The phrase ghar ka chirag would ideally translate into universal and inclusive English phrases like the light of the house or everyone’s beloved. However, Indian society uses this term to refer to a male child. For we have pedestalised our sons to such an extent and given them such arbitrary powers, that we think only they are worthy of such a lofty commendation. Recently, the unyielding pressure to bear a male child drove a woman in Haryana’s Nuh district to allegedly murder her four daughters. This incident, coupled with India’s overall horrific female foeticide and infanticide rates, points to a simple yet alarming fact – India is still obsessed with the idea of a male child.
Why This Obsession With A Son?
One doesn’t have to look farther than one’s own home or immediate social circle to discern India’s continued preference for sons. Since childhood, sons are encouraged to dream big and risk bigger. They are entrusted with the responsibility of earning enough to support their parents in their old age. Consequently, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that most Indian families think of sons as an investment that will bear fruits in future. Also pivotal to this discourse is the idea of lineage. As daughters are relegated to another family post marriage – a fact set in stone by their changed surnames – sons are ostensibly the only ones who can continue the family’s lineage and ‘name’.
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These ideas are so all-important in the Indian society that bearing a son is viewed as a marker of superiority and pride. Other reasons that lead to our society’s unhealthy obsession with the idea of a male child include sons requiring less ‘protection’ and care as their ‘dignity’ is not at stake every moment of every day as well as sons being viewed as stronger – both physically and mentally – and therefore more valuable in all aspects. Lastly, even if all else fizzles out, sons can help Indian families lay claim to the archaic and unethical practice of taking dowry, thereby acting as a financial cushion.
Recognising Daughters As Worthy And Wonderful
Most of the reasons backing any family’s preference of sons over daughters are based on societal constructs and not biological truths. If we stop romanticising their existence for even a hot second, we can realise that a person’s alleged worthiness is not based on gender at all. Besides a son is not accountable to dream big or take bigger risks in life just to satiate his parents desire of fame. what if a son simply wants to be a homemaker? Or is okay with letting his wife be a primary earner in the family, or wants to take her surname and live under her roof, and not with his parents after marriage? While his parents and family will not spare a second to deem him a failure and an unworthy progeny, are his choice wrong at all? Why must gender decide how should a person live their life, and determine their worth?
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Making value judgements based on an uneven playing ground can never yield rational results. It is time that daughters are given the same opportunities, privileges, and care as sons are, so that they, too, can realise their full potential. They are not paraya dhan and need to be made capable of caring for themselves and their parents with the same enthusiasm extended to sons. Lineage and ancestry are abstract concepts that can seldom be solemnised by sons, for, as Shakespeare said – what’s in a name? As times change, one can only hope that India introspects and gets rid of its obsession with a male child to truly celebrate the arrival of a nanhi pari, not just in films but in real life too.
Tarini Gandhiok is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.