It’s the 21st century they say. They say women are walking alongside men, that times are changing. While society is celebrating women for their contributions in different fields, the same society also doesn’t consider them to be a daughter who should be seen as an asset.
When a male child is born, everyone in the family still cheers a bit more than a girl child’s birth. Let’s keep aside dowry, for the time being. The family at the very birth of a girl child starts to feel that the child does not belong to the family. Thus with the birth of every girl child, the concept of ‘Paraya Dhan’ or a stranger’s possession is reborn. And thus, the discrimination towards the girl begins as she takes her first breath outside the mother’s womb.
As she grows up, she is constantly reminded by her family about how she will ultimately leave them and will have to set up a family with strangers. A sense of alienation towards the girl child leaves her in a state of disarray. Every time she feels a sense of closeness and belonging to her family, someone or the other reminds her of her real place, and that’s not where she is born or has experienced all her firsts. I, personally feel lucky that my parents or family haven’t treated me like one but I have seen a lot of friends and colleagues going through this mistreatment of being alienated by her own blood.
If you think mentally preparing a girl to think that her one true home is that of her in-laws is it, then you are wrong as that’s not where it ends. During the girl’s marriage, some of the celebratory rituals include ‘Kanyadaan’, the indispensable ritual of giving the bride away or rather handing her to her in-laws reduces her to feel like a commodity/burden that has been finally unloaded from her parent’s chest. Another ritual is the ‘Vidaai’ and the tradition of rice tossing. While Vidaai literally stands for a ritual of saying “Goodbye” to the girl, the rice tossing symbolises the daughter paying away ‘the debt’ (yes, you read it right!) that she owes her parents for whatever they had been doing for her all this time.
Even though it seems women have come a long way and our society has finally started treating both genders equally, a good part of the society is still alienated from the concept of gender equality. The factors behind this concept are quite deep-rooted and as delve into it, society’s dark face starts to reveal itself. Our society has forever seen a man as the only ‘Vaansh Ka Chirag’ or the flagbearer of heredity and bloodline of a family. The woman is merely treated as a carrier and care-giver to her ‘husband’s’ offspring. Yes, her husband’s and not hers. Thus, when a boy child is born the family thinks it is a way to save their bloodline because the girl child won’t bring a child to continue the bloodline.
Things that should have been treated with a bit of rational thinking, have been fueled and celebrated in our society for a long time. Bollywood, one of the most influential media of our society has also played its role in fuelling these rituals in the name of Sanskaar. Be it Babul Tumne Jo Sikhaya from Hum Aap Ke Kaun (Sanskaar alert!) or the beautifully lyrical Dilbaro from Raazi, all of these songs though keep the main lines about father-daughter relationships, do covertly celebrate the concept of the bride being given away and how she should not look back at her past life.
Thus, a girl and her family, in a way or the other get conditioned to thinking that having a daughter is somewhat of a burden other than an asset for the family. The parents start thinking that they will have to give the daughter away along with various gifts and valuable to her in-laws (Dowry!) and the daughter might not be allowed to look after them after she is married off. This is because society conditions people to think that a married woman should tend only to her in-laws. But it’s 2021, and this should no more slowly but sure steadily come to an end.
A daughter should, therefore, be nurtured just like the son of the family, treated as a member of the family, and all her achievements, as well as failings, should also be the family’s achievements and failings. Like the roots of a plant assure its strength and growth while holding it upright against the whirling winds, a daughter’s family should always be her root against the whirlwinds of this rather ‘women-apathetic’ society.