Despite discrimination, girls in India are excelling

9:47 PM, June 27, 2017

India(Delhi):The falsehood that girls can't do anything has been shattered, says church education official.

A file image of school children in New Delhi. In recent 12th-grade results a total of 87.5 percent girls in India passed the exams compared to 78 percent of boys. (ucanews.com photo)

Manjula Devak's parents were devastated as they sat in the hospital mortuary waiting to collect their daughter's body in the Indian capital New Delhi. Manhula had committed suicide.

A brilliant student, pursuing a doctorate degree, Manhula took the extreme step May 30 after she was allegedly harassed by her in-laws for a dowry.

"I should have saved for her dowry instead of educating her," Manoj Devak, the father of the deceased, said.

Manhula is one of hundreds of women in the country who experience atrocities at the hands of their in-laws for not bringing enough dowry to their wedding.

According to data by the federal Ministry of Women and Child Development, 8,233 dowry-related deaths were registered in the country in 2012. There were 8,083 in 2013 and 8,455 cases in 2014.

A dowry is a payment of money or property by the bride's family to her husband's family at the time of their marriage.

Sister Lucy Kurien, who works for the victims of abuse, told ucanews.com that the evils of dowry-related deaths are just a part of it.

"Girls are discriminated against even when they are in the womb. The taboo that a daughter is a burden in society has not changed," said the nun who belongs to the Sisters of the Cross of Chavanod congregation.

In some parts of India, girls are still considered second-class citizens. The financial burden at the time of their wedding in the form of the dowry is too much to bear for some families. That has led to shocking numbers of female feticide in the north Indian states of Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab.

A 2014 UNICEF report revealed India has lost more than 10 million girls since 2007 to sex-selective abortions. Consequently, the country's gender ratio has become skewed. According to the 2011 census, India has 943 females for every 1,000 males.

Despite a gradual change in the cultural mindset in recent years, girls still face day-to-day discrimination in and out of their homes. In some families, especially in the rural areas, boys are given preference as they are considered to be more important for continuing the family lineage. Girls, meanwhile, are often held back from school and required to stay home for household chores like cooking and cleaning.

The literacy for females is around 65 percent, compared to 82 percent for males.

Sister Mary Scaria, a Supreme Court lawyer, told ucanews.com that unless the patriarchal mindset of the people changes, trends will continue as normal. Men refuse to acknowledge that women can do the job equally well.

"It is high time that our male-dominated society gives equal respect and liberty to women in all fields because unless that change happens inequality will prevail," said the nun of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary congregation.

Jyotsna Chatterjee, director of the Joint Women's Program of the Church of North India said, gender discrimination is pervasive in our society in every field.

"We have been calling for a 33 percent allocation for women in the Indian parliament for the past 20 years but nothing has changed," she added.


Girls excel despite discrimination

Despite the general shameful situation, time and again girls in the country have shown that, where given the chance, they excel in every field, whether it be education, sport or art.

"The falsehood that girls can't do anything has been shattered. It will have some impact but there is still a long way to go," Father Joseph Manipadam, secretary of the office of education and culture of the Indian Catholic bishops' conference, told ucanews.com.

Even in the past, he said, the girls who got the chance to study did well because they were self-oriented. "Let us hope that this trend continues and brings change in the society," he added.

The priest's comments came in the backdrop of girls bagging the top two national spots for 12th-grade results and recording a more favorable pass percentage than boys.

According to the Central Board of Secondary Education results of May 28, a total of 87.5 percent girls passed the exams compared to 78 percent of boys.

Twelfth-grade examinations are often considered a litmus test for students' futures. Subject results help to determine their direction in higher education and possibly their future career.

Sister Scaria said that the success in their studies over the last few years for girls is helping to deliver quality service in nation building. In 2015 and 2016, the pass percentage for girls was 87.5 and 88.5 percent respectively while it was just 77.7 and 79 percent for boys.

Echoing the same views, Sister Kurien said she sees hope when "we have women who are doing well, whether it be it in academic studies, sports or professional life."

"Girls outperform boys even though they have less freedom to access education at all levels," she said.

T.K. Oommen, a sociologist said, "Girls excelling in education means society will progress because when you educate a woman you are giving education to society."

The federal government has launched a social campaign called "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao" (save the girl, educate the girl) that aims to generate awareness and improve the efficiency of welfare services intended for girls.

Source: UCAN

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