It is ironic that I am writing this on National Girl Child Day, which is celebrated on January 24th in India. However, when I was pregnant for the first time back in 2010, everyone was contemplating whether it was a boy or a girl. Me? I was fervently hoping it was a boy. I thought often, “Please bless me with a boy“. Outraged? In truth, I was dead scared of bringing a girl into this world. It was such an unsafe and unfair place. It was unjust of me to want to bring a beautiful, loving little baby girl into this scary, biased world when all the odds were stacked against her to begin with.
This was before all the reports of 4-year olds and 6-year olds getting molested were ever reported in mainstream media. This was even before Nirbhaya, and before 80-year old women got raped. This was before the molestations in Bangalore on New Year’s eve, and the election of a sexist bigot as the President of one of the most powerful countries.
I, like many women I know, have faced some sort of abuse (#YesAllWomen). I have always felt unsafe on the streets. When I bought my first car I felt happy, primarily because I felt secure for the first time. I could deal with the people cutting in front of me or cat-calling behind closed windows (let’s face it, women drivers go through a lot of this) – but I was safe. I didn’t need to stay on ultra high-alert every time I took an auto-rickshaw. I didn’t need to be scared that the auto-driver will drop me off two roads away from my home(citing that the fuel suddenly just got over or brake wire got cut!) and some guy on a bike will slap my butt on the way home, because I was arguing with the auto driver. I didn’t need to carry stones in my hand anymore just to go out for a stroll, I never planned to walk anywhere again. Sad, but true.
In a world where a woman has to “Give up freedom or Give up safety“, why would I want to bring in another girl? And I wasn’t alone. Several moms and dads-to-be have had this thought cross their mind, and for good reason.
In the meantime, another thought also lurked at the back of my mind. If well-educated, well-read, world aware and unbiased people are scared to have girls, then who would not be? So, I started contemplating engineering a “Light-Weight Body Armour with a built-in Alarm system” for children of all ages! Also, there was the idea of enrolling myself, my husband and to-be-born kids into every martial arts class known to mankind; a good mix of Kalaripayattu, Taekwondo, Shaolin Kung-Fu and Sumo Wresting should suffice.
Imaginative and grand schemes of self-protection aside, I must add here that there is a ray of hope in what is happening around the world today. Instead of bearing injustice in silence, and brushing unpalatable incidents under the carpet, the world is responding by standing up for themselves and others. On January 21st, a day after the swearing in of the new president in America, the Women’s March On Washington saw a huge turnout, marching for equality and justice. There were sister marches in every one of the 50 states in the country.
Meanwhile on the same day in India, the #IWillGoOut campaign saw both Men and Women march in 30+ cities and towns in India. They marched against gender based harassment and for women to reclaim the public places in the light of the events on New Year’s Eve in Bengaluru. One of the co-organizers of the event Varsha Bhargava called it a “holistic approach to rebellion”.
Let these marches be the beginning of a movement. Let girls be able to walk carefree in the streets. Let them have a choice about what they wear. Let them have the right to say no. Let them learn to fight so that they are never victims again. Let the fight carry on – so that next time around I will feel safe bringing a daughter into this world.
Namratha is a digital marketer in the making. Other than her love for the written word and her kids, she enjoys Italian food, dancing and gardening. Explore more of her writings at www.namysaysso.com