Daughters of Nuh

Nothing signifies more the patriarchal set-up and backwardness of the Mewat area of Haryana than this tragic and ghastly incident. Frustrated by not having given birth to a son, a poor mother slit the throats of her four daughters — aged between four months and six years — and critically injure herself as she attempted to end her own life in a village of Nuh district. The heartrending act bears the unmistakable stamp of a life burdened by cultural conditioning and stigmas surrounding the girl child. Irrespective of what the police investigation into this case reveals, the terrible episode should make our heads hang in shame as a society.

That a mother preferred to cut short the lives of her four little girls is emblematic of a terrible tale that has its roots in deeply embedded social mores and norms that condemn a woman to a lowly and wretched space. Perhaps, she wanted to free them from an existence of torture and abuse emanating from lack of facilities and opportunities that are the bane in the lives of a majority of women in the area. She must have suffered firsthand the gender prejudices prevalent in educational, financial, health and social fields. The huge disparities between men and women are among the significant indicators that have made Mewat the most backward area of the country.

With education being the key to the uplift of women, Haryana has rightly sought to improve the grimly skewed situation with its Beti Padhao Beti Bachao campaign. But, apparently, a lot remains to be done. Redoubled efforts are needed to cover the ground and strive to transform the male-dominated set-up into an equitable one by changing the mindset of the people, including the influential khaps. Progressive reforms can only emanate from the bowels of society that has the backbone of strong governance. Empower the girls with good education and health so that they blossom into confident, independent young women. They are as able as boys, not a liability. The distinction between boys and girls will evaporate if the daughters are welcomed.

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