January 22, 2008

Raising awareness of women's issues

Shabana Azmi appeared yesterday at an event in Mumbai with her mother, along with other filmi mother-daughter pairs like Hema Malini and Esha Deol (Sharmila Tagore was there too but Soha Ali Khan couldn't make it), raising awareness of a variety of women's issues. The Times of India reports that Shabana ji "spoke about the need to spread awareness about women not being the determinant of a child’s sex."

Those of you who saw Shyam Benegal's film Hari-bhari might remember that this was an issue for Shabana ji's character in that film. Her doctor explained to her that her failure to conceive a son was due to her husband's contribution and suggested that he be tested. This notion enraged her husband and he threw her out of his house. It is still the case that many people are unaware of this scientific fact, and in communities in which sons are treasured and daughters deplored, women can find themselves ostracized and abused on the assumption that the failure to produce sons lies with them alone.

There are two problematic lines of thinking here: first, the premise that girl children are not to be valued as highly as boys, and second, even if sons are desired, that women should be castigated for bearing only daughters when the biological fact is that the male contribution determines the child's sex. Changing both of these attitudes is high on Shabana ji's list of causes near to her heart.

ETA: dormeg at the BollyWHAT? forums found this picture from the event at bollyworld.com - Esha, Shabana, Shaukat, and Hema:

1 comment:

Daddy's Girl said...

Interesting. This is a big (though rapidly diminishing, thank goodness) issue in my part of the world as well, with some men marrying additional wives or having affairs in order to have sons. And strangely, the cultural belief that the woman determines the sex of the child is one held even by the educated, by people who know enough basic biology to realise that it simply isn't true. When my mother had my brother, the lady in the hospital bed next to hers had a girl. This lady's husband, an England-trained medical doctor, took one look at his beautiful baby girl, gave his exhausted wife a caustic lecture about how terrible it was that she couldn't have had a boy (like my mother did), then stormed out. Happily, today, he is extremely close to his daughter and has apologised to his wife. His initial reaction shows just how deeply ingrained these attitudes can be, though.