| TNN | Malaysia | 24 Aug 2016 | Asia Samachar |
Despite the awareness campaigns and change in outlook, people’s preference for a son lingers even in this time and age. This comes through even among the Punjabi diaspora.There is still an underlying pressure to have sons rather than daughters, says Balvinder Kaur Saund of the UK’s Sikh Women’s Alliance in a candid essay.
She minces no words, saying, “Despite all our talk about women being equal, in practise it is the opposite.”
The awareness campaigns against gender inequality have led to corrective thinking, but the mindset in favour of a male child is deep-rooted.
She says the birth of a male grandchild is still preferred, and celebrated by grandparents.
“Families hold Akhand Paths, Bhangra parties and sponsor radio programmes to announce the arrival of a grandson. Paaths like Sukhmani Sahib are generally held to mark girls’ birthdays while others go quiet on the birth of a baby girl.”
Saund says this is apparent when you visit a gurdwara in London. “A few months ago, a granthi in a gurdwara in East London, was saying a prayer on behalf of a grandmother who asked God to grant her the boon of a grandson. The Alliance members spoke to the granthi in the Langar Hall. We asked him first if anyone ever asked him to conduct prayers for a girl child? He said, `Never’. Then we asked him why does he not say prayers for the birth of a healthy baby, rather than mentioning gender preference. He wrung his hands and replied that he only does what he is asked.”
Angered by this, Balvinder pleads, “Enough is enough, put a stop to such subtle and intimidating pressure on women. It is man’s sperm that decides the gender of the baby.”
She points out that it’s older mothers who “make life hell” for new mothers, and ap peals to Sikh leaders, “We proudly say Kaur means princess and Singh means Lion. Are the Lions eating their own princesses now? Let us have a serious debate on this vile practise of female infanticide…”
However, this is not an exclusively Punjabi problem.
Speaking during a UK radio show, Ikraam from Scotland said, his mother always made it plain that she wanted sons, and not girls, which caused him to think the same way. When his third child was a daughter, he initially distanced himself from her. But four years on, he says, “I love her more than my two sons.”
Rahima, who was born into a Sikh family but married a Muslim and adopted that faith, has three daughters, one of whom is severely disabled. She says people would offer commiserations to her for having another daughter. An Asian mother even asked her what sins she must have committed in previous lives to have three girls and one who is disabled.
She says her in-laws have never pushed them for sons, but her father, pressurized her brother into having a son after three daughters.
The preference for a son is clearly a problem, but there are efforts to tackle it by various groups. One such campaign “The Pink Ladoo campaign” – offers pink laddoos to promote celebrations of a daughter’s birth – to show that sweets should not only be distributed on the birth of a male child. – By Jasleen Ghura, TNN (Aug 22, 2016)
SWAN Family Carnival: Making a difference for Sikh women (Asia Samachar, 24 July 2016)
Empowering women through SWAN (Asia Samachar, 20 July 2016)