More than 200 Indian girls whose names mean “unwanted” in Hindi have been permitted to choose new names in order to reclaim their stolen dignity.
FoxNews.com is reporting that a district in Central India held a renaming ceremony last weekend where 285 girls were permitted to choose a new name rather than the one they were given at birth which reflected their parent’s disappointment that they were born female. These include names such as “Nakusa” or “Nakushi,” which means “unwanted” in Hindi.
The practice of giving such cruel names to children is the result of the widespread gender discrimination which has left the country with one of most imbalanced populations in the world.
The newly named girls, who wore their finest clothes to the ceremony and decorated their hair with bows and braids, lined up to receive certificates bearing their new names, such as “Savitri” which is the name of a Hindu goddess, or “Vaishali” which means “properous, beautiful and good.”
“Now in school, my classmates and friends will be calling me this new name, and that makes me very happy,” said a 15-year-old girl who had been named Nakusa by a grandfather disappointed by her birth. She chose the new name “Ashmita,” which means “very tough” or “rock hard” in Hindi.
The naming ceremony is in response to this year’s census which showed the nation’s sex ratio had dropped over the past decade from 927 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of six, to 914. These skewed ratios are the result of the custom of leaving female babies to die, or aborting them in the womb.
The problem has become so serious in India that hospitals are now legally banned from revealing the sex of an unborn fetus in order to prevent sex-selective abortions, although evidence suggests the practice still goes on. The government is trying other ways to clamp down on the wholesale slaughter of girls, such as offering free meals and free education to take care of their girls and even cash bonuses for families whose daughters graduate high school.
But these practices are the result of a culture that favors its sons, partly because of the enormous expense in marrying off girls. Families go into debt arranging marriages and paying elaborate dowries. The family of boys, on the other hand, are on the receiving end of the dowry and are therefore more desirable. Hindu custom also assigns important roles to males that females can’t perform, such as lighting their parent’s funeral pyres.
Activists around the world are fighting the practice, and say even those who allow their daughters to be born, then give them a degrading name such as “unwanted,” does great damage to the esteem of Indian girls.
“When the child thinks about it, you know, ‘My mom, my dad, and all my relatives and society call me unwanted,’ she will feel very bad and depressed,” said Sudha Kankaria of the organization Save the Girl Child. But giving these girls new names is only the beginning, she said.
“We have to take care of the girls, their education and even financial and social security, or again the cycle is going to repeat,” she said.
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