I have now spent three weeks in India. It has been three weeks of an endless number of impressions, which have made me feel both inspired and frustrated, sometimes at the same time. The main reason for that is because of all the women’s activists I have met who are dedicated to change the future for the small girls of the nation. Because if it doesn’t change, there won’t be many girls left in India.
Sex-selective abortion is illegal in India but widely common. A daughter is far too often considered to be a burden and is therefore aborted in favor of a son. Why? Lack of education is usually the answer to most of the problems we are facing in the world (“If people only knew how to read / take care of their garbage / have a good health”) but female feticide seems to have other explanations. In Goa, one of the states in India with the highest standard of living and literacy rates, there are only 920 girls per 1000 boys in the range between 0-6 years. This means that despite a growing wealth the proportion of females has reduced drastically in the last 50 years.
As a response to this alarming trend the chief minister of Goa has designed a scheme which is supposed to stop female feticide, the so called Laadli Laxmi scheme. The idea is to provide 100 000 rupees to every girl child to use for her wedding ceremony. Women’s activists in Goa are furious. Dowry – the idea that the bride’s family should pay money to the family of the groom – has been illegal in India since 1961 but is still a reason to why daughters are unwanted. With the chief minister’s so-called solution the tradition is however encouraged – what else can these 100 000 rupees be called? The women I’ve met have been frustrated – isn’t it the responsibility of any progressive government to completely eliminate such traditions?
Rajeshree Nagarsekar, is one of them who believes that a solution only can be reached through a change in people’s mindset. In 2012 she started Evescape, Goa’s first women’s magazine, which she now is the chief editor of. In every issue of the magazine one picture spread is dedicated to celebrate the girl child. Parents send in photos of their daughter and write a short note about why they love them.
Meeting women such as Rajeshree makes me believe that a real solution actually can be reached, despite politicians who dodge the question and perpetuate gender discriminatory traditions.