On Daughters

From the trailer:

In India, China and many other parts of the world today, girls are killed, aborted and abandoned simply because they are girls. The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls are missing in the world today because of this so-called “gendercide”.

This documentary film tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters’ lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son. Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against this injustice.

One intensely riveting documentary. Recommended to those with a palate and zest for social justice, gender equality and harmony in cultures around the world. There are several parts in this documentary where the incidents narrated are highly graphic and unsettling (wherein some mothers killed female offspring due to pressure and stigma from the society) but this is a reality and the only way to tackle and eliminate it is to address it, firstly, and, secondly, rebel against the status quo that establishes this brutal approach. This is a warped amalgamation of cultural norms, societal obsessions with power and status as a result of patriarchy’s megalomania, religious orthodoxy and mass misinterpretation further reinforced by authoritarian institution(s), economic reasons, so on and so forth. It begins with the idea that (i) a female carries the evil potential to bring “dishonor” to the family and (ii) she is incapable of bringing food to the table like a “true man” would. Therefore she is seen as a potentially promiscuous burden on the monetary capacity of the household. In order to satiate the society and to uphold “integrity”, many female infants have been killed throughout Asia, Middle East and beyond.

As a female from a similar culture, I know how difficult it has been for me and my parents to receive comments on them having daughters only; from well-phrased sympathy and pity like “Well, may you have many grandsons if not sons!” to suggestions for my father to abandon my mother because she ‘couldn’t bring sons in the house.’ He stayed with her not only because he loved her but because no woman deserves to become a pariah for the gender she carries in her womb.

It is important to view this documentary and to read on how female infanticide is a dilemma our region faces but has done little to combat against. I honestly wish that our classrooms were less of master-slave cells where raising questions and objections are viewed as desecration, never curiosity. As someone with experience in teaching, I have yet to meet a teacher who drops the textbook in at least one class and addresses the questions and resentment that our girls have. I am not advocating the exclusion of male pupils in these discussions. You’re more than welcome to share your thoughts if you do indeed want a society where women are revered and treated as equal beings. I still remember mentioning this entire topic in front of a high school class. By the end of the discussion, majority of the girls did admit feeling that their sex was used as an excuse for all sorts of abuse. The male students confessed that they did, at least once in their lives, use the gender card to put a female relative, sibling, friend down. It’s about time teachers, parents, activists, the guy at the corner of the damn street acknowledged that there is inequality but more importantly something has to be done about it. Use education, activism, words, pictures, your voice, anything to fight against it.

I will have daughters one day, deo volente, and they will know that their mother is more than proud to have them; she’s blessed.

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35 thoughts on “On Daughters

  1. And I still don’t get why people are hell- bent on believing that its the woman who decides the gender of offsprings when its the freaking other way round. :/ Frustrating!

    1. I’m glad you raised that point. So did my father. People still believe in labeling the woman as the harbinger of all inefficiencies (thereby implying giving birth to a female is ‘inefficient’.)

      1. that’s all bull*****! I can’t understand WHY men and women should have issues with each other. EVERY man is born of a woman and EVERY woman is born of a MAN!! EVERY man has women in his life (mother, grandmothers, wife, daughters, sisters, sisters-in-law, mother-in-law and many more without whom he’d be nothing and who have a humongous hand in his life, his upbringing and his existence really, so why the ***** does he hate, thinks inferior or can’t get along with women???
        And the same is true for women regarding men, I mean there aren’t like 15 genders in the human race (lolz and God forbid) that we can choose to ignore some and like or love others, there are only and only TWO and one cannot function without the other, why can’t men see that??

    2. coz women traditionally didn’t and almost always couldn’t stand up for themselves, they just get the blame ‘coz it’s easier to blame them than the men :(((
      But this needs to change asap!

      1. sorry, I was tired and in a hurry and thus used the wrong word, what I wanted to write was “But this needs to change IMMEDIATELY!” and I wrote “But this needs to change asap!” So I correct my mistake here

  2. “I will have daughters one day, deo volente, and they will know that their mother is more than proud to have them; she’s blessed.”

    :)

    Speechless , totally speechless.

    I love you , mehreen aapa :)

  3. Surely she will be a proud daughter of yours. I think Its about time to realize the importance of Females in our society before its too late. I like reading your Blog and as always very important topic. Hoping to see comments on this one

    1. I’m not drawing comparisons here. A plight in one region is as significant to be spoken of as it is in another. Forced prostitution has to stop. So does female infanticide. Or any kind of infanticide for that matter.

  4. A father, a brother, a husband must take their share and responsibility to start respecting and initiate in every possible way a chain reaction of positivity, respect and reverence for the women. The voices will be heard and we have to be persistent, change will never be felt overnight.

  5. Dear Mehreen, i have recently started following you on wordpress i believe your doing an excellent job….and yes it is very sad but what i found most disturbing was that these girls are in most situations killed by their own mothers because of male dominance and pressure built from the overpowering society..

  6. An awful idea … and one that we have not been able to remove so far. The men need to understand this crime and be heavily punished if they are guilty. The woman who killed 8 children seemed so terribly disturbing to me.

    We need to turn things like jahez and other ‘forced’ stuff out of our society. The number of girls who are killed soon after their marriages, because of the lack of jahez, also forces some unfortunate people to kill her when she is born.

    I also recall one case in South India, where the mamooñs (mother’s brothers) have the first choice of marrying their nieces (yes!) – or actually “refuse it in public”, which then allows her to marry someone else. The mamooñ was 20 years older and unmarried. He didn’t want to marry his niece, but told his brother-in-law to give him a lot of ‘gold’ so that he could say this ‘in public’ and allow the child to marry. I met the girl’s father – a shipping clerk in one of the agencies – who was trying hard to raise funds for almost 2 years! “Can this threat be turned into a crime?”, I asked the man. “No,”, he said, and added “the police is with the men in this!”

    This — and much less obnoxious stuff, but designed to destroy the parents lives in the rest of our countries — is another awful reason why some men choose to kill girls. Any ideas on how to stop this from happening?

    1. Thank you for commenting, Kidvai sahab.

      I’ve seen similar happen near me. It’s disgusting and unfair. It’s a lot worse because, like you and I have agreed before, established institutes support these incidents with full force; the society, police, many clerics, even several teachers around me have aired some very misogynistic views. Anyone opposing them is seen as a “deviant.” You saw how the Indian village woman laughed after admitting having killed eight female infants. The laughter wasn’t cruel or evil; it was brainwashed, mechanic. She and many others are programmed to view female offspring as burden. Therefore quickly killing the infant is far more acceptable than living with the ‘shame’ of a female child, according to such mentality. And, yes, there are far less obnoxious ways to tell a parent that their female child is nothing but worthless.

      From what I can see and believe in, as a teacher and student, the way to address this begins at very primary levels. Schools, colleges, these ‘societies’ formed for ‘progress’, conferences (often shamelessly selective and thus restricted) need to be taken to rural areas, to people with less privilege, to slums and even deeper. And it isn’t just a villager’s problem as it may seem in this documentary. It’s an epidemic in the cities too. Just a lot less grisly and cleverly hidden or forgotten. I believe that we need to speak to people, parents from all classes, all backgrounds and let them know that gender discrimination – whether in the form of murder or systematic discouragement in employment or simple inaccessibility to education – has to stop right now or else the future that lies ahead will be a lot worse than the present.

      It is also very important to urge media and education sectors to address this problem in more effective manners. Putting up banners and decorating halls for ministers to speak on these issues isn’t really helpful. I wish people would take an hour or two out of their routine to simply talk to someone from a background that seems malevolent to women. To tell them that this must stop because this is wrong. It goes against basic ethics and a good conscience. That no human being deserves to die like this.

      I use my blog/art/time to tackle this in whatever little capacity I possess. I talk to students from all sorts of grades and teachers and let them vent until they feel positively cleansed. It’s not public speaking or anything. It’s just connecting with these minds and making them believe in the possibility that their voice has to be heard or else they will be stifled to an extent where their silence will oppress others too.

      That’s what I think.

  7. Mehreen api, Love you for writing this. Probably fatima has told you that we are three sisters and NO brother.But she ‘d ,definitely, not tell you about how, when my youngest sister was born, a hue of grievance occupied the whole of our family and not much of them came to ‘mubarak dene’, in fact, some aunties from ‘the far away’ village came to us especially, saying things that felt like condolence. Now that my hands are grown up with me, I want to slap them in their faces, real hard!

  8. I love documentaries like these. Great blog, Masha’Allah! This is definitely an important issue that needs to be addressed. I am preparing a post on the pressure of making yourself “gori” amongst Pakistanis…haven’t finished it yet…but it will be coming up soon.

  9. i loved this post mehreen… and really i have tears in my eyes. we are just two sisters and my father left my mother for just this very reason. i hate him…. i wish that there would be law to punish such fathers….

  10. From my little knowledge around religion and especially Islam – Islam does forbid such behaviour towards girls and females. Didn’t the Prophet of Islam gave women their rights, and at times more than men themselves? Well this is what I have read about Islam. It’s also disappointing that Pakistan (which again supposed to be the state for Muslims) yet has not learnt from their own religion.

  11. Oh God, I saw this documentary last month and I was heart-broken. It reminded me of the “Tooba Imtiaz’s incident” which was shown on Geo. How can humans become so callous? How can you leave your baby to starve or to die out in the open unattended? These people don’t deserve to be called humans. Even animals don’t do such things :(

  12. Situation is quite horrible but still better than ancien mind-set of this male dominated world. I am not favouring contemporary situation but just comparing. There are two ways to eliminate such events/mind-set: One way is through strict legislations and penalizing/crushing such people; and other is through educating the masses, providing better understanding of the importance of females. second one is long lasting and comprehensive.

    1. This trailer is shocking, especially the callous way in which the woman talks about killing eight children toward the end. Actually I think I’ll just link to your post here and post the trailer myself.

  13. I have a daughter…and I am SUPER PROUD…and I want to have another one too…I will always be super proud of them…

    If only I am allowed to kill such people !

  14. Girls are Rehmat…and that says it all! i can not imagine life without my little girl and i’m so grateful to Allah for being Blessed with her.

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