If the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS) is anything to go by, then more Indians now want daughters. According to the survey, 79% women and 78% men want to have a daughter. The numbers show a big improvement from the 2005-2006 NFHS survey, in which 74% of women and 65% of men had said, that they wanted to have a girl child.
Government initiatives are stimulating change in mentality
This report is a welcome news for us. We have been struggling with the issues of gender ratio for ages. The main reason for our need for the male child stems from our cultural beliefs, that men are the breadwinners and carriers of the family name. With the increase in cost of living and the fear of not having a boy to take care during old age, people opt for practices like female foeticide and infanticide, to make sure that they have at least one male child in the family. Things are slowly changing now.
The relentless work of the NGOs and government campaigns to encourage people to have a girl child seem to be working. Initiatives like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and Ladli Laxmi Yojna, which aim to improve the gender ratio and living status of girls in India, are creating awareness in common population. The key to this drive is to change the idea in the society that a girl child is a burden on her parents.
Change in the attitude towards girl child will not only improve gender ratio, it will also motivate people to educate their girls, make them financially independent and refrain from practices like dowry and child marriage.
So have things finally changed? Have we finally learned our lessons, and begun to value our daughters more?
Well, the answer is both yes and no. Things are changing gradually in our country. More people might be willing to have a daughter, but a larger number than that still desires a male child. Which means that a boy child still gets preference over the girl child in Indian families.
About 82% of women and 83% of men want to have at least one male child in their family.
With shrinking family sizes. Especially among urban dwellers, more and more couples are opting to raise a single child. Yet, we have no data at hand as to what is the preference of gender in such cases, where the parents plan on having only one child. This data is essential because it will shed light on the change in the pattern of parenting and family sizes.
We might be willing to welcome baby girls into our families, but what kind of life are we planning to give to that girl child?
A large number of girls, are not educated beyond primary school in our country. Parents marry them off in their teen years. Such girls are socially oppressed and bear children at a young age.
Just as we have opened up to wanting more daughters in our families, we should now put efforts into raising them well. The change that we want to see will only come, when we will not prefer one gender over another, and raise our sons and daughters irrespective of their genders.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own