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The gender imperative: A baby boy or a baby girl?

- Yoma Mulpati

Sep 19, 2018-

In a phone call, I overhear my mother congratulating my aunt for safely delivering a baby boy. “You must have done something great in the past which is why you have been blessed with a son,” she says as I cringe. If I had contested her logic and had told her it did not matter what gender the baby was, it would have been the 199th time her and I would have debated the topic. There was no changing her mind—not by me anyway. No matter which level of society you exist in, you probably don’t even have to look beyond your own household to see how boys and girls are treated and socialised differently and unequally.

Even today a son is preferred to a daughter by most parents. Nepali society was conceived of and remains as a deeply patriarchal system. Sons are expected to inherit and continue the family line while daughters are expected to dutifully take up another home and another name. The logic is such that sons along with their wives and progeny will be there to take care of you when you are old and infirm while daughters are expected to simply move away. In reality though, this logic barely ever holds up.

Mothers tend to go through many excruciating pregnancies just to bear a son and people even adhere to dangerous superstitions out of sheer desperation. The abuse and mistreatment of wives and daughter-in-laws for not begetting a boy is a common feature in our society and so, Nepal in the 21st century remains irredeemably cruel to its women. Gender identification before birth, though illegal, is still common and has led to an influx of aborted baby girls. Infanticide also continues to take place and they disproportionately happen to a baby born with a vagina.

Why is one treated so differently simply based on genitals!? Long entrenched ideas and customs have lead to countless women adhere to and then internalise their implicit and cruel logic—that women are naturally inferior to men. Extreme adherence to these erroneous ideals will eventually be disastrous for society as a whole. The gendered preferentialism might someday lead to serious demographic problem as well as further the development of a toxic culture, based on domination and coercion. I really wonder, if only boys are to be born, how do they expect to raise a family without a wife? The disparity in the treatment of the genders will probably end with a highly imbalanced population and by that time it might be too late to seek recourse and amend the follies. I suspect that by the time the government and larger society realise the immensity of the problem, it will be too late to resolve it.

In a chaotic world, where everyone is born to die, people are just wasting their time indulging in such idiocy. How good it would be if whenever a baby is born, the parents are overjoyed, irrespective of the gender.

Let’s start being human again and embrace each other, men and women, as equals.

Mulpati is a law student at National Law College

Published: 19-09-2018 12:47

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