“Where Women are Respected, There Angels Will Reside”

Finally, More Females than Males in India

A recent census shows that there are remarkably more females than males in India for the first time in over one thousand years!

One of the most impor­tant struc­tural aspects of a society is the rel­a­tive number of males and females who compose it.  Accord­ing to the Fish­er’s Prin­ci­ple, gender ratio is defined as the pro­por­tion of females rel­a­tive to one thou­sand males in a pop­u­la­tion.  In India, we are now seeing, for the first time since the onset of modern record-keeping, the gender ratio as tipped in favor of females.  Now, for the first time since the Vedic Period, over 1,000 years ago, for every 1,000 males, there are 1,020 females accord­ing to the National Family Health Survey‑5.

During the Vedic Period in India (1,500 BCE — 50 BCE), women enjoyed absolute eco­nomic and soci­etal status, and equal­ity and freedom (although it wasn’t perfect as a boy-child was still pre­ferred over a girl-child).  The Vedic Period is known as the “Golden Age” for women in India.  That era was char­ac­ter­ized by the absence of the purdah system (the prac­tice of keeping men and women sep­a­rate), no dis­crim­i­na­tion for edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties between the genders, equal rights in selec­tion of part­ners, polygamy being rare, and widows being able to marry again.

In the post-Vedic period, the status of women fell:   women suf­fered many set­backs when various restric­tions were put on women’s rights and priv­i­leges.  It became increas­ingly unten­able to birth a girl-child instead of a boy-child.  Edu­ca­tion, which had been an accepted norm for women, was neglected, and later on, girls were totally denied access to edu­ca­tion.  The Medieval Period was the darkest era in the history of India for women.  The status of women in society further dete­ri­o­rated when  child mar­riage, a ban on re-mar­riage for widows, the purdah system, polygamy, Jauhar, and sati Pratha (throw­ing women onto her her hus­band’s funeral pyre) became a regular part of cul­tural life.

A gender ratio which is not in favor of women is a dan­ger­ous sign for any society because it indi­cates a high female fetal mor­tal­ity rate, selec­tive abor­tions, and excess female deaths.  India is a patri­ar­chal society where there is active gender selec­tion by parents, which means that many girls are killed before they are even born.  Parents expect sons, not daugh­ters, to provide finan­cial and emo­tional care, espe­cially in their old age:  Sons add to family wealth and prop­erty while daugh­ters drain it through dowries; sons con­tinue the family lineage while daugh­ters are married away to another house­hold.  People often have a belief that a girl is a lia­bil­ity while a boy is an asset.  Misuse of advanced parental diag­nos­tic tech­niques (sono­grams) has led to gender selec­tion with the wide­spread ter­mi­na­tion of female fetuses which con­tributes to a rapidly declin­ing girl-to-boy ratio.

In recent years, India has enacted several gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives (see adden­dum below) to address these impor­tant issues in order to begin the process of cre­at­ing a more opti­mistic future for females in India from birth through­out all of life by pro­tect­ing them more holis­ti­cally and fully.

The status of women improved during the wave of fem­i­nism in India in the last few decades.  The Fem­i­nist Move­ment (also known as the Women’s Lib­er­a­tion Move­ment) refers to a series of polit­i­cal cam­paigns that aim to define and estab­lish the polit­i­cal, eco­nomic, per­sonal, and social equal­ity between the sexes.  The focus was on insti­tu­tional reforms which resulted in reduced gender dis­crim­i­na­tion, giving women access to male-dom­i­nated spaces, and pro­mot­ing equal­ity.  However, despite all of that, evils such as domes­tic vio­lence, female infan­ti­cide, sexual abuse, and abor­tions for gender selec­tion still exist in our society and must be addressed openly with mean­ing­ful reforms taking place.

Despite the con­tin­ued issues of gender inequal­ity, good news is indeed good news, and we should discuss it and cel­e­brate it.  The ratio of females to males in India has indeed equal­ized for the first time in over a thou­sand years.  Our country is finally begin­ning to appre­ci­ate the deep value that females bring to the table to make India a world leader.  The impor­tance of pro­tect­ing the equal rights, safety, and health and welfare for females of all ages is a foun­da­tional aspect upon which we can build a modern culture and be a world leader.

This turn of events is largely due to the increas­ing life-expectancy of females as well as the changes that have been made in the public con­scious­ness as well as the various gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives.  Although safe spaces for open con­ver­sa­tions are hap­pen­ing on an increas­ing basis, we still need to make con­stant assur­ances that we will acknowl­edge the dignity of women.  Laws that protect women are on the books, but they need to be enforced, and perhaps we need even more laws to ensure that the life of all females is pro­tected and safe from inequal­ity, dis­crim­i­na­tion, child mar­riage, abor­tion, vio­lence, rape, beat­ings, verbal abuse, muti­la­tion, torture, “honor” killings, and trafficking.

Gender equal­ity must be dis­cussed, encour­aged openly, and pro­tected in our country in order for us to become the world leader that India is capable of.

Thus, it is imper­a­tive to put even more focus on improv­ing the exist­ing poli­cies, laws, and pro­grams to ensure the sur­vival and utter respect for all females in Indian society.  We must con­tinue to protect females from harm and dis­re­spect.  We must build upon these ideas and not slide back­wards once again.

“Yatıra nariyasthu puly­athe reman­the ththra devethha”:  The meaning of this San­skrit sloka is “Where women are respected, there angels will reside”.

* Gov­ern­ment Initiatives

  1.  Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) aims to gen­er­ate aware­ness and ensure pro­tec­tion, sur­vival, and edu­ca­tion for the girl-child.
  2. Working Women Hostel (WWH) pro­motes the avail­abil­ity of reli­able accom­mo­da­tion and ensures the safety and secu­rity for women.
  3. Balika Sam­ridhi Yojana (BSY) focuses on helping girls and moti­vat­ing them to take up income-gen­er­at­ing activ­i­ties for their own welfare.
  4. Sukanya Sam­ridhi Yojana focuses on secur­ing a daz­zling future for the females.
  5. Women’s Helpline Scheme focuses on pro­vid­ing 24-hour emer­gency response to women affected by violence.

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The Satya Niketan Higher Sec­ondary School Student Lead­er­ship Website Edi­to­r­ial Team