This story of Indian’s ‘unwanted’ girls offers proof, if any were needed, of the life-changing power of names.
In a culture that prefers boys, the birth of a third baby girl into a family is not good news. The unfortunate child is often named Nakusa. It means ‘unwanted’ in Hindi.
Indians favor sons because of the enormous expense of marrying off girls. Families often go into debt arranging marriages and paying for elaborate dowries.
A boy will one day bring home a bride and dowry. Hindu custom also dictates that only sons can light their parents’ funeral pyres.
So Nakusa grows up understanding that she is a burden to her family. Every time her name is called, she is humiliated and devalued.
The ‘Nakusas’ of Indian have become symbolic of the nation’s increasing gender imbalance. A recent census showed the ratio had dropped over the past decade from 927 girls for every 1000 boys under the age of six to 914.
In one state, Maharashtra, the ratio is well below that with just 883 girls for every 1000 boys, down from 913 a decade ago. In the district of Satara it is as low as 881.
Satari has decided to fight fire with fire in an effort to stem the discrimination. In a renaming ceremony, 285 girls were recently given new names, and with them a new dignity and a fresh start in life. They will be given education and even financial and social security to break the cycle of thinking of themselves as unwanted, and therefore not wanting daughters of their own.
Meanwhile, the search will continue for more Nakusas, who will hopefully learn too that names can be agents of change as well as weapons of oppression.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald.