A mother in India gives life to her twin daughters despite immense adversity
When Mitu Khurana found out she was carrying twins, she could have easily joined millions of other Indian women and gone for an illegal sex determination test to ensure they were sons. Daughters are a disaster for families in India, because when they grow up, they join their husbands family upon marriage and take with them years worth of income in the form of marriage dowry.
But Mitu was a pediatrician, and one of two daughters of her father, who had no sons. So maybe Mitu grew up with a different idea of the value of girls. Whatever the reason, when Mitu’s husband and parents-in-law insisted she get an illegal ultrasound to ensure she was carrying boys, Mitu refused.
Mitu was locked in a room for three days with no food. When she still did not relent, her husband and in-laws, who knew she was allergic to eggs, devised a plan. They gave her a cake, made with egg, and when Mitu became ill, took her to a nearby hospital. They convinced the doctor to perform an ultrasound under the guise of ensuring her kidneys were not damaged by the episode. The doctor delivered the news they were most afraid to hear: the twins were girls.
A violent campaign ensued to convince Mitu to abort the girls and try again for a son. Mitu held her ground. After an argument, her husband, in a rage, pushed Mitu down a flight of stairs. Mitu was then locked in a room, hurt and bleeding, in hopes she would miscarry.
En la mayoría de los medios de comunicación del mundo le dijeron que sus trabajos eran demasiado fuertes para ser publicados, pero son imagen de decenas de campañas de sensibilización para prevenir la violencia contra la mujer. Son los mismos medios que no dudan en convertir a una mujer en objeto de deseo a través de la prostitución y las publicidades sexistas que exhiben. Walter Astrada no es ajeno a la gente que lo rodea cuando derechos se vulneran. Y lo denuncia a través de sus fotografías.
Este fotógrafo argentino –que supo dar sus primeros pasos en el diario La Nación- ha recorrido numerosos países del mundo para retratar la violencia. Supo cómo acercarse a ella para describirla en crudo. Reconocido mundialmente y actualmente viviendo en España, no para de recorrer el país y distintos sitios del mundo, para exponer sus trabajos y brindar charlas y talleres. Antes eran sólo formación para fotógrafos, pero la propuesta incluye ahora también a periodistas.
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Abortos selectivos en India, a través del lente de Astrada
“Mi esposo me odia. Y él no quiere vivir conmigo. Quiere volver a casarse, porque él quiere tener hijos, que yo no le haya dado. Así que, según él, yo era una esposa inútil”.
Mitu Khurana esboza las palabras con dolor. Ella se negó a abortar a sus hijas gemelas, y describe crudamente la violencia y discriminación que las mujeres sufren en India, desde que nacen. Mitu pagó con torturas haber decidido tener a sus niñas. También fue abandonada por su esposo y su familia. Y es una de las pocas mujeres en India que presentó una queja formal en los Tribunales.
“En India las mujeres se enfrentan a la violencia desde que son niñas hasta que estén casi hasta morir”, lo resumió Astrada, quien realizó un impactante trabajo donde se sintetiza este sistema de expulsión y violencia. El aborto por razón de género no es legal en India, sin embargo se utilizan máquinas de ultrasonido, de manera clandestina, para determinar el sexo de un bebé en camino. El resultado, son 7.000 niñas abortadas cada día.
1. Tell us about your childhood in India. What was your relationship with your parents like? What did you think growing up, getting married and being a mother would be like?
I had a very happy childhood. I remember being told time and again by my parents that they wanted two daughters and that they had prayed for their wish to come true. So I and my sister were a dream come true for them.
My father always said to us, “You have brought luck into our lives.” In fact, someone asked my father recently about how he feels having just girls, and he responded, “I asked God for two daughters, and He has given me five daughters,” (my sister, my daughters,my sister`s daughter and me).
Never was I made to feel unwanted because I am a girl. My sister and I grew up in a totally sheltered atmosphere. We both did everything and anything that we wanted to. Never were we told that we couldn’t do something because we were girls. I studied to become a doctor.
I never knew that life for girls could be any different than the life I had. My sister and I were sheltered from the stark realities of life. All our needs were met even before we asked for them. The only thing my parents wanted from us was that we study well and complete our education before getting married. They had no other expectations of us. In our family, we all lived for each other. If one person was fasting on a particular day, the rest of the family would eat vegetarian food on that day.
2. You had a happy and loving childhood but things changed after you got married. Please share with us what happened with your dowry, the abuse and violence you faced, the harassment you faced to abort your daughters, and your in-law’s treatment of you and your daughters after they were born.
I guess the last time I was happy was on the day of my marriage. That day was an end to a carefree, sheltered and pampered life. It was the beginning of a struggle, one which would change me from an over-protected daughter to a fighter, from a pessimist to an optimist, from someone who always gave up to someone who learned to persevere through any situation.
Marriage was a turning point in my life which would expose me to the stark realities of life outside of my loving and supportive family:
• The reality that despite all our advances, women in our society continue to struggle. We struggle to be born, to live, to eat, to study, and even to live with self-respect. And the struggle is so often with those very people who are supposed to ensure these most basic rights.
• The reality that life is very different from what we all are led to believe.
• The stark reality that despite all the talk about the empowerment of women, it is a far-off dream. The reality that, really, no one cares or wants to do anything about it; everyone is happy with how things are, or, even if they are not happy, it is a “chalta hai” attitude which is running this country.
• The reality that there are laws, yet still justice is more often than not out of reach of common women.
• The reality that the very authorities who are mandated to enforce the so-called “women friendly” laws are not willing to enforce them.
• The reality that though laws are there, the implementing system itself makes it more of a harassment to fight abuse than to live with it.
• The reality that most of us have accepted abuse as our way of life, and we do not feel that we can do anything about it.
The day I stepped into my in-laws’ house, I felt unwelcome. After all the rituals, I was shown my room. It was on the top floor of the house. The bed and the minimal furniture which my parents had given in dowry were there. Other than that the room was essentially empty. It had not even been dusted. The mattresses still had their covers on. Thank God at least someone had bothered to cover them up with a torn old bed sheet. This was the room which greeted me, the new bride, into the home.
From the next day onwards taunts started appearing: taunts for insufficient dowry, for bringing an old used Santro (car) instead of a Honda city car, and for not getting a flat (apartment). I thought that things would change with time; they did change, but only for the worse.
It’s the annual observance of National Girl Child Day on January 24 mere tokenism or is there some substance to its goals? K S Narayanan looks for the answer.
Welcome to the world of the girl child. Her story across India is promising yet gloomy, hopeful yet mired in despair.
A girl child is the hand that rocks the cradle, the procreator, and the mother of tomorrow. A woman shapes the destiny of civilization.
Indian history is full of examples of successful women who have been leaders in various walks of life. Yet the irony is that a creation as beautiful as the girl child is also one of the gravest concerns facing India due to many cultural factors.
For instance a girl child faces a dozen threat foeticide, discrimination, sexual assault, lack of access to nutrition, sanitation, education and lack of opportunity on one hand and while she is equally burdened with drudgery of domestic chores (like fetching water and firewood for cooking), child marriage…
Realising this, Indian governments have undertaken progressive legislation and have implemented several schemes from time to time. Yet more needs to be done not only to ensure her survival and also to help her realise her full potential.
One such effort initiated by the United Progressive Alliance Government in 2008 is the observance of National Girl Child Day on January 24 every year.
Interestingly in 2008 UPA chairperson and Congress Sonia Gandhi had shot down Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister Renuka Chowdhury’s plan to celebrate November 9 as ‘national girl child day’. Reason: November 9 is Sonia Gandhi’s birthday.
All other ministries gave their approval straight away; the Home Ministry wanted to know whether November 9 was dedicated to any other national function. Once the WCD Ministry said November 9 was free for celebrating ‘girl child day’, the Home Ministry gave its approval.
With the Home Ministry’s approval, the WCD Ministry was in full swing to conduct a series of events on November 9 to create awareness about girl child rights all over the country. The ministry however got cold feet over the proposal when it learnt that Sonia Gandhi was not keen to celebrate November 9 as girl child day because it was her birthday.
So January 24 was chosen. And the reason is that on this day in 1966 Mrs. Indira Gandhi took over as the first woman Prime Minister of India.
In a bid to highlight the issues concerning the girl child, like female feticide, higher malnourishment among them and discrimination, the WCD Ministry proposed to celebrate November 9 as ‘girl child day.
Children in the age group 0–6 years constitute around 158 million of the population of India as per the 2011 census. These children in the age group of 0-6 are future human resource of the country.
Then, why celebrate just National Girl Child Day? The reasons are twofold-First is it is in honour of the 614.4 million female population of India. More important is the girl child continues to be the most vulnerable member of Indian society.
Protecting a girl child in India should not be limited to observing National Girl Child Day every year. Instead armed with strong legislative measures, the governments and other stakeholders – the community, civil society, business houses, neighbourhood and parents – must play a strong role to secure a safe life for the girl child in order to build a better society, better future and a better India.
But this is not all easy to come by. Take for instance Mitu Khurana, is a doctor herself, whose husband and in-laws tried their best to get rid of her twin girls when they were in the womb. She is the first woman in India to have taken legal action under the PCPNDT (Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques) Act against her husband, in-laws and the hospital for the sex-determination test.
The lower courts gave awareness to her case but the hospital and doctor have appealed in the higher courts against cognizance and it has been pending since 2010. In fact, Mitu is fighting a dozen other cases including domestic violence, dowry and custody of children…
We have received inquiries from readers on how they can support Mitu’s case. Please visit Girlkind to learn more about how you can help. Thank you for being a part of her journey towards the eradication of female genocide in India!
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Mitu Khurana, is a doctor herself, whose husband and in-laws tried their best to get rid of her twin girls when they were in the womb. She is the first woman in India to have taken legal action under the PCPNDT (Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques) Act against her husband, in-laws and the hospital for the sex-determination test.
The lower courts gave awareness to her case but the hospital and doctor have appealed in the higher courts against cognizance and it has been pending since 2010. In fact, Mitu is fighting a dozen other cases including domestic violence, dowry and custody of children, and her email is being hacked. “
How long will the system further victimize mothers like me? She asks. Mitu and her story were featured in the film “It’s A Girl.”
GirlKIND supports getting Mitu her deserved justice in her fight against the abuses she faced for bearing daughters. “What should I do to save my daughters?” She asks.
She is fighting back so her daughters will not endure what she did; she is standing up and fighting gendercide.
Learn More at Justice for Mitu