Another day, another misogynist comment.
Yes, it appears as if the season of misogyny is fully underway in India. Indian women, celebrities, politicians have been targeted for their gender, looks, beliefs, actions and affiliations in the past.
The latest in this series is by Pakistan cricketer Abdul Razzaq, who said if you marry a famous Bollywood actress and then expect honourable offspring, that’s not going to happen!
He said this in full view of the media, while he compatriots and fellow cricketers (Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul) clapped, sniggered, exchanged meaningful glances, bent over double laughing and clapped at these objectionable comments.
It shows the existence of deep-rooted misogyny and inherent disrespect harboured for women in the entire South Asian region — being concentrated in Pakistan and India.
Here’s what Razzaq actually said, “If you think that by marrying Aishwarya (Rai), a good child would be born, that’s not done. Your intentions matter, more than anything else”.
This comment is derogatory in many ways. The most glaring of them is the use of words in vernacular that cannot be repeated here for being highly objectionable. The second is the fact that the onus of a ‘good child’ being born here is sought to be laid clearly on the mother’s door. This plays into the fact that the main reason for female infanticide overwhelmingly used to (and still largely does) lie with women.
It was believed (still is), in large swathes of our country that the gender of the foetus is determined by the woman and not by the man (as proven by science). This has been the reason why countless women have been targeted for giving birth to a girl child and not the much-desired male child. And why millions of girl children have been killed in the wombs of their mothers or within a few hours or days after birth – their only fault being they were female.
This is not just a recent/contemporary social ill.
Female infanticide in India has a history spanning centuries. Poverty, the dowry system, births to unmarried women, deformed infants, famine, lack of support services, and maternal illnesses such as postpartum depression are among the causes that have been proposed to explain the phenomenon of female infanticide in India.
Although infanticide has been criminalized in India, it remains an under-reported crime due to the lack of reliable data. In 2010, the National Crime Records Bureau reported approximately 100 male and female infanticides, producing an official rate of less than one case of infanticide per million people.
The Indian practice of female infanticide and of sex-selective abortion have been cited to explain in part a gender imbalance that has been reported as being increasingly distorted since the 1991 Census of India, although there are also other influences that might affect the trend.
Section 315 of the Indian Penal Code defines infanticide as the killing of an infant in the 0–1 year age group. The Code uses this definition to differentiate between infanticide and numerous other crimes against children, such as foeticide and murder.
Some scholarly publications on infanticide use the legal definition.
Others, such as the collaboration of Renu Dube, Reena Dube, and Rashmi Bhatnagar, who describe themselves as “postcolonial feminists”, adopt a broader scope for infanticide, applying it from foeticide through to femicide at an unspecified age. Barbara Miller, an anthropologist, has “for convenience” used the term to refer to all non-accidental deaths of children up to the age of around 15–16, which is culturally considered to be the age when childhood ends in rural India. She notes that the act of infanticide can be “outright”, such as a physical beating, or take a “passive” form through actions such as neglect and starvation. Neonaticide, being the killing of a child within 24 hours of birth, is sometimes considered a separate study.
What Razzaq said and later apologised for saying, may not seem like such a big deal for a majority of readers. For those who understand why it is, Razzaq’s comments offer a peek into the intentions, motivations and actions of misogynist men and women (of which there are many) and the concomitant institutions populated by them that in turn perpetuate these actions.
To evade, avoid and sweep under the carpet the effect such seemingly casual comments have on girls and women is to commit a grave offence, which may not be punishable under any law but that doesn’t make it any less severe and condemnable.