack of education and exposure. But it goes deeper than that. The family name, carrying on the family lineage, seems to be the main concern in the upper classes. To me it seems like  just a matter of prestige.  Sikhism grants women equal status, the law states that we are equal to our brothers, yet nothing will change till we don’t make men a part of the conversation. So this year, we do just that.

#HeForShe- In 2014, the United Nations ran a solidarity movement for Gender Equality. It engaged men to fight for women’s rights. In India, the movement is yet to gather momentum. A 100 pieces of me joins the global phenomena this year and we are asking the men to be a part of it. As a part of our Women’s day  issue, we invite the men to be a part of our circle. 

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