5 APRIL 2011
I’m in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, and I sort of feel like a foreign correspondent. The fan is creaky, the walls are bare and there are fluorescent bulbs everywhere. Drums beat in the background both far away and close by. City lights are dimmed by dust but I can see far above the horizon where the fort sits watch. It too is lit up but brightly, above the
Today was a day of meetings, much of which were in Hindi. First with U., community organizer for women against violence, next Dr., a scientist with a research center for disease, and lastly an MD Dr. who is an ED for a rural development org which includes a ten-year old hospital.
The meetings were formalities, were networking, were building support, were sharing with locals what exactly HRLN was filing in these next couple of weeks.
The numbers are beginning to sink in. Preliminary census figures were released last Friday, I read them in the daily newspaper with breakfast. Overall gender balance is improving nationwide but, for the under sixes, the gender balance is continuing to get worse. Rajasthan has the fewest number of girls to their boys. Just a few days later it was more explicit, again reported in the newspaper, a family in Jaisalmer had brought home a girl baby from the hospital only to have her die a few hours later. Concerned community members brought it to the attention of authorities who will investigate the possible infanticide.
India’s sex ratio is exacerbated by both public policy which supports a two-baby home and increasing materialism which puts more emphasis on a large dowry. The two-baby policy is meant to stem population growth which apparently concerns the Union of India. MD Dr. remarked that India’s population will easily surpass China in the next fifteen years. The most I’ve read on population growth is to see India encourages sterilization, especially among the below poverty level population, by first, making short-term prophylactics less available and two, offering financial incentives to men and women to become sterilized. From what I’ve seen of district level statistics, sterilization has proved very successful.
The two came together in my mind today as we were in meetings. The idea that the girl baby would not survive her family’s quest for a boy baby and then that mom would not survive her pregnancy, her family and her own quest for a boy baby. This makes me angry, it breaks my heart, it makes me understand the unsettling reality of devaluing the girl child, it makes me appreciate the women in my community who came before me and fought for women’s rights, and it makes me wonder what all these men will do without their women counterparts. Brothers without sisters, husbands without wives, fathers without wives.