Atelier Diva - MD's Note March 2013, Arpita Bansal
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MD's Note March 2013

You do not need to open the daily newspaper to know how India treats its daughters. You just need to look at your own family, as I did.

A cousin of mine gave birth to a baby boy last month after having had two girls earlier, now four and three years old. Unlike the first two births, the third child's entry to the world was celebrated with a bang. A huge party was held, a new Audi was bought, along with a week-long baithan to hail the Lord. Gifts were distributed with abandon, even a car for the priest. The father's demeanour underwent a sea change: He now walks with a swagger, dresses up in 'modern' denims, and generally goes about behaving every inch like a 'betay ka baap' (father of a son), whatever that means.

I pity the poor little girls who will now have to take a backseat as their brother is showered with princely attention, and who will – along with him – grow up thinking their own species to be the lesser of the two.

And who can blame them? We after all live in a country where the Supreme Court in all its wisdom pardoned the death penalty of a man accused of first raping his minor daughter, then axing her and his wife to death while on parole. The very next week, the same court upheld the death penalty of another murderer who had kidnapped and killed a boy, the 'sole heir' of his family with three sisters, because the "agony for parents for the loss of their male child, who would have carried further the family lineage, and is expected to see them through their old age, is unfathomable".
The most erudite of our lawkeepers appear to believe that the male child is the protagonist of all family fairy tales, the female child a mere extra. What chance does my cousin's newborn son have of being brought up with a sense of equality and respect towards women?

I have one cherished daughter, who probably loves me more than a son ever could. I have named businesses after her with no less affection and ambition than a 'betay ki maa' (mother of a son). I cannot see how having a daughter diminishes me in any way as compared with mothers who have sons. Matters of lineage and expectations of sons supporting their old parents belong to another time, one that has no relevance today with globalised lifestyles and nuclear families.

While joining hands in rallies and raising our voices in protest on the streets may be of some value, when it comes to equality for women, we need to look closer home. I hope you all use this month that celebrates International Women's Day to seek out and change your own family and its attitude towards women. We owe it to ourselves.

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