Consumer Pulse
- No Birthdays
for Girls: A
Sign of
‘Progress’?
Mithila Rao, India

On fieldwork in rural Lucknow, we were pleasantly surprised to hear families talking about the importance of educating the female child. However, although parents weren't overtly discriminatory based on gender, it was clear that the son was considered to be the more important. The son was called bhaiya (older brother) even in homes where the boy was the youngest of all the children.

A glaring and heart-breaking example of this covert inequity was when we visited one of the homes in the village and were chatting with the family’s 7 year old son, Yash and 11 year old daughter, Pooja. The conversation was about the son’s birthday and the girl was telling us about how it was celebrated in a big way. When we asked her about her birthday and how that is celebrated, she looked utterly baffled. And said, “humara birthday nahi hota” which means, ‘I don’t have a birthday’. This little girl had internalised the idea that she wasn’t important enough to even have a birth date that was recognised, let alone celebrated. While the wave of feminism and women empowerment is sweeping the nation and popular culture, it is has clearly not reached the grass roots. Initiatives like the #SelfieWithDaughter campaign by the PMO, in light of this, seem superficial and merely a means of generating traction on social media. Threats of rape and retribution that followed actress Shruti Seth’s criticism of the campaign go a long way in depicting the real texture of our society.

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