The Associated Press recently ran a deeply moving story about a name-changing ceremony in Mumbai, India. "More than 200 Indian girls whose names mean ‘unwanted' in Hindi have chosen new names for a fresh start in life," reports the AP's Chaya Babu.
The ceremony—the brainchild of a district health official—came about as a response to a crisis in India. "This year's census showed the nation's sex ratio had dropped over the past decade from 927 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of 6 to 914," Babu writes. She goes on to explain,
Such ratios are the result of abortions of female fetuses, or just sheer neglect leading to a higher death rate among girls. The problem is so serious in India that hospitals are legally banned from revealing the gender of an unborn fetus in order to prevent sex-selective abortions, though evidence suggests the information gets out.
Sudha Kankaria of Save Girl Child, a group that advocates for Indian girls, told Babu that being known to family, friends, and everyone else as "unwanted" makes girls "feel very bad and depressed"—and no wonder.
The fact that so many girls are killed before birth on the mere basis of their gender, and that those who do survive are often given names like "unwanted," points to something deeply wrong with the culture's view of women. In the renaming ceremony, the girls chose happy- or strong-sounding new names for themselves—names like Vaishali ("prosperous, beautiful, and good") and Ashmita ("very tough"). Their choices demonstrate that this ceremony was a step toward changing that cultural paradigm—toward giving not just this one group of girls, but India itself, a fresh start …
When it comes to making children feel unwanted, though, India's not the only country with ...1
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