Where Girls Don´t Count

As I mentioned yesterday, the strongest part of Kishwar Desai´s novel, Witness the Night, was the insight in the lives of Indian women.

Two quotations from the book which show you that there are still millions of girls and women out there who need our encouragement and support. Women who need us to speak up for them and remind them they are just as unique and valuable as everybody else on this planet.

“Trying to be a girl is not easy. There are few comforts that you are born with or can achieve. I know, they dress you in frocks and put ribbons in your hair, bangles on your arms, anklets on your feet, teach you to sing and dance and bake cakes, but what about the Inside-you? The Outside-you can smile and cut vegetables and sit with legs crossed and say ´namaste auntie´ but the Inside-you is always angry and looking out of the window and wanting to run with the Boys.”

But this is not the worst part. Here is one quotation (of several examples) about the chances of survival if you happen to be the wrong sex:

“I remembered the story of a woman in Tamil Nadu who confessed that she tried to kill her daughter by not nursing her. Then, tired of the sound of the baby crying, she took some poisonous juice from an oleander flower, mixed it with castor oil, and forced it down the child´s throat. Eventually the crying stopped.”

About Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen

I am a Danish teacher. In my spare time I read, write and review crime fiction.
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13 Responses to Where Girls Don´t Count

  1. Thanks for sharing this Dorte, it makes me feel so impotent when I hear this kind of thing. What can we do?

  2. Good question, Bernadette. I thought that at least I could blog about it.

  3. Jose Ignacio says:

    Unfortunatelly, India may be an extreme situation, but it happens closer than we would like to think. In Spain 30 women were killed by domestic violence this year.

  4. Margot Kinberg says:

    Dorte – It is so terribly, terribly heartbreaking! Thank you for reminding us that this sort of thing goes on. I know that Rayna/Natasha at Coffee Rings Everywhere blogs about these issues. There are organisations that help girls there, and perhaps she could suggest something…

  5. Philip Amos says:

    The treatment meted out to women in various parts of India is quite simply hideous. And so it is also in other parts of the world, including certain geographical areas now loosely considered developed countries and parts of the West. The same is true of children, and I think the level of our concern with these issues is a measure of the moral sensibility that marks western civilization in these days.

  6. Petty Witter says:

    Such a lot in the English papers about the plight of Indian women, lesbian women being raped to ‘cure’ them, women going to all kinds of lengths to make sure they give birth to male children. Thank you for highlighting this issue.

  7. Barbara says:

    When you grow up having as many opportunities as we do in the western world, it’s sometimes difficult to remember that in many countries girls are considered worthless, or as an extra expense for nothing in return, or even wicked. We should never forget these girls.

  8. Kelly says:

    Certainly a difficult and sensitive topic. Too often we forget (or in some cases “choose” to forget) just how good our own lives are.

    That second excerpt you shared was truly heartbreaking.

  9. Natasha Ramarathnam says:

    I wish there were something we could do. I’ve grown up in India, this is the only country I know, and it cuts me up to see some of the stuff that goes on here. Wish there were an easy solution, but I think not. Education and a change in mindset, could be the only solution, but how do you bring that about.

  10. Thank you for all your comments and for agreeing with me that this subject is important!

    As some of you have mentioned, issues such as abortion of female embryos does not only exist in India; I know that some women of Indian descent living in Britain go back to India to have illegal abortions if they realize they are expecting a girl. So I fear that we won´t see an end to it any time soon; on the contrary modern technology has made it much easier to discriminate against girls (as well as handicapped embryos).

  11. Maxine says:

    This book made me so angry on behalf of those girls. I agree with all people are writing. I am afraid I read a book that upset me even more than this one on this topic, The Screaming of the Innocent by Unity Dow – it is perhaps the most harrowing book I have ever read. Very sincere, the author is an ex-high court judge from Botswana.

  12. kathy d. says:

    And here I am with that book, dreading reading it, not because it isn’t good, but because I know it will be heart-wrenching.
    In my own homeland, though, there is so much violence against women: 1200 women are killed a year in domestic violence assaults, 25 million women have faced domestic violence attacks. Every day on the news there is a horror story about something horrible happening to a woman or girl. It just becomes unbearable to watch.
    In books I’ve read, I found the books by Zoe Ferraris to tell horrifying tale about the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, something which is born out in reality, even on the issue of driving. Women are not allowed to drive, and those who have protested this have been arrested and jailed, and other action has been taken against them.
    I guess doing whatever we can is good, donating, signing petitions, being active about it.

  13. Maxine: I don´t approve of too much violence in crime fiction, but when it is part of the very real world for those who write it, t is not only fair that they write about it – these stories are necessary.

    Kathy: but Desai has not tried to make the book gory in any way; in fact she is rather clinical about it – so the horror of it is that you know these things happen.

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