Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The women's rights thing

"Female infanticide is the intentional killing of baby girls due to the preference for male babies and from the low value associated with the birth of females.

So this happens frequently here in India.  A baby girl is not so useful.  It's actually illegal for a Doctor to reveal the sex of one's baby during pregnancy.  I was so culture-clueless last week when I met a young pregnant Indian girl.  My first question was so western...."do you know what you're having?"  She reminded me that she can't know.  In fact, we wanted to be surprised about the sex of our twins.  There are so few pleasant surprises in life, we relish them.   The Doctor asked us if we wanted to know the sex, but we declined.  I guess the whole flying around the world and paying a big chunk of money to have a baby indicated that we would welcome either a boy or a girl into our family.  Or in our lucky case, both!  

It's not so easy to understand.  Obviously there are vast differences in how women are valued across class.  We are meeting modern, self-assured women.  Our new friend is very confident and strong.  She is very lucky, at 35 and unmarried, she could be a financial burden on her family.  But, because her family is wealthy, she is not forced into a marriage she doesn't want.  She is allowed to stay with her parents and brothers families.  But all is not equal.  Her dad divided his riches between his two sons.  So now, she relies on the kindness of her brothers to buy her an apartment, a new car.  I don't pity this woman.  She is happy and fortunate to live a life without too much pressure put upon her.  That is her reward: low expectations.  But shouldn't she be treated as an equal child of her father?  Why should she be dependent upon the kindness of her brothers to buy her a car?  You know they buy themselves Audi's and she gets a Fiat.  They chose when to give her money, so yes, they bought the apartment, but no they didn't renovate the kitchen.  They control her life by deciding what they will and won't support financially.  Yet, she is happy and fortunate to live such a life.   

Our nanny decided to leave her husband, based upon his philandering with her "sister".  I was impressed by the strength in her conviction.  She decided within 24 hours that she would divorce him.  She is financially supporting her extended family, so has the confidence an income can provide.  But now, she relies on her brother to be the man in her life.  Yesterday she told me that she needed to go buy more traditional Indian clothes.  Now that her brother is the man in her life, she must obey.  I don't think her brother even has a job.  How can he tell her how to dress when she supports him?  

On the other end of the spectrum, there is the hospital where our babies were conceived.  This hospital and fertility clinic is run by Dr. Naina Patel.  Dr. Patel is a force.  She has had a major impact on her city and is renowned throughout India as the premier fertility specialist.  Her husband abandoned his medical practice to work with her.  He clearly plays an important, yet supporting role in her practice, preparing the legal and bureaucratic paperwork.  There are many doctors and nurses working in the Dr. Naina Patel hospital, but not one is a man.  

For me, India is sometimes a relief.  The men don't even see me.  Matteo orders the meals, pays the bills and asks for directions.  I am invisible.  Sometimes, it's a nice break.  But I think I am lucky to have been born where I was.  

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