Why are male children still preferred in India
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|   Mar 17, 2017
Why are male children still preferred in India

I believe that the answer comes when we try to answer this question:

Why do women not support their parents financially when they get married?

1. Women are seen as moving out of the maternal home and family and becoming part of another family when they get married.  They no longer 'belong' to their parent's family.

2. Their money is no longer their own - it belongs to the husband and his family.  I know of women who make immediate fund transfers of their salary to the husband's account.  They then ask him whenever they need money to manage their personal expenses.

3. If the woman is either a homemaker or a stay-at-home mother, she is perceived as not earning any money at all.  People believe that her upkeep itself is a large task for the husband and that she should not tax him with additional burden.  This comes with the common act of not giving any value to tasks at home - such as cooking, cleaning, maintaining a good home, bringing up children, providing a good atmosphere for de-stress when you return from a day at work etc.

I believe that this was all mostly ok for a by-gone era where all families would have numerous children and a couple could keep trying until they had a son.  In today's world, we see that many of us only have a sibling or two.  And it's just as likely that you belong to an all-daughters' family.  So who will support your parents if you do not choose to do so?

Look at the setup we have - in many Indian families, the woman moves to her in-laws home.  She is with them for all major functions and festivals.  She is with them in sickness and in health.  If the woman's family does not similarly have a daughter-in-law, they have to make do with being alone in all festivals.  Are you allowed to feel like celebrating with your children and grand-children only if your children are male? 

Look at the customs we continue to embrace:  I explain below using some terms that may not be familiar with you but I hope you can still relate. The woman is given away as part of the 'kanya dhan' custom.  She changes her gotra (similar to surname?) during this custom whether she changes her actual initials or last name! 

There are 'n' number of occasions post marriage during which the woman's parents (or brother) still continue to support her through little rituals.  If the couple buys a new home and does a housewarming ceremony (the traditional 'gruhapravesh'), the women's parents or brothers are expected to buy a certain number of things - gold, silver or other valuable gifts. 

At every year, during Deepavali or Pongal or Karthigai Deepam, the woman receives a gift (a saree or some jewellery or money).  When the woman is pregnant, the parents spend on her baby shower (Seemandham).  

When the women has a child, they spend at the child's first birthday, a son's thread ceremony (upanayanam), the daughter's function (when she attains puberty) and so on.  The women's parents are just expected to give and give some more.  And when the parents pass away, this baton is handed over to the woman's brother. 

All of this continues even when they would receive absolutely nothing back from the girl - in terms of money or time or attention.  So how do we then expect a person in financial difficulties to welcome a girl child into his life?  How do we expect that families will want to spend as much on a daughter's education as on their son?  What would be the point of that for them?How do we expect to change this mindset only through making sex identification illegal in ultrasounds?  Isn't it the underlying mentality that has to change? 

So my request to you, especially those of you who have fathers, brothers and sons is this - don't allow these traditions to continue. Refuse to continue the dowry tradition. Share your wedding expenses with your partner. Try to spend money on your own pregnancy and delivery.  Don't continue this tradition of ‘mama seer’, ‘athai seer’ during every other festival or occasion in your life. 

Don't justify your parent's expenditure in your life because you do not earn financially.  While it would be good if all of us were financially independent, do remember that the choice you made to stay-at-home and look after your home, family and kids was taken due to a reason - it's because the work that you do at home is valued and no one could replace the work you do there.  You don't get paid for it but that does not mean it is not financially valued work.  It is ok that you spend your husband's money on your festivals, on your own 'seer' and it's even ok that his money is used to support your parents in time of need.  Remember that you enable your husband to earn the money he does - whether it's through a carefully planned lunch, maintaining a peaceful home or just by plain being there for him.

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