Thursday, August 24, 2006

Punjab's Lost Girls

Living in Lahore, I'm currently in the Punjab region of Pakistan. Punjab is split down the middle by the India-Pak border, and culture and traditions on both sides are fairly similar. On the Indian side, there are only about 7 girls per every 10 boys under the age of six. Why is that? Because in this extremely partriarchal society families prefer not to give birth to girls. A girl will be unable to work for the family, requires a dowry to marry off, and will be no help to her parents in their old age since she'll be living with her in-laws. Even here in Lahore the main banks have billboards for personal loans which make my stomach churn. There is a picture of a daughter in her wedding lengha being hugged by her father, "Personal Loan: I married my daughter in style." "Personal Loan: Don't worry about the future." Families will often bankrupt themselves marrying off their daughters. The other alternative is to keep their daughters as spinsters, but this is expensive as well because then the parents have to feed, clothe, and house the daughter for the rest of her life and they will not get much return on this investment either. If a woman gives birth to several daughters and no sons, the entire community will see her as cursed. She will risk being divorced or having her husband take a second wife if order to produce a son. Sons are a good investment because generally they continue to live with the family after marriage. The daughter in laws move in and become subject to the whim of the in-laws, particularly the mother in law.
This week a site was found in India where over 50 female foetuses had been discarded. Female foeticide is illegal in both India and Pakistan, but as there is still a desire for it there is a price at which it will be done. See the article at BBC News - South Asia

1 comment:

Jianing said...

She actually has no choice, does she? Too young to be engaged.