Why is India so harsh on the female population?

India, the current story is a typical one for a country changing - moving on from a poor, third world country to a middle income one. Across the landscape, huge masses of people are coming out of poverty, middle income is booming and literacy rates are increasing. But India is still a creature of habit, and in a modern culture that has existed for over 4000 years, it is still one of the most dangerous places to be born a girl.  

What makes it so harsh on the female population? 

Many cultural reasons make it dangerous for women in India. Here are a few: 

  • Arranged marriages are still common practise, meaning that as a female, you are considered a transaction, and what makes women valued is deeply rooted in - beauty, innocence, youth. 
  • Dowry’s are outlawed, but often large gifts are still practised - this is hard very hard on poor families. If you have multiple daughters and are poor, you are faced with crippling debt for most likely your entire life. 
  • Women are considered as wives and mothers, and are not seen as a valuable part of the workforce - education higher than age 16 if often seen as a luxury.
  • New wives live in the husbands home to look after the family - if you have no sons, you are likely to be abandoned when your daughters are married off
  • In some parts of India, only sons are able to light the funeral pyre. This cultural practise insinuates that if you have no sons, you will not go to heaven. 
  • Extreme sexual repression and the attitude that a girl or woman is responsible for rape rather than a man or a boy. This view is shared by many men across class, income and education. India is an incredibly sexually repressed country, with a huge lack of education in rural areas and basically no sexual education in any schools. This combined with the idea that men can control women, and women are property, is dangerous and leads to harassment, sexual assault, rape, kidnapping and sometimes murder. On top of this violence, it’s mostly always the women’s fault, and how she tempted a man in the first place, or somehow deserved it. You will remember the brutal bus gang rape and murder of a Delhi student in 2012 - over the course of this case, these views were not only shared by the rapists, but also the lawyers - evidence of the appalling attitudes shown systematically by many Indian men towards women.

These traditional and cultural reasons result in some horrifying statistics. One in every six girls in India will die before they reach the age of 15 and a third of these deaths happen at birth due to problems in labour, or gender specific infanticide. Out of 11 million abandoned children in India, 90% of them are girls, and without safe housing or education, many girls have no choice but to work in factories, mines, as domestic help or become a sex worker. There are an estimated 4 million sex workers in India, and 40% them are believed to be children. 

There is no doubt in my mind that every single girl that comes through KKSS has been spared from a terrible life. Without education or any family, it is highly unlikely they would have any sort of future. 

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Saskia Rysenbry