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Every Time We've Had Our Babies, People Have Almost ... Commiserated

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by spnadmin, Oct 6, 2009.

  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Sunday, October 4, 2009

    Every Time We've Had Our Babies, People Have Almost ... Commiserated

    Just in case the rest of the world didn't know what a sorry state Punjab was in with respect to its gender imbalance, there has been two headline reports from Canada's biggest newspapers in recent weeks. The first deals with the problem in India and the second talks about how the problem has been exported to Canada.​

    The first from the Globe and Mail entitled "Land of the Rising Son", examines how India has responded to the decline of female births. There's two sad learnings from the article. One is that Punjab is still in the worst position with respect to male-female gender ration and the second is that an individual's level education has does little to reverse generations of discrimination.
    The richest neighbourhoods in the country – the wealthy farming areas of the Punjab, the middle-class areas of Mumbai and other cities, and here, the leafy neighbourhoods in the south of the capital – have the biggest gaps.

    High-caste families in urban areas of the Punjab have just 300 girls for every 1,000 boys, researchers financed by Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) reported last year. In South Delhi, it's 832 girls born per 1,000 boys; in the state of Haryana, home to the high-tech hub of Gurgaon, it's 822. (In “normal” circumstances, demographers expect to find 950 to 1,000 girls born for every 1,000 boys).

    Conventional wisdom has long held that as India develops – as more families struggle their way into the middle class, more girls go to school and more women join the work force – traditional ideas about the lesser value of girls will erode. The incentive to abort them would fall away.

    Instead, the opposite has happened, and the reasons – and solutions – have government and activists stumped.

    “These educated, well-off women, who still want sons – this is really the crux of the problem and the government has not caught on to it,” says Farah Naqvi, author of a major study on attitudes to “son preference.”

    “Yes, you have these very modern women today – you see them in spandex at the local gym … but it's a complicated modernity. It's two worlds these women are straddling.”

    Women with a Grade 10 education or higher are four times as likely to have a second child who is a son, after a first daughter, as are women who are illiterate. “These educated, employed women are earning very well, and yet they prefer a son,” says N.B. Sarojini, head of SAMA, a health organization that tries to help women resist sex-selection pressure. “Why are rich women worst? If you have a male child, you are more valued in society – it's true in any class.” The crucial question, she adds, is why that idea has proved so immutable.​
    The article also speaks to economics of raising a female in India.
    And then there's cold, hard economics: In the words of a Punjabi proverb, raising a daughter is like watering your neighbour's garden. Girls leave home at marriage, taking whatever skills or assets they have accrued. And the practice of dowry, once restricted to the highest castes, has been adopted at all levels of society – as a sign of social status – and is nearly universally practised even though it was outlawed in 1961. (Like the law against sex selection, this one seeks to alter a widely accepted social practice, and there is little enforcement – in fact, many feminists argue, government is reinforcing the practice by offering cash to unwed girls on their 18th birthdays.)

    In aspirant middle-class families in south Delhi today, a typical dowry provided to a groom's family can include a sports car, a large apartment, all its furniture including high-end electronics, and thousands of dollars in clothing. “Increasing materialism … and the emphasis on obtaining consumer lifestyle products has exacerbated the problem of dowry,” Ms. Naqvi says.
    So what happens to all these men who can't find wives?
    The shortage of potential wives is a subject of frequent coverage by the Indian media. And there are alarming stories – particularly from Punjab and Haryana – of human trafficking. Lower-caste women are bought in states such as Jharkhand, where the sex ratio is roughly equal, and then sold for a few hundred dollars in higher-caste communities.​

    [​IMG]To top it all off, Punjabis have brought their desperate obsession for baby boys to Canada. On the front page of Saturday's Toronto Star, there's an undercover report of a man selling pills to Punjabi women that promise an 85% chance of having a boy. To top it off, the salesman is actually an editor of the Ajit Weekly newspaper that advertises the services.
    On a windswept street in a bustling industrial area on the outskirts of town, a stocky man in a white shirt and dark jeans pulls out three Ziploc bags containing red, brown and silver pills.

    Take two red and brown pills each day for a week, he tells the woman who says she is nine weeks pregnant, and your baby has an 85 per cent chance of being a boy. Then he demands $750 in cash.​
    Magic pills or not, the trend of more girls than boys in South Asian (and Punjabi) parts of Canada is clear.
    Canada does not collect statistics based on ethnicity at birth. But statistics here, now home to more than a million Indo-Canadians, many from Punjab, also show a somewhat skewed gender ratio. According to 2006 census figures, nationally there are 932 girls to 1,000 boys under age 15 in the South Asian community, compared to 953 girls to 1,000 boys in the general population.

    The numbers in the South Asian community in the Toronto area become much more skewed: 917 girls to 1,000 boys in the Toronto Central Metropolitan Area. Broken down further, it shows 904 girls to 1,000 boys in Mississauga, and 864 girls to 1,000 boys in Brampton.

    "That means the sex-ratio is 50 per cent higher for under-15 South Asians as compared to the general population (in the Toronto CMA)," said David Foot, professor of economics at the University of Toronto and a demographics expert. "I would say that is concerning."

    That's a huge gap proportionally, says Myer Siemiatycki, a professor in immigration settlement studies at Ryerson University.

    "In the Punjabi and South-Asian population, the numbers show a clear tilt in favour of men while it's the opposite in the national population (where overall there are more Canadian women than men). There's no question something significant is happening in the under-15 age group."​
    Some significant indeed. If education doesn't help back home and moving to the West isn't helping us here, what then? Where do we go from here? Where are we going to end up?

    Hopefully the story of the Bedi family gives us hope.
    Prabhsharan Bedi was born on a snowy March night 13 years ago.

    While the baby and mother, Rupinder Bedi, were still in hospital, Randhir Bedi, the father, bought sweets and distributed them to family members and friends. When the mother and her baby girl returned home, the couple invited almost a 100 people for a celebration.

    Over the next 12 years, the couple welcomed three more daughters – and celebrated in similar fashion. Manmeet is 10, Binwant is 8 and Japneet will shortly turn 3.

    It is not rare but unusual for a Punjabi family to have three or four daughters.

    "Girl or boy, it never mattered to us," says Randhir. "But people are funny. Every time we've had our babies, people, even family members, have almost ... commiserated."

    Randhir, 39, who lives in Mississauga and works in Woodbridge, says even his own parents, who live with the family, have dropped subtle hints "that it'll be nice to have a boy also. They love the girls but think there should be a boy too."

    The couple, who immigrated in 1991, laugh it off and tell their parents how brilliant the girls are and how they will make the family proud.

    "It's the way our culture is – everyone believes a family is incomplete without a boy," says Randhir.

    "Rupinder and I don't believe in it and we tell people that."

    Source for this article is:

    Maple Leaf Sikh: Every Time We've Had Our Babies, People Have Almost ... Commiserated
     
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  3. harbansj24

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    Narayanjot ji,

    I do not understand this at all.

    As per my observation, girls are much easier to bring up. And if the parents do not discriminate in bringing up a girl, then more often than not they are likely to get rich dividends.

    Generally girls are better organised and are good managers as they are able to keep track of several things simultaneously.

    So if a girl is brought up well she would be an asset for any one. And at the time of marriage because of the adverse ratio there should be an excellent demand for well brought up girls.So if some patience is exercised by the girl's parents, they should be able to find a good husband and family for their accomplished daughter.

    And such a girl will not only be an asset to her husband's family but will also earn a good name and respect for her parents.
     
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  4. Randip Singh

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    I will give you some examples of prejudice here in the UK too and the so called self fulfilling prophecy. This is an observation of several Tarkhan and Jatt families (who tend to be the most conservative) here in the UK:

    A girl is born, and one of the old women will say “ooh tussee thaa saaday Ladhoo rock ditt ain” (oh you have stopped us from receiving ladoo’s). Fear and resentment besets the family, and they continue until they have a boy. The boy is put on a pedestal, and is allowed to do anything he wants.

    The girls are discarded, and they try to impress their parents through education and other things. The boy still means everything, so no matter what they do they feel inadequate. They give up. They rebel. They marry (or live with a black[non-Sikh] or white guy [non-Sikh]…even Muslim). Old woman says “Kurreean dha damage Kharaab hoyeyaa aaj kal” ….”khandhan kee Behzti kar ditee” (Girls brains are damaged nowadays….they have disrespected the family).

    The girl becomes an outcaste. She tries to keep in touch with her family, but even when accepted back is treated like a leprous disease, that other relatives may catch. What they do not realise is that they gave the leprous disease to the girl in the first place.

    The boy in the meantime can become a lay about slob womaniser and nothing is said to him. He gets married to keep the parents quiet and has “*******” children with other women. The family say nothing.

    You may say this story is far fetched, but it is based one several true life stories I have seen with my own eyes. What is the solution:

    1) Treat girls with exactly the same respect as boys.
    2) Create an environment where a person who treats girls differently becomes and outcaste from the community. Name and shame if necessary. Even Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, one of the most powerful Sardars of old was boycotted by Sikhs for female infanticide committed by his wife.
    3) I don’t think the solution is a religious one, because the Sikh faith is clear on this matter, so the solution must be social. So things like celebrating boy related things, such as ladoo, Loree etc must either be stopped or modified to incorporate girls.
    4) Dowry in any form must become unacceptable.
    5) Wedding parties, DJ’s etc must be discouraged and weddings must be encouraged to be in the temple. (this is less of a burden on the girls side financially).
    6) Women must be projected forward more as guardians of the Sikh faith. They must be encouraged positively to run institutions and committees. Have 50% quotas if necessary.
     
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  5. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    harbhansj24 ji

    Your comments about daughters/women are so loving to read. It did my heart good. After I posted this article, it became one of those pieces that hung around in my mind even as I was going to sleep last night. Yes disturbing.

    You can tell that for the author his daughters were the apples of his eyes. And he goes back to the economics of daughters. Big dowries paid, that is money going out; and big dowries received, that is money coming in.

    I am not by any stretch of mind an authority on the culture of India. When I read this kind of thing in article after article on the subject, I think the economics of daughters, well it makes sense. But it cannot be the whole story. Especially when it is the families, who have most, who are most invested in destroying their daughters.

    A little about me here. First of all India is not the only country/culture where this idea prevails. It is found in one form or another in every patriarchy. Why? Well think of it. If a woman thinks of herself as less, and her mother thought of herself as less, then to have a daughter may simply be another reminder of a lesser status. But a son -- well that is your ticket to status in the eyes of society. It happens here too, and especially in the more patriarchal ethnic groups including my own. My whole life I heard The First Child Should Be a Boy! or, Boys are Easy! So of course a mother to be drinks that in, and she heard it her entire life...and has to answer to her mother-in-law who is at the top of the mountain looking down.

    Then there is the argument that sons will care for their parents (in India, but also we hear that too). This is a myth in both countries. Even when a son has a big income and a high status job -- he can turn out to be a person of no character and even less heart. For every family where a son is caring for parents, I can tell you of another family where the daughter is carrying the weight of both her husband's elderly parents and her parents as well. I have watched some of them do this to the point where they themselves succumb to serious illnesses. And it is not their sons but their very daughters who come to the rescue.

    Next point and forgive me for going on too long about this. Ever since I became active in Sikh communities on the Internet (here, Sikhnet, elsewhere) I met and came to admire Kaurs who have important careers. And they leave their children, husbands, jobs 2 or 3 times a year to go to India to look after parents, and even aunts and uncles. Think of the cost to them financially, and think of how exhausted they must be doing this year round. These are Kaurs not Singhs. Others have brought parents here.

    So here is my conclusion and it will sound like I am some kind of fanatic giving a sermon. Maybe so. Culture and economics are part of the story. But the rest of the story has to do with what is in your heart. Just as I have met Kaurs who care for their parents, so I have met Singhs who worship their daughters, brag about their accomplishments and their awards, dote on their sons-in-law and rejoice in their daughters' children. To them their daughters are Kaurs. They heard Bhai Gurdas speaking in the voice of Guru Nanak. The Singhs I have met are sincere in their Sikhism; and those are the only ones I know. They have heard and are centered on the message of Guru Nanak and their rehat. They feel raised up by it and so do their wives. That is the difference. And anyone else anywhere else has not been blessed with this gift of mercy and love.

    It will take a long time for culture to adjust to different thinking. But will it adjust if economics is a prevailing consideration? without that other part, the spirit in your heart? Best in my mind is to always look around and be glad to know the people I know.
     
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  6. harbansj24

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    Narayanjot ji,

    If you think rationally,even economically it makes sense.

    These days educated and independent women are refusing to marry grooms who demand dowry. Now that brings us to the question of boys looking after the parents in old age. These days even the best of sons are unwilling to part even with a fraction of their earnings for the upkeep of their parents. So wise parents make cash provisions for their old age.
    But as you have yourself have said many girls are more than willing to do physical seva of their parents.

    So it makes immense sense to bring up daughters without discrimination. The returns will be immense, and without any financial loss. You are right. This requires different thinking.
     
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  7. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    harbhansji24

    With your forgiveness allow me to add one small thing. Economics may give us insight, but materialism is the problem. Wherever materialism is countered by heart and spirit, none of this is an issue because both men and women step up to their true nature in seva.
     
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