India’s Daughters


Dr. Urvashi Sahni
Founder, Study Hall Educational Foundation

The unspeakable horror of the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old girl in the capital of the world’s largest democracy, India, on December 16th has brought to the forefront the cruel, fatal, highly discriminatory gender norms prevalent in a country that now claims to be one of the worlds rising economic stars. A window has opened for responses that challenge these gender norms through critical dialogues and empowering education.

There is probably no woman in the country regardless of caste, class, religion or region who has not been the target of sexual harassment in some form or other at home, in the work place or on the street. India has one of the lowest sex ratios in the world, one of the highest rates of incestuous sex abuse, and the worst gender differential of children aged between 1 to 5-years-old such that girls are 75 percent more likely to die than boys. Approximately 1 million girls arekilled in the womb before they are born, 25,000 die due to dowry related deaths and the gory list goes on and on. We are not a nation that values our daughters, or one that knows how to keep them safe. They are neither safe in the womb before birth, nor at home or in the streets. And we do nothing about it! The nationwide protests protested just this. They were protesting against an apathetic administration, against sexist mindsets of the police, the judiciary, the legislature and society at large. People are demanding more just laws, speedier redressal in courts of law and conviction of criminals. What is noteworthy is the large number of students, men and women who were on the streets, braving lathi charges and tear gas to make their voice heard. This continuous, nationwide, mass protest for women’s rights – is not only unexpected, especially in a country like India, it is unprecedented and historic.

While I can only hang my head in shame at this awful crime, I will admit to a sense of exhilaration at the huge response it has generated among the nation’s youth, raising many gender related issues, leading to discussions and debates spanning both the length and breadth of the country.

The media is making sure the issues do not disappear from the spotlight as is often the case. It is engaging voices from all sectors of society including students, civil society, academia, political parties, the police, the judiciary and the government. Everywhere people are discussing gender discrimination, gender norms, and the sad status of women and girls in India. Nirbhaya’s brutal rape and murder should not pass in vain. We hope that this is the turning point. Everyone is being forced to sit up and take notice of the millions of girls who are being attacked, raped, killed every day all over the country.

Along with the strong measures that the government should take to ensure the safety of our women, as a long term measure we should be working at educating our young people towards more equitable gendered perceptions. Everyone is clamoring for a change of gendered mindsets and I add my voice to the uproar – we should include gender studies in the post-primary curricula of all schools for both boys and girls. This is one way of ensuring that future generations of men will grow up respecting women and their right to bodily and sexual integrity. If it is important to give our children an understanding of math and science, it is equally important for them to understand equality of gender. Educators have an important role to play in creating a safer, more just world for girls and women.

Studyhall Educational Foundation is launching a campaign called “India’s daughters: Unwanted, Unsafe, Unequal”. I invite the entire Studyhall family, students, alumni, teachers and parents to join us as we raise our voice and consciousness against gender violence and gender inequality in India in particular and in the world in general. The campaign will include online and offline activites which will be announced on our website. Please participate in the discussions by writing blogs and comments and encourage your family and friends to do the same. Let us all work together towards an egalitarian social order.

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25 thoughts on “India’s Daughters

  1. If anyone can galvanize critical dialogues, it is Studyhall. I am pleased to be a part of this work and will share it with my networks in Canada. I look forward to hearing the young women of Prerna and the other schools share their insights. Thank you, as ever, for your leadership.

  2. The problem is that the fear of law is not there…The criminals were not frightened of the law and judicial system.IMO this is because there’s no strict law against rapists in indian constitution. Indian constitution, to be genuine, is almost completely copied
    from british rule act 1935 and further from other countries
    constitution..making it the world’s
    biggest (copied) contitution..and, they should also copy the law that is against rapists in Arab countries. That is death sentence. Untill, A new bill is passed in parliament that gives the court the
    power to give death sentence to
    rapists, I don’t think the conditions are going to be any better.
    So what we need now is constitution amendment and new more strict laws.
    Ultimately, it’s not possible to stop
    crimes completely, So some general awareness should be taken. Like in this particular case the Girl and her friend should not take a ride in a bus at night when it’s compeletly empty and just six lustful monster in camouflage of humans.
    And This is just one case. There are
    thousands of rape cases which never even come to light. Because in most of cases the rapist is some family member. That’s something humanity should be ashamed of.
    Govt made fast track courts, but Even the fast track courts are taking more than 1 year to reach the decision…I think the anger of public in delhi is obvious and that is the only way to wake up our dumb government and dummy PM to take some action.Our government should to pass next constituiton amendment act.

  3. the government wont make any strict rules against the rapist as in our indian politics the lawmakers are some how or the other involved in such crimes & when the lawmaker is only involved then what a law is going to be passed can imagine it
    I dont see any mistake on the part of the girl and the friend taking up a bus filled with 6 monsters disguised as passengers. If she and her friend had known their intentions would they have had ever boarded the bus ?

  4. @shatakshi
    I agree with you, and I wasn’t trying to blame the couple. I was just saying that some general awareness should also be taken because imagining a utopian nation; where no such crimes take place, is just too much to expect. We can never stop crime by 100%. We can just try to lessen them as much as possible..and for that public should aslo be careful.
    I’m saying this..because three things they should have noticed that night..1. The bus was a private bus and completely empty but just six men (monsters). 2. It was late at night and they had no private transport (I ain’t saying that don’t go out at night but keepin in mind the increasing number of anti womem incident, they should have planned a private transport. 3. The bus glasses was tinted (banned in delhi) and it was heavily curtained.
    Like they say in crime patrol “Jurm ki dastak ko pahchano” that’s all I meant to say.

  5. I agree that one should be able to move freely but should be aware of ones surroundings any danger signals should be heeded. But the bigger point is that our Government should make sure existing laws are implemented and our judiciary should ensure speedy justice. I think young people should be thinking of discriminatory norms and should do everything they can to change mindsets, among their peers and in their families.

  6. @ kirti …i completely agree with your statement but what hurt me the most is that the so called educated society of our just stood there and watched the tamasha going on….those thousands people thinking “why should i care ?” attitude.
    I dont understand who is going to change the mindset of the people..when will the women whether educated or not stop being seen as an object ?? and from the government i have no hope as the lawmakers
    are also involved in the nexus of crime

  7. Somewhere I feel all of us are concentrating too much on punishments. Yes, they are absolutely needed but remember, the punishment comes after a crime has been committed. We need to concentrate more on what are the preventive measures. We should be asking the question that why is it that in certain states of India crime against women is minimal? What is so different in their culture and their education system that although being a part of India, they do not treat their women the way Nirbhaya was treated?

  8. so calm so peace,`
    in the womb as i sleep.
    90 days of my growth,
    still to grow,still to grow.

    i feel the love i feel it in
    but everything soon,came to still.
    the door of my room, was opened soon
    and was brought to the world
    that was my own too

    But things did’nt went,
    the way the should have been
    as i was soon packed in a polythene
    saying my birth was a sin
    they threw me out in a dustbin

    i felt the sharp teeth on my skin
    and was torn into pieces bit by bit…
    eaten away by carnivores
    my existence in the world
    was no more…

    with pain and questions embeded in heart
    my soul and body go apart
    i wander still around to be heard
    “was my being a girl a burden on earth ?”

    • You have captured the pain of all the unwanted girls in India, who cannot make this world a ‘home’. Thank you for your poem and for your active participation in this campaign. Do encourage your friends to do the same, especially the boys! Urvashi Aunty

      • I wanted to convey the unexpressed feeling of every girl who is not accepted to become a part of this society
        Thank you aunty

  9. It is the state government and the police faith on their government eg. Gujrat evenafter godhra kand and all the vast muslim majority state vote for bjp the polive trust on their govt, and that lessens the corrupt police ….police performs their duties properly and crime remains under control…

  10. The increasing number of incidences of rape in our country and particularly Nirbhaya case has forced people to think and I am glad that StudyHall has taken that initiative. The problem lies largely in our society. We can make strict laws, offenders can be put behind bars but can be completely remove this deep seated problem? And the answer is YES… only if We work towards it. It is important for our mothers to teach their sons to respect women. It is important to educate the boys and to instill good values in them.

  11. I completely agree with Barila. Our sons should be brought up with utmost care as our girls. The trouble that is taken to bring up a girl should be extended to the sons also.. That would be the first step to sensitise them that girls are equal and human as they are.

  12. The reality of women’s life remains invisible to men and women alike and this invisibility persists at all levels beginning with the family to the nation. People think that girls are sole property of their father’s, brother’s and all. I guess every hour or minute a girl or woman gets raped, eve teased, etc and that woman or girl could be your sister, mother, friend, etc because if your mother, sister or else will suffer the same, I’m sure you will not stay quiet.

  13. I believe change is required at the roots. How do you make the common man respect a woman? Is it education? Can a 35 year old man who beats his wife be taught to love her and respect her and learn that it’s not ok to hit her? Can you stop that common man in the train who cops a feel on the platform while the girl is running to catch her train? Can you teach that rich loaded educated man that having a daughter is as good as having a son? Can you teach that middle class man who accepts dowry and demands it from the family of the girl his son will marry that is’ not ok? Can you teach that mother-in-law who torments her daugther in law because she’s not the ideal ‘bahu’ to stop? The scenarios are countless. We’re protesting, we’re walking we’re doing everything we think might help but I’m not sure the answer lies in just that. The mindset of men & women who make up most of our country must change and we need to work on that.

  14. Apparently if things went the way we thought, life would be easy. It’s unpredictable how these issues happen but it’s always in our hands how it can be got through. Blaming the government or the overall men population is not the answer. I blame it on the patriarchal society which is running wild. Proper education, awareness and self respect would’ve prevented from this incident happening. All we can do sitting tight at home right now is discuss. We have to take it raw, Street style. Asking for a capital punishment will not create a fear in every criminal but provoke them. As long as the update goes on the “Nirbhaya” Incident’s most charged criminal is claimed to be a Juvee. I would say castrate them chemically to make them suffer throughout life. We have initiated this Campaign to find some answer, let it thrive it’s purpose.

    -Sachin Nitish, X – C

  15. Girls are trapped in India in one or other non-expalinable social evils.It’s high time that parents and family stop discriminating between a girl n boy in the family first.
    Only other day during “Lohri” festival I was in Delhi and heard an ad on radio.I would transcript that here.
    [Girl(04 years old):"mumma, I promise,I will not play with toys you bring for chhota bhaiya,I will not ask for more milk,I will try to help you in the kitchen,I will not go out to play football, I will not skip and will not shout loudly....Will you love me more then..??"
    Mother: "Alle mera pyali bitiya....but I love you without doing all this you are talking about.."
    Girl:(confused):"Oho....if you love me,then why you are celebrating LOHRI only for Bhaiya and not for me"]…………..
    This has captured a very fine-miniscule side of socially-imbibed discriminations we do against our girl-children on various occasions,knowingly and un-knowingly.
    We need to stop it consciously.It gives “power” to male-child in the family since the day he is born.
    Blaming women harassment on dress-code,females choice of life-style is nothing but a display of same “socially-acquired” power.

    I congratulate Dr Urvashi Sahni for starting this campaign.Study Hall Foundation is carrying its social responsibilities in more than one ways thru various social and educational initiatives.

  16. Thank you Lalita for endorsing our work and for supporting it always. Thank you also for lending your strong voice to our campaign for gender justice.

  17. I dont understand when any such cases arise in states like Haryana … then why does da panchayat find da girl guilty in the whole incidence ? why in rajasthan a small teenge girl crries a pot on her head to fill water for his 35 years old husband who beats her every night when he gets home drunk ?? and i our these metro cities a boy having more than 1 girlfriend is called a ‘PLAYER’ ? while a girl who has more than 1 boyfriends is called a ‘SLUT’??
    WHY ??

  18. Women and girls are told to be careful and always on high alert when they are out, my question is why do we have to go about our day with a nagging fear that if we are not aware of our surrounding for just a minute anything can happen. That’s not the kind of society someone can live in, a society that instils constant fear in you. Men on the other hand roam around like free birds who know deep down that they are going to get away with anything. I wonder what goes on in the minds of these men, who commit such heinous acts, how can they be so devoid of respect for their fellow beings.

    Letting go of one of the rapists terming him as ‘juvenile’ is the most appalling thing to do. How can you so show such sympathy towards a boy who didn’t think twice before brutalizing the victim! How does a mere number justify lesser sentence? A crime is crime. The laws need to change now! The laws of the government, the laws of society need to be more sensitive. Don’t let us women lose faith; we equally deserve love, respect and a sense of belonging.

  19. I agree with Urvashi aunty that first of all we need to change our mindset and in our school years, we shoud give equal chances to girls in homes also we should give them equal opportunity as to boys. To stop the crimes, I think first of girls need to resist themselves and there should be some strict law to deal with such crimes and also police system need to be better girls suffering with these crimes can get a legal support and parents at a basic level can help increasing their confidence.

  20. Nirbhaya..a hope for light!!
    A night as normal as any day..
    not expecting disaster in any way..
    Enjoying a movie with a friend..
    not knowing her laughter will cease to an end..

    Flowing along with the way of life..
    never knowing a pain awaits as a stab of a knife..
    never knowing 6 forms of the devil lie in wait..
    for the kill of a hunger they needed to add to her fate!

    the movie ended..she took steps to hell..
    the danger I just wished I could tell..
    the bus to hell arrived ..
    and up she with her friend climbed..

    they pounced on her like an animal..
    they were all far from being normal..
    the maniacs they were kick, torture and brutally rape..
    and throwing her away naked the seed of a grape!!

    was it her fault?
    to become a victim of this thunder and bolt?
    well according to an MP it is..
    because she is just not anyone of his..

    her vulnerability was used ..
    they were thoroughly amused..
    uneducated though literate,
    cowards showing their prowess , their act so much to hate..

    she made up her mind to fight..
    holding onto life tight..
    an example set not so light..
    Raising the bar of self respect to a large height!

    Little girls , so new to this world..
    being attached and pounced upon, like the spears hurled..
    How can you do this to them..
    Don’t you see a glimpse of your own daughter in that little gem?

    wake up India..wake up..
    shame is being filled to the brim of the cup..
    where men have become animals..women a toy..
    females have to suffer from abortion to rape by a boy..

    I dream of an India, my land..
    where women walk fearless, with people extending a safety hand..

  21. We need to change the climate and change in the climate starts by changing the factors causing this intense heat in some men.

    One major factor is the repression of love and the repression of knowing and understanding the other sex. A major contributor to this is the segregation of males from females from childhood, in schools made for separate sexes. Repressions find expression in unbalanced emotions leading to violence and rape.

    Another cause is the Mass Media that projects violence more than it projects compassion. And for those who say that the media doesn’t influence you, to them I say, if a 3 second advertisement can make you drink a Coca Cola, then a 10 minute clip on violence can encourage you to commit murder!

    So one of the solutions lies in making co-educational schools the norm and another solution lies in a shift in priorities of the Mass Media from the dramatization of violence to a balanced projection of love and compassion!!!

  22. Yes its true, a girl child is unwanted! We cry for a mother, we need a sister, wife is important too but when it comes to a baby girl its a big no!
    Why this discrimination?
    We need to change our mind set, even girls are as important coz girls are more caring and they make our life complete.
    People doing injustice to girls and women should not forget that they were born to a mother and before doing anything crazy they should think of their mother and sister too.

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