This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Krishna* Dear Friend, Everyday we read in the national newspapers about young girls committing suicide because their parents cannot collect the dowry to get them married or because they are humiliated by their in-laws, sometimes even murdered out of greed. Our heart bleeds but we feel helpless, we feel we cannot do very much about these social evils. I am writing to say that we can, even singly, free our daughters from this humiliation and suffering provided we are willing to change our ideas and attitudes towards them. We must do this if we really love them and care for their happiness more than for our own convenience. You may not agree with my views, because they may be contrary to all your traditional values, but please listen to them, consider them for the sake of your daughters, even if you find it disagreeable. They can make a difference of life and death for your daughters. I know that you care for them and love them because I also have daughters and I can feel your anxiety and concern. I maintain that much of the sorrow and suffering in the lives of our daughters arises from false notions that we harbour in our heads because we have never questioned them. These notions make us fearful and force us to accept many situations which we do not have to accept. Permit me therefore to question some of these false notions : ____________________________________________________________ * Rector, Krishnamurti Foundation India, Rajghat Fort, Varanasi.
Notion 1 : That we must marry our daughter to someone within our own caste. I ask you, why ? Are good people only in our caste ? There may be some differences in food-habits etc. but do they matter more than differences of temperament or largeness of heart for happiness in marriage ? If we can be close friends with people of another caste and work with them, why can we not be happy in marrying them and living with them ? Notion 2 : That people of our caste will criticise us and we will be left with no friends. Are they really our true friends ? If they are, should they not care for our happiness and that of our daughters ? If they did, would they not stand by us ? If they do not, then they are not really our friends, so why depend on them ? After all, we all have friends among people of all communities and castes; so why not depend on our true friends, why depend on the caste people ? Aren't our friends the real community we live in ? Will they not help us if we are ill or in difficulty ? Surely the idea that only people of our caste help us is sheer nonsense. Very often they only impose all kinds of restrictions on us and limit our freedom. So why stick to them, especially if that can eventually lead to the humiliation and burning of our daughters ? Notion 3 : That a girl must get married before she is 25 years old. One may wish that for one's son or daughter, but why make it into an obsession ? It is important to be happy in life and if marriage will bring happiness then it is desirable, but why marry at all costs ? After all, many men and women do live a reasonably happy life, and with great dignity, without marrying, by devoting themselves to their work. So why have this fixation in our mind that marriage is essential and must be arranged by a certain age even if a good boy is not available ? Why treat the daughter differently from the son ? Why not educate her, let her work and get married to someone she likes, if she likes and when she likes, as we do with our sons ? I would rather let my daughter remain unmarried than have her live with a greedy man who seeks her hand because of the dowry.
Notion 4 : That virginity is more important for a girl than for a boy. The pressure to get a girl married quickly often comes from the fear that she may fall in love with someone and lose her virginity. The idea that it is more important girl to keep her virginity than a boy comes from the fear that she may conceive and have to bear a child, whereas the boy goes Scot free. Surely, it takes two to make a baby and both persons are equally responsible for bringing up the child. Animals do not need a system of marriage because the young one grows up in a few months and becomes independent. But the human child has to develop not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally for 20 years before it becomes and independent adult. That responsibility has to be shared equally by the father and the mother who produce the child. It is not more immoral for a girl to produce a baby before marriage than it is for a boy. If it does happen, justice demands that we should stand by our daughter and help her rather than condemn her. Our condemnation of her is a greater crime than her sexual lapse, as it humiliates her often to the point of committing suicide. If the boy does not take responsibility for the child, the girl is already a victim of injustice and our condemnation only adds further to that injustice. Notion 5 : That a girl belongs to her father before marriage and to her husband after that. No human being belongs to anybody. Having produced a child it is our responsibility to look after it and care for it, but that child isn't our possession. My child is my friend, he/she is another human being. Like true friends, we must care for their happiness but not treat them as objects meant for our happiness or pleasure. Like the parents, the husband is also a friend, not the owner of the wife. If my daughter is not happy in his house, she can always come and live in my house because it is still her house and will always remain hers. She has as much right to come and live here as any of my sons. We must drop the false notion that our house is no longer hers after marriage. Remember, we are friends and true friends never close their doors at the time of need.
Notion 6 :
That boys are superior to girls intellectually in fields like Science, Mathematics, Computers or Business. Scientific brain research has blown off this myth. The differences that we see in ability and performance are not due to an intrinsic difference in ability. They are culturally induced and caused by our attitudes. We think it is more important for boys to get educated and do well professionally than it is for girls, so we do not give them the same opportunities for training. That is what causes the difference. If we give them freedom and training they will do equally well and they have a right to. Women are people, just as much as men are. We are all colleagues, no one is high or low. So dear fellow-parents, change your notions and your daughters will be safe and as free as your sons. Don't wait for society to change -- it will not change until we change. Treat your daughters exactly like your sons. Educate them and let them work. Advice them and help them to get married if they want to, but do not force them. Move out of the grip of your caste and the whole world is yours. Do it, if not for yourself, for the love of your children then you will be free of the menace of dowry. Are these false notions more important to us than the life and happiness of our daughters ? If they are, then I am sorry to say that our daughters are victims not merely of the evils of our society but also of our own selfishness.
Varanasi 15.10. 1996