I remember very well that I had earned the wrath of my college girls for speaking something on the lines below but I still stick to my opinion because the questions that I have raised have not been answered to my satisfaction till date. Consider the analogy of ‘disease and symptoms’. In what task would you be more interested? Dealing with the symptoms or dealing with the root cause of the disease? An intelligent answer would be to deal with both. While you start by dealing with the symptoms, you are also not carried away just by symptoms eradication. You are always aware of the root causes that still need to be tackled.
Women empowerment is also a kind of such disease and symptom problem. Gender inequality is a problem but providing reservation for women in the parliament or in the jobs, enacting strict dowry prohibition laws, strong laws for curbing female infanticide, etc is like providing solutions to the symptoms only. If you carefully analyze the problem, you will find that at the core of the problem is patriarchy. In simple words, it is the family structure where the senior male member is the head of the family. Like it or not, you do require a ‘head’. It is this family system which requires a woman to leave her parent’s abode and spend the rest of her life in her husband’s family. A lot of symbolic changes follow. For example, a woman after marriage is required to wear something (like a mangal sutra) that makes it easier for others in the society to identify that she is married. She will have to drop her father’s name and her born surname. She now starts using her husband’s name and her husband’s surname to be identified in the society. Thus, it is more and more fun for a family into which a woman enters while the family which provides this woman is left with some hollowness. No wonder that Indian families however wealthy they may be yearn for a son. This also leads to female foeticide.
So what is the solution? Turn patriarchy into matriarchy and you will start seeing ‘male foeticide’ 🙂 By virtue of industrialization, we already have a proliferation of quasi-nuclear families but mind the word ‘quasi’ as the nuclear families of the educated migrants no matter where they are still retain their bonds to the ancestral joint families from where they come from. Festivals are still celebrated collectively. Respect and loyalty to the head of the family still remains. Moreover, the nuclearisation of joint families also leads to the problem of old aged parents left for themselves without any support.
People may find me crazy but I think that Science and an appropriate policy can change this scenario. If Science can come up with some chemical test for gender detection before the development of foetal organs, a policy can well be devised that permits every family to have a boy and a girl. Right now, I cannot see any problem with this solution. I also believe that it would create a balance in the exchange of boys and girls. (through the institute called ‘marriage’) leading to gender equality.