The Unwanted Child

Rozina Parveen

Daughters are considered a blessing for parents. However, throughout history, a girl child is reminded repeatedly that she is the daughter of her in-laws, as after marriage she will have to leave her parents.

Anthropologists argue that primitive societies were matriarchal where power rested with the women. Today, however, we live in a patriarchal society where men have absolute power over everything, including women. Those patriarchal values are violently safeguarded by men and they expect conformity from women.

In a patriarchal systems, a son is considered to be a symbol of power and the same is rigorously taught to the women, since their birth. A woman having more daughters and no son is considered the weakest in such a society, and is often also looked down, or thought less of. Needless to say that this attitude is highly objectionable and contrary to the laws of nature. This traditional thought is imposed on women by the system created and sustained by men.

A woman is often expected to continue making babies, even if the number reaches ten girls, because the ultimate expected prize is the ‘son’.

Almost every girl, after the first one, is considered to be unwanted, as she came to the world instead of the boy the family was expecting to get. This is where the foundations of gender-based discrimination are laid.

From pregnancy till birth, the woman is traumatized by hearing people sentences like “may this time you have a boy”, or aske her to ‘pray for a boy’, or offer prayers for her to get a boy. This attitude reeks of patriarchism, where a woman is expected to give birth to a boy, as if she decides the gender of the children! Her health condition, her body and her feelings are no one’s priority. It is as if the woman is  a baby-making machine, and not a human being!

Ironically, some time women willingly go through this arduous life, because they have been socially conditioned to prioritize boys over girls, and they want to confirm with the biases of the society, often at the cos of their own health, and sometimes even life!

Under social pressure, a woman without a son considers herself the weakest and, in some cases, it becomes the reason for divorce or her husband has to remarry to get a boy child. There are cases where a woman who gives birth to more than two daughters is blamed and mistreated by her in laws. This social attitude pertains to power structures kept intact by the patriarchal system and women are conditioned to accept it and act accordinlgy.

If we critically analyze the Wakhi traditions, stark gender discrimination can be observed in the way of treatment of children by parents and their families. For instance, when a boy child is born, the male members of the family start firing guns (Milteq kitaak) to express their excitement and happiness, but for the birth of a girl child there is no such event performed. Though it was rampant in the past and the situation has improved, but it is still practiced in villages. Weapon is associated with masculine power historically as well as in the contemporary world and the firing of the guns is an expression of masculinity and violence through which social imagination is shaped and sustained. 

There is another tradition called “Tagham” celebrated to kick off agricultural activities after long and harsh winters. There is a segment of this event called “Sek supunder khak” in which all the boys in the village (1-5 years old) are prepared like grooms and are made to touch the traditional tool used to plough the land which is again a symbolic representation of masculine power, or an initiation ceremony of sorts. This event is performed by men and the women have to prepare their food and for all including the spectators. Like many other cultures, agricultural activity is considered and represented through masculine symbols, ignoring or downplaying the contribution of women in agricultural activities.

There are numerous examples of such customs and traditions which need to be deconstructed and critically analyzed by a dynamic and progressive society. Culture is dynamic and it changes due to evolution of thought and expansion of social imagination. We need to change to be compatible with the society, instead of being tied ritually to problematic concepts and priorities of the past. 

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