By Amrita Paul, SheThePeople.TV


In the 21st century, a woman could be a phoenix rising from the ashes. Or simply rising from the prospect that her birth was undesired, that her brother deserves better because she will eventually move into another household and what could possibly be anyone’s reason for educating a girl child, as she is soon going to be someone else’s liability. The investment better be reserved for someone who is the actual heir of the clan, the next in line to claim the lineage, the property.


But the tides of change are on their way. And girls in India (173 million young women (below the age of 15) reside in this country, which is about 20 per cent of the world’s young women) are making things happen for themselves.


the ways that the patriarchal conditioning of our society is being challenged every day


Anirudha Dutta’s recently release book Half a Billion Rising: The Emergence of the Indian Women discusses the phenomenon, backed by statistical facts about how young girls and women are getting educated, even in the country’s towns and villages and pursuing their aspirations, irrespective of any hindrance.


tides of change are on their way


“Although the percentage of literate women is abysmal compared to that of literate men, in the 2011 census, it was documented that the additional number of women getting educated in the previous decade was than that of men.


“Alongside documenting this change, the book discusses its implications – both positive and negative and the ways that the patriarchal conditioning of our society is being challenged every day,” says Dutta, a financial services analyst by profession.


He observes that while many girls considerably push the envelope when it comes to making sure they get educated, on certain things they do compromise. For example, a girl might choose to pursue a profession of her choosing, but when it comes to marriage she would settle for a man, who is from the same caste so as to pacify her family to a certain extent.


Half A Billion Rising
Half A Billion Rising


“A woman I interviewed actually told me that rather frankly and she said that when it comes to her own children, they would be free to settle with anyone of their choosing. There is a level headed pragmatism in their decision as I have highlighted in the book,” adds Dutta.


The book points out how more women are now open to the idea of divorce if their marriage is not working out and one of the main reasons for this is that in popular media it is no more considered sacrilege and there is economic independence and empowerment. And also the fact that female foeticide continues to be a glaring reality because the affluent primarily choose to indulge in it. After all, where will a poor farmer have the resources for sex determination, abortion and the ancillary medical expenses?


women are now open to the idea of divorce if their marriage is not working 


Dutta says, “The bitter reality behind female foeticide hit me when I was introduced to a friend’s friend in Pune and while discussing about my book, she told me how she was being forced to undergo an abortion because it was girl child. Both the husband and wife are engineers, well-placed from affluent families. But, these very families didn’t want their wealth to dispense out of their grasp, and thus a male heir was preferred. This girl had the courage to walk out of the marriage to bring up her daughter single handedly.”


Although he doesn’t call himself a feminist, Anirudha Dutta has certainly become more aware to the discrimination meted out to women, while writing and researching this book.


“I grew up in a Bengali household with two sisters and although we are considered to be a progressive lot, when I look back, I can’t help but notice the subtle discrimination – how my education was thought to be more important than theirs.


“When I look back I do not feel good about it but it provides me with a sense of responsibility that under the watch of my wife and I, our son and daughter will never be treated differently.”