Wednesday, June 10, 2009

31) The girl child

"What society does to its children, so will its children do to society." Cicero

A not-so-young woman, ridden with guilt, was in tears as she recalled an experience, sixteen years ago. When she was pregnant she prayed, like never before, that she should have a son. When she gave birth to a daughter, she was devastated. "It was a funeral to me, and not the birth of a child", she confessed. For three days she refused to touch her baby girl. So strong was her resentment, that she rather have the child dead. The child grew up knowing that she was unwanted and unloved, and was deeply resentful of her mother. The distance between the two increased to the point that the daughter left home, when still very young. With that the mother knew that she had lost her daughter forever. The death that she wanted, when the child was born, occurred without a funeral.

This is not an uncommon story. It is retold in different ways. In some communities the birth of a girl child is seen as 'bad luck' or a 'major misfortune', so much so, a wife who does not give her husband a boy child is set aside, for a new one. Mothers and grandmothers conspire to poison or suffocate to death a new born, innocent and defenseless girl child, without asking themselves the question: "What if my mother had to poison me because I was born a girl?" The paradox is that a woman does it to one of her kind.

For centuries, in different countries, in different communities the girl child has been deprived of love, proper food, the right medical attention and burdened with chores too heavy for her age. Open bias in favor of the boy child has destroyed the self-esteem of his sister. In some communities the young girl is married to an old man, for a price, or sold into prostitution. The girl child has suffered too long, in mind and body, because of her gender. Today she is giving it back to society, although the social evil is not eradicated. Cicero was right. Society treated the girl child badly, and she is in no mood to forgive. She demands freedom of choice and life-style. She dresses as she pleases and behaves defiantly, if only to spite those who tried to control her. Her exaggerated need for freedom drives a wedge between herself and her spouse. Her desperate need to be on equal or better terms than her husband, leaves a trail of crises - one spawning another. Children born in such families suffer. What the mother endured in one form, she inflicts on her children, in another form, through her selfishness. How bitterly society pays for its crimes!

Many families with such lopsided thinking could learn a lesson from a Japanese Practice. The Shimogama Shrine in Kyoto, Japan, holds a ceremony, every March, at which parents release straw baskets, carrying dolls, into the stream, praying for the safety and happiness of their much loved daughters. The doll festival is called Hina Matsuri.

NOTE: Perhaps you have noticed that in the posts so far, I referred to the child as 'he'. No gender bias was intended. It was only usage of 'he' instead of 'he/she'. In the posts that follow you will observe that I refer to the child as 'she', to balance the usage.

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