Lifestyle & Belief

India: Unwanted girls get new names


A young Indian Hindu unmarried girl, known as a 'kumari', is dressed as the Hindu goddess Durga during a ritual for the Durga Puja festival in Siliguri on October 4, 2011.



District health officials in Satara, Maharashtra, are planning to identify and rename hundreds of little girls saddled with the name Nakushi -- which literally means "Unwanted" -- by their parents, the Indian Express reports.

The idea is to drive home the message that despite the remaining social evils of dowry, bride-burning and discrimination, daughters are just as valuable as sons and deserve the same love and attention, the paper said.

In 1990, Amartya Sen famously wrote of the 100 million missing women, especially in Asia, and of how these numbers “tell us, quietly, a terrible story of inequality and neglect leading to excess mortality of women”. Twenty years on, much has changed — but an incident like this is a reminder of much that has stubbornly lingered. Apart from the extreme practices of foeticide and infanticide, girl children are more subtly discriminated against with parental bias, lack of nurturing and nutrition, unfair resource allocation and cultural hostility. If they are sent to school, they tend to be taken out sooner, their work (often domestic and unskilled) is rendered invisible and thankless, they are sent away from the family after their weddings (the cost of which is held against them), until they often internalise a sense of being worthless, and perpetuate the same practices. We don’t even have to go to demographers to understand the gender deficit — the explicit preference for sons and devaluing of daughters are obvious from personal narratives all around us.

That means more than legislation to prevent sex-selective abortions.  It means innovative awareness programs like Satara's renaming drive, and schemes to give bicycles to girls who attend school, the Express argues.