New Delhi

In this silly season wherein Republic Day festivities have been drenched in US President Obama magic, setting hearts aflutter, entrancing netagan, enthralling CEO’s and defining 21st century partnership it took a plain-speaking Modi to expose India’s paradox: Indian mindset continues to be trapped in 18th century “mental illness” of girl-boy inequality wherein it doesn’t give a rat’s ass about its stree dhan! 

Seeking to address this gender imbalance and discrimination against the girl child, the Prime Minister unveiled his ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’ last week in Panipat, Haryana. A State, which boasts of a declining sex ratio 775 girls for 1,000 boys and is infamous for female foeticide. 

His urgency is understandable given UN World Population Fund alarming analysis, India has one of the highest sex imbalances with the sex ratio declining to 914 and 2000 girls being killed daily. Already, 70 villages are sans a single girl while in others the sex ratio is as low as 500. Demographers warn that there would be a shortage of brides in the next 20 years thanks to adverse juvenile sex ratio, combined with overall decline in fertility.  Add to this, of the 12 million girls born, one million do not see their first birthdays. The fear and struggle to survive swallow most of a girl’s life even if she is ‘allowed’ to live. Topped by nearly 136,000 maternal deaths out of 30 million pregnancies occur annually due to frequent abortions leading to 9 out of 10 pregnant women suffering from mal-nutrition and anemia. 

Raising a moot point: Why is the fairer sex treated as paraya dhan? A bhojaa? Why are teenage girls sold for cheap money by poor families? Worse, viewed as sex objects? A plaything of males to satisfy their libido and massage their egos? Have we decided to surrender shamelessly to horrendous archaic brutality and sadism? Said goodbye to the protecting our women’s izzat? 

This is not all. Daily newspapers scream headlines of the Ugly Sexmanic Indian wherein. young 2,4,8 year old girls are raped…minors in moving trains, teenagers snatched off the streets in moving cars and working women in taxis. In a recent survey of 150 safe cities, New Delhi and Mumbai are ranked 139 and 126 at the bottom of the heap. Turn to any mohalla, city or State the story is the same: Sexual innuendoes, overtures, men salaciously salivating on porn, women's bodies to harassment, molestation and rape abounds. Sending petrified shivers down one’s spine. A yovan raj. And we call ourselves a civilised society!

Or Karnataka’s tongue-in-cheek “Pink Chaddi” campaign to take on right wing Sri Ram Sene Chief Praveen Togadia who brutally attacked women in a Mangalore pub in January 2009 ostensibly for “violating traditional Indian norms”. And male leaders referring to women opponents as dayans and witches. Sic.

A profession where sexual abuse is rampant is the film industry. Who can deny that the political casting couch is worse or better (depending on how one looks at it) than Bollywood’s casting couch. 

A finding of the Association for Democratic Reforms shows that two MPs and 8 UP MLAs and seven West Bengal legislators have serious rape charges against them. In all, 360 MLAs have confessed to charges of outraging a woman’s modesty. Such is the state of affairs we are immune to this.  

Pertinently, if Modi and his NDA storm troopers feel so strongly about uplifting the fair sex, why doesn’t he usher in change from the top, by introducing the ‘defunct’ 108 Constitutional Amendment, Women Reservation Bill reserving 33% reservation to women in Parliament and State Assemblies in the Lok Sabha. Remember, ‘her’ story was made when the historic Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha in March 2010, due to Congress’s Sonia Gandhi stern “walking-her-talk-on-the-Bill. But trust our male chauvinists to play spoil sport and ensure it remained in cold storage. 

If India really wants to develop, it will have to find ways to back up laws with quality action, not shoddy symbolism.

Alongside, the right groundwork must be laid for women education, welfare and healthcare at anganwadi, panchayat, zila parishads etc. 

It remains to be seen whether Modi’s promise of uplifting the fair sex will end up as nothing more than tokenism. In a country that ranks 114th among 134 in gender disparities, it is imperative that we create a level-playing field.

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