Opinion

COLUMN: Gender inequality

Dazzling brown eyes, rosy chipmunk cheeks, curls gracing her adorable little face… as soon as I saw her my heart filled with joy and gratitude for the addition of a little angel to our home.

It was 12 years ago but a day I will cherish as long as I live. I couldn’t wait to take my little girl home.

We celebrated her birth as we did two years earlier with the birth of my son and gave out the traditional sweets, chocolate cigars and gifts – to the dismay of some friends and relatives.

Unfortunately, not all little girls are welcomed into this world.

As I sat and listened to news of the death of little Rajvinder Kahlon, and of her father being charged with her murder, I thought about the birth of my own daughter and the love and joy she’s brought to our lives.

Is there any good that can come out of this tragedy? Well, this little girl has forced everyone once again to address the issue of gender inequality.

Even though there is much awareness around this issue, the evil still remains. An estimated 10 million female fetuses have been aborted in India in the last 20 years, according to a Canadian study published in British medical journal The Lancet.

Right here in Canada we also have women who willingly abort or are forced to abort female fetuses; right here we have families who believe they are justified in treating sons like royalty and girls as mere burdens.

We need to be condemning discriminatory behaviour and doing our part in helping eliminate the belief that girls are an economic burden.

Ironically, most people I run into say it’s their daughters who have supported them through their ups and downs.

What are we doing to reduce these disparities? A young lady I met relayed her story of being pregnant with her first child. Relatives and friends would always say to her, “Hope it’s a boy this time, it takes the pressure off.” Her father-in-law bought her a poster with a little baby boy to put up in her room, the superstition being that if she saw the poster every day she would also give birth to a boy.

Her first child was a beautiful girl and she and her husband were elated. Unfortunately, her mother-in-law was devastated. Soon enough people were calling to express their sympathies.

Her husband addressed the situation with his mother and said, “I’m happy, it is me who has to raise her, you should be happy that your son is a proud father.”

He would remind his mom of this every time he heard her say anything negative.

Later, the wife gave birth to a son and now the mother-in-law wanted to celebrate. Once again the husband spoke to his mom and reasoned since she didn’t celebrate the birth of her granddaughter, they were not participating in any celebration honouring the birth of a grandson.

But how many people are able to confront these types of behaviours this bravely? How many will work to denounce doctors that use gender recognition technologies? Will we confront friends and family members who hold these barbaric values?

These angels are a precious gift from above; let’s cherish them with all our hearts whether they’re your mothers, sisters, daughters or daughter-in-laws. Children are our true wealth. Relish them in whatever form they come, boys or girls.

Jas Cheema’s column occasionally appears in The Leader and addresses a variety of cultural and social issues. Send your comments or questions to jascheema@shaw.ca but please don’t send attachments. They will not be opened.

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