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“How can I stay at my daughters’ home?”- 4 January 2012

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Wednesday, 18 January 2012 20:03

‘I have never been to my elder daughter’s house for a night stay so how can I come and stay at your house’, stated the Mother to her younger daughter who had just married and was insisting that her parents come and stay with them for a few days. The younger daughter was made of different mettle than the elder one. She was more dynamic and radical in her thoughts. She would not reason in the mother’s argument and pushed up the insistence. The parents were in a peculiar dilemma as they very much wanted to visit the girl and see her off to a distant land where she would soon fly off to. The outcome was predictable- to be fair to both, the parents agreed to spend the days with the newly- weds but to spend the nights in a nearby hotel! By no standards could they dream of living at a married daughter’s home. Their minds did not allow them.

A sick mother needed nursing and care but could not bring herself to go to her married daughter’s home. Her daughter cried and begged her parents to stay with her so that she could take care of them but no they did not. The girl was worried sick herself for her mother’s health as she continuously felt guilty for neglecting them and cursed herself for being a woman. What severe limitations women have in their lives she thought. A single child to her parents she could only feel helpless and guilty. Why was she born a girl- she hated her-self. She could not change her parent’s age old thinking and could not convince them to break out of it. They were helpless and wanted her help but felt inhibited by their own prejudices and cultural norms.

These are not ancient stories but recent ones and an everyday one. All parents who have just girl children have experienced the dilemma very intimately. So is that why Indian parents desire a son? A son’s home is your home and a daughter’s home is not your home is the thinking and a deep rooted belief.  What happens to parents who have no sons and only one or two daughters is everyone’s guess. If we are trying to save the girl child we must also seriously think of saving her parents and of all the other dimensions that go with it.

If we value a girl child then we should value her parents too who have given birth to her. They are as important to her as her in-laws. As more parents opt for the single child norm or the two child norm and cannot decide the sex of the child then we should help people to accept the total reality that follows whatever it is. Society needs to be sensitised about these associated issues which are natural fallouts of the campaign. When common sense does not prevail over age old beliefs then we need to take stringent action against such practices.

If it is difficult for the old parents to make the first step towards change then it is up to the boys to make the move asking their wives to bring her parents home honourably. The son in law can go an extra step to assure the girl and her parents that he is not a son in law but a son. He is not like a son but actually a son. Parents are to be respected whosoever they belong to and need to be cared for. It is the responsibility of the children to take care of them whether they are boys or girls.

This is happening in many progressive homes where differences are vanishing and the changes are being brought in with much sincere thought and not much effort. This is still a small percentage though and make for a good story. We hope this will become the norm soon and not remain an exception.

“Work Life Balance”- 21 December 2011

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Saturday, 24 December 2011 11:40

She missed working and felt aggrieved that she would soon turn into some kind of a vegetable that she was chopping whole day in the kitchen. How awful and what a drag the world had become after she had to leave the job for her second pregnancy. She guiltily reassured herself that she loved the kids dearly and there was no substitute for the pleasure of being a mother. Her kids were the cutest in the world and had brought tremendous and immeasurable joy to their lives. She did not regret having them at no time. But.....

Her intellectual faculties would dry up and she would lose all her creative capacities soon in the drudgery of the kitchen sink washing dishes and changing nappies day long. She must get back to work as soon as possible. Her ex-employers were kind enough to grant her a long leave instead and had suggested that she may join back after she is active (she had honestly put in her resignation which they declined). After a long gap of being domesticated she began to doubt her capabilities to get back to work with the same zeal and efficiency. She was worried and anxious about the whole affair of talking to her employers and discussing her problems. Then a friendly suggestion came from her mother that made her sit up and think of a hopeful idea. She would negotiate her working hours with the organisation and ask for lesser working hours and flexi-timing too. With great hesitation but to her surprise they agreed quite easily. She was ecstatic and had never thought that it would be so easy and there could be a solution like this. She thanked her wise mother for her advice and her insistence to get going.

Many women tell me their grievances about compromising their work and careers for the sake of the kids and the family. They all agree that the career of women do take a back seat when it comes to handling family responsibility. They also agree that without the support of the husband and his family nothing much can be done about building careers. A doctor narrated her story of how she gave up her practice when she was pregnant. After a year and half she started practice working only half a day as she could then attend to both the family and clinic. Then again she gave up practice when she was carrying her second child. Again she had to pick up the threads slowly. Now she was fairly happy as she could operate from home as they have a bigger apartment which can accommodate her clinic as well. But that took a lot of time as they could not afford a bigger apartment earlier as they were still struggling. She also agreed that idea of operating from home struck her quite late. And yes, with the gaps in work ‘as doctors we do lose out on knowledge and credibility as people/patients want experienced doctors’! A doctor with intermittent gaps in her career is suspect and does not enjoy enough respect as others. So again she has to build up her career and credibility slowly.

A young dynamic lady who had enjoyed working with a reputed advertisement agency had to leave her job after marriage. It was a source of frustration for her but her choices were few. She would have to hunt for newer type of jobs in new organisations. She would have to learn different set of skills and adjust herself somewhere because career was important for her mental happiness. She felt empty and wasted and under-utilised. She has loads of talent and it needed an expression. An interesting observation was however made by her during the discussion. She realised that all the women who had risen to the top positions in the advertisement organisation (she could count them on her fingers, they were so few) and were flourishing were all single! She gave me a detailed account of their personal lives which has partially faded from memory. But I do remember that most of them were unmarried, a few were divorced and some separated. What a pity.

Let’s face it. Women have to compromise their careers for the kids and family. Finding creative solutions to their dilemma would be a happier option than cursing their fate. It is a mind- set after all that needs to be addressed. With rigid minds solutions seem impossible. But with flexible thinking innovative solutions can be found.

“Agni Pariksha of Housewives”- 30 November 2011

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Saturday, 24 December 2011 11:38

 

In my column last fortnight I had mentioned the NCRB (National Crime Record Bureau) 2010 report, published in September 2011, highlighting the unfortunate fate of women who lost their lives due to accidental death and by suicides. The total number of women who committed suicide in 2010 was 47,419. Out of these numbers 25,058 women were housewives. This means that housewives accounted for 52.8% of the total women victims of suicide in the country. Take another eye opening figure. 44% of the housewives who took the drastic step to terminate their lives belonged to the youngest age group in the adult category (as decided by the GOI), and that is 15 years of age to 29 years of age. Another 34.1% belonged to the next age group of 30 years to 44 years of age. This means that a total of 78.1% of housewives that committed suicide belonged to the most productive age group of 15 years of age to 44 years of age. What a national waste of the most useful age group. This needs to be taken very seriously by parents of young girls, psychologists, social workers and other concerned communities as this is the most vulnerable age group for suicides. As the age progresses the suicide rate drops. A further surprising fact tells us that 69.2% of the total suicides were married women. 22.8% belonged to the unmarried category and 4% belonged to the divorced/separated category.

What all these facts and figures convey to us is not a rosy picture at all for the young married women. This category of young brides (15-29 years of age and 30 to 44 years of age) need supportive care and guidance of their parents the most. The unmarried are not as vulnerable to commit suicide as the married. This is surprising for a country where marriage is considered the prime goal of women. The unmarried can take better care of them-selves it seems either/or they may be safe in their parental homes. We do not know the details. This is only a conjecture. The divorced/separated too can take care of their lives as they have faced it all and survived. So they may be tougher in the mind. That reminds me of a bright comment of a bright teacher in a training workshop. She said that ‘maturity may come with marriage since it teaches us so much!’ I suggest she rethinks her premise as we just now saw that the married housewives accounted for 52.8% of the total female victims of suicide. This means that marriage brings a lot of trauma and stress and not all become ‘mature and wise’. Some become ‘otherwise’- many prefer to give up and die. This is the traumatic side of marriage that needs highlighting.

Let’s now focus and study the causes of suicides. Out of the multiple causes mentioned I will pick out the category of causes where the proportion of females is more than the men. Male suicides lead in many categories but let’s look at the ones that are women specific. The proportion of women is more in the cause of suicide due to ‘Dowry’ (97.4% are women and the 2.6% are men). I wonder what sort of harassment led the men to commit suicide for dowry? One guess could be parental pressure/demands for dowry and/or marital discord due to dowry demands which drove one spouse to despair. The other causes/categories where the proportion of women are higher than men in suicides is- ‘Illegitimate Pregnancy’ (100% women), ‘Physical Abuse (including rape, incest, etc)’ (74.4%); ‘Barrenness/ Impotency (not having children)’ (71.6%); ‘Divorce’ (61%); ‘Suspected/Illicit Relation’ (57.2%); and ‘Cancellation/Non-Settlement of Marriage’ (50.3%).

The NCRB report states that ‘it is observed that social and economic causes have driven men to suicide and emotional and personal causes have driven women to commit suicide’.

Another fact worth mentioning is that among all the diverse means adopted by victims to commit suicide, women lead in only one category- that is suicide by ‘Fire /Self Immolation’. 65.2% women have adopted this method to die and only 34.8% men use this method. This takes us back to my last column that was published where I mentioned that among the accidental deaths too women die by ‘fire’ the most. So whether it is accidental death or it is a case of suicide ‘fire’ seems to be a strong element in the picture. There seems to be a strange connection of women with ‘fire’. The lady of the house keeps the hearth burning and when the ‘home fires’ begin to burn her instead she uses it as the best method to escape or falls a victim to it. ‘Agni Pariksha’ (test by fire), an ancient Indian idea, very deep rooted in the mind still, was used by society for women to either prove themselves or to escape life’s drudgery. ‘Sati’ and ‘Johar’ are old customs which we thought had largely vanished. But no, not yet. It still exists, however, in different forms.

It seems Indian women are still giving the ‘Agni Pariksha’ (test by fire) and failing miserably.

 

Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 December 2011 11:40 )

“Death by Fire and Housewife Suicides”- 16 November 2011

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Saturday, 24 December 2011 11:35

I am no good with facts and figures. Statistics was never my cup of tea. For they say, figures state much but do not reveal the exact picture. Also the human face behind the figure is lost in the game of numbers. But still when the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released its annual report of Accidents and Suicides for the year 2010 just last month and it fell into my hands I was amazed with a few findings. These facts need more clarity in terms of definition and finer analysis but yet let’s take a look.

Death by fire /cooking gas cylinders /stove bursts, are the main cause for accidental death of women. Out of the total cases of 4,820 of 35 states, 1200 cases of death of men are reported whereas 3620 cases are death of women. This means that in this specific category of death by fire 75% victims are women whereas the remaining 25% are men victims. Among the cities the highest number of death by fire happen in Mumbai (130 cases total) where again the male female ratio remains the same. That there are no (recorded) cases in Nagpur is a matter of satisfaction. The other cities that follow in competition to Mumbai in death by domestic fire is Ahmedabad (82), Surat (80) and Hyderabad (73).

The second largest category of accidental death of women is during Child Birth/ Abortion. Among the national figures where 35 states are taken into account, a total of 785 cases are recorded. Again shamefully Maharashtra leads with 382 cases, M.P follows a little behind in second rank with 168 cases and U.P stands third with 51 cases. Needless to say there are no male statistics in this category.

So women tend to lose their lives more by accident at home by gas cylinders and during the process of child birth or abortion. Guess these are the two major domains of women’s life- the kitchen and the process of reproduction. There you are- since their lives rotate around these two vital areas, they lay down their lives there too. Not a very worthy cause to die for. During the discussions on dowry death the method of burning the bride through stove fires is well documented. A few could be due to natural fires but most could be look- alike- accidents but be actually ‘murders’.  Even child birth/abortion deaths could be suspect as women are often neglected, forced into the situation of abortion, lack of proper post- operative care (especially if a baby girl is born to the mother) and many more similar reasons.

The NCRB report 2010, in the subsequent section of national statistics for suicides reports that out of every 5 suicides 1 is of a housewife. What a figure! It’s a shocking state of affairs. A profile of the suicide victims by their profession reveals the following – self-employed (41.1%), housewife (18.6%), service (11.3%), unemployed (7.5%) and student (5.5%), retired (.7%) and others (15.3%). The professional housewife (given official recognition by the Govt. of India) is the second highest category for suicides. This is a sad commentary for the women who toil hard to raise a family and nurture them. The highest cause for suicides is family problems, followed by physical illness and third largest cause is mental illness. Among the housewife statistics, a total of 25,058 cases are reported across 35 states.

The highest number of suicides is among the age group of 15-29 years (11,008 cases), followed by the age group of 30-44 years (8,564 cases) and then age group of 45-59 years (3,798 cases). This means that young brides (15-29 years of age) are the most vulnerable group. Mothers and fathers should take serious note of this as the first decade of marriage is important and the young couples may need to be counselled to help them adjust well into a marriage situation.

More next week.....

I am no good with facts and figures. Statistics was never my cup of tea. For they say, figures state much but do not reveal the exact picture. Also the human face behind the figure is lost in the game of numbers. But still when the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released its annual report of Accidents and Suicides for the year 2010 just last month and it fell into my hands I was amazed with a few findings. These facts need more clarity in terms of definition and finer analysis but yet let’s take a look.

Death by fire /cooking gas cylinders /stove bursts, are the main cause for accidental death of women. Out of the total cases of 4,820 of 35 states, 1200 cases of death of men are reported whereas 3620 cases are death of women. This means that in this specific category of death by fire 75% victims are women whereas the remaining 25% are men victims. Among the cities the highest number of death by fire happen in Mumbai (130 cases total) where again the male female ratio remains the same. That there are no (recorded) cases in Nagpur is a matter of satisfaction. The other cities that follow in competition to Mumbai in death by domestic fire is Ahmedabad (82), Surat (80) and Hyderabad (73).

The second largest category of accidental death of women is during Child Birth/ Abortion. Among the national figures where 35 states are taken into account, a total of 785 cases are recorded. Again shamefully Maharashtra leads with 382 cases, M.P follows a little behind in second rank with 168 cases and U.P stands third with 51 cases. Needless to say there are no male statistics in this category.

So women tend to lose their lives more by accident at home by gas cylinders and during the process of child birth or abortion. Guess these are the two major domains of women’s life- the kitchen and the process of reproduction. There you are- since their lives rotate around these two vital areas, they lay down their lives there too. Not a very worthy cause to die for. During the discussions on dowry death the method of burning the bride through stove fires is well documented. A few could be due to natural fires but most could be look- alike- accidents but be actually ‘murders’.  Even child birth/abortion deaths could be suspect as women are often neglected, forced into the situation of abortion, lack of proper post- operative care (especially if a baby girl is born to the mother) and many more similar reasons.

The NCRB report 2010, in the subsequent section of national statistics for suicides reports that out of every 5 suicides 1 is of a housewife. What a figure! It’s a shocking state of affairs. A profile of the suicide victims by their profession reveals the following – self-employed (41.1%), housewife (18.6%), service (11.3%), unemployed (7.5%) and student (5.5%), retired (.7%) and others (15.3%). The professional housewife (given official recognition by the Govt. of India) is the second highest category for suicides. This is a sad commentary for the women who toil hard to raise a family and nurture them. The highest cause for suicides is family problems, followed by physical illness and third largest cause is mental illness. Among the housewife statistics, a total of 25,058 cases are reported across 35 states.

The highest number of suicides is among the age group of 15-29 years (11,008 cases), followed by the age group of 30-44 years (8,564 cases) and then age group of 45-59 years (3,798 cases). This means that young brides (15-29 years of age) are the most vulnerable group. Mothers and fathers should take serious note of this as the first decade of marriage is important and the young couples may need to be counselled to help them adjust well into a marriage situation.

More next week.....

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