The hand that rocks the cradle, is the hand that rules the world. A poem by William Ross Wallace accurately describes the role of women in society.
As the mother of a little girl; I cannot imagine life without her. I am saddened by the millions of little girls that are born, and then are killed before birth, or shortly after.
Millions of female fetuses are being aborted every single year in one of the world’s most populous countries. It sounds gruesome. Unfortunately it’s a reality that is rampant across South Asia. India reported 6.5 million abortions in 2008, a large percentage due to gender selection.
That is equivalent to just over five percent of the population of Canada. This is despite a ban on gender selective abortions in India that has been in effect since 1994, but not respected.
Reasons for gender selection in South Asian countries vary from family pressure to financial strain. A daughter is often viewed as a financial burden on the parents because of lavish weddings and huge dowries whereas a son is expected to financially support them. While it is the poor that suffer with these types of customs, it is actually the wealthy and educated that practice gender selective abortions the most.
This is a heinous crime that is socially tolerated due to cultural norms that persist despite a legal ban that is insufficiently enforced.
Parents Amira and Imran Patel* of Pakistani descent, view parenting and gender selection very differently. Born in Montreal, they have always wanted to have children of both genders.
“We have three girls which is a great blessing. We are now looking forward to having a boy to help equal the balance in the house,” says the 32-year-old mother.
The Patel’s hope to have between four and six children depending on how well their children behave. Contrary to South Asian tradition, they are even open to the possibility of adoption.
“It is a great blessing to be able to provide for a child that is less fortunate and bring him/her into a loving home,” Amira Patel comments.
“Having three children, the family does not feel complete. It definitely is a challenge to raise them, but once they are older it will be nicer having them around and being with our grandchildren,” she continues.
Their decision to have a large family was a personal choice not influenced by family or culture.
Amira comments that when South Asian people hear how many kids she wants, “they look at me like I’m crazy.”
It is important for Amira and Imran to raise both girls and boys and “face the difficult challenges associated with each.”
Adoption is yet another taboo that faces South Asian couples who are unable to conceive. Many choose to go childless rather than to adopt. It is even more rare to hear of a South Asian family with children, adopting.
Amira feels that “family and community would not whole heartily accept the adopted child as a real member of the family. It would definitely be a learning curve for our extended families as we would be the first ones to do this.”
The Canadian birth rate has decreased to an average of 1.25 children per household according to the last census. The Patel’s desire to have a large family is an exception.
“The South Asian community needs to understand that children, whether a boy or a girl are a great source of happiness and love for the parents. We are fortunate in this day and age to be blessed with healthy children and are able to provide them with the basic necessities in life; food, shelter, clothing. Not all parents are able to do this so why not be thankful for what we have, whether boy or girl” questions the mother of three.
In South Asia, if the people committing such vile acts of murder continue on this path it will deprive the living of a balanced environment in which women flourish and are cherished for their role in society; ultimately changing the hand that rocks the cradle.
*Name changed upon request.