Imagine growing up in modern society with the name Unwanted; how would you feel carrying that title? Would you change your name to something that made more of a statement? In Mumbai, India, more than 200 girls whose names mean “unwanted” in Hindi have chosen new names for a fresh start in life.
In a central Indian district, a renaming ceremony was held in order to give the girls help in fighting widespread gender discrimination that gives India a skewed gender ratio, with far more boys than girls.
According to the Associated Press, “The 285 girls — wearing their best outfits with barrettes, braids and bows in their hair — lined up to receive certificates with their new names along with small flower bouquets from Satara district officials in Maharashtra state.”
In shedding names like “Nakusa” or “Nakushi,” which mean unwanted in Hindi, some girls chose to name themselves after celebrity idols, family members or the like, while “some just wanted traditional names with happier meanings, such as ‘Vaishali,’ or ‘prosperous, beautiful and good.'”
The plight of girls in India came to a focus after this year’s census showed the nation’s sex ratio had dropped during the past decade from “927 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of 6 to 914.” Such ratios are the result of abortions of female fetuses, or just sheer neglect leading to a higher death rate among girls. The problem is so serious in India that hospitals are legally banned from revealing the gender of an unborn fetus in order to prevent sex-selective abortions, though evidence suggests the information gets out.
Part of the reason Indians favor sons is the enormous expense of marrying off girls. Families often go into debt arranging marriages and paying for elaborate dowries. A boy, on the other hand, will one day bring home a bride and dowry. In light of the recent trends in female-to-male rations, it has been announced by federal and state governments to include free meals and free education to encourage people to take care of their girls and even cash bonuses for families with girls who graduate from high school.
“When the child thinks about it, you know, ‘My mom, my dad and all my relatives and society call me unwanted,’ she will feel very bad and depressed,” said Sudha Kankaria of the organization Save the Girl Child. But giving these girls new names is only the beginning, she said. “We have to take care of the girls, their education and even financial and social security, or again the cycle is going to repeat,” she said.
According to Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, “Thirty years after the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), many girls and women still do not have equal opportunities to realize rights recognized by law. In many countries, women are not entitled to own property or inherit land. Social exclusion, “honor” killings, female genital mutilation, trafficking, restricted mobility and early marriage among others, deny the right to health to women and girls and increase illness and death throughout the life-course.”
I think that something has to be done, and it is great that India is taking a step in the right direction toward women’s rights. The rights of women in the Middle East are a huge problem, not only to women in those countries, but on a global scale as well. Gender equality is a terrible issue, and not many people really take into consideration the effects that the lack of equality has on women worldwide.