Legal Articles

Five Daughters for a Son

“There are wounds that never show on the body; and more hurtful than anything that bleeds”. These are words which are reminiscent of a woman’s plight and position in society until few decades ago. However, while things have changed to an extent, there is still a long way to go. It cannot be denied that law has played a significant role in this direction but law alone cannot and could not have attained the goal of gender equality and non-discrimination without change in the mindset of the society. Infact, in the words of late justice Krishna Iyer ” even existing legislation is skin- deep, not soul-deep …. good top dressing but in effect the prejudicial core is untouched!”  Substantive law is dead if it loses its remedial potency; and it is no consolation to parade legal provisions and statute book pages if in raw life, the woman is ever the victim. In any case change can come through law only when social awareness precedes legislation. Needless to say, that there is a long way to go. Just within the last few months two contrasting examples of diametrically opposite mindsets have come to light.  A businessman in Ludhiana (Punjab) owning a chemist shop breaks deep rooted patriarchal norms by putting signboard of ” Gupta and daughters” at his shop. We have always seen signboards of” xyz and sons” or ” xyz brothers” but not ” xyz daughters or ” xyz sisters” This is a very welcome and positive message recognising equality and competence of daughters. One is also reminded of a TV ad as part of ‘ nai soch’ campaign a few years ago, where film actor Aamir Khan, acting as a Sikh shopkeeper credited his two daughters for his sweets booming business and the signboard displayed “Gurdeep Singh and daughters”. In another ad Indian cricket team wore jerseys with their mothers’ name on them in support of gender equality thereby defying stereotyped patriarchal perception that identity of a person comes through the father alone.(In a match against New Zealand at Visakhapatnam.) And recently came a news of how a law student has succeeded in getting her mother’s name added to her provisional degree certificate. These are hearty and welcome expressions of equality and dignity for women. However there was also an utterly regressive tweet of a politician in the news sometimes back which is very disconcerting Viz, “Putra ke chakkar mein, 5 putriyan paida ho gai”. This was a tweet by an opposition party politician hitting at the ruling party alleging that it has been talking about Vikas(development) but while Vikas is nowhere in sight, in the process it has given birth to 5 daughters, viz 5 problems, which are demonitisation, GST, inflation, unemployment and recession. Thus, while Vikas is the son which is aspired, what has been given to the nation is the 5 unwanted undesirable problems i.e the daughters. Thus development is equated with son and hardships with daughters.  And what could be more barbarous and misogynistic than a husband in UP, wanting a son, ripping open his pregnant wife’s stomach to find out gender of the child!? ( As reported in newspapers a few days ago)It is common knowledge that several couples keep on” trying” until they produce a son and in that exercise end up with several unsolicited and unwelcome daughters. It is time that we shed away the deeply embedded patriarchal stereotypes. Law, NGOs and several organisations and activists and institutions are playing a significant role and we as women also need to come out of our complacency. ” I owe myself the biggest apology for putting up with what I didn’t deserve” , but no more. ” I have battled my entire life to become the strong woman I am today; if you think you can take me down after all I have been through, give it your best shot; you will not succeed,” should be the spirit. As remarked by late Justice Krishna Iyer in one of his scholarly papers, “, Human Right to be Woman”, ‘ woman power shall break it’s Promethean chains and remain untouched; through law if possible, against the law if necessary’.

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