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No Laughing Matter This …

January 19, 2008

“Sadly, more than men it is women who are bent upon killing their female-offspring. I don’t understand why”

On any other day, I would have taken this statement seriously. But watching Gurpreet Ghuggi – the Punjabi comedian hosting the Voice-of-Punjab grand finale being telecast live on TV – make this statement after a contestant’s performance, I wasn’t sure about how to respond to it. Ghuggi’s comment was appropriate for the occasion – the just concluded performance was a song (by Gurinder Tohfa) on female-infanticide – and I have no doubts about Ghuggi’s well-placed intentions. It is just that I can’t help noticing the irony: both Ghuggi and the performer were males, and Ghuggi’s comment seemed to hold women more than men as responsible for the increasing female-infanticide in Punjab.

As a male, I can relate to Ghuggi’s expectation that women, more than men, would speak out against this crime. But I also see a lot of truth in the thesis that women who kill their female-children are as much a victim of the social structure as the female-children they kill are. However, I do not want to accept the victim-thesis as a justification for the crime and condone those women’s actions. I believe that the women who commit this crime are guilty without a doubt. But in this crime they are not alone. Men are equally to blame, if not more.

Why should men be held guilty? For any one of the following:

1. Committing the crime
2. Forcing women to commit the crime
3. Aware of the crime that will be committed, or has been committed, but not doing anything about it.
4. Contributing to a social climate that makes such social crimes possible.

The expectations from men should increase when they are Sikhs. Why so?

Well, as Sikhs, we pride ourselves on our history: our Gurus have fought to protect others. An example we often like to quote is Guru Tegh Bahadurs martyrdom: his standing up to the forcible conversion of Kashmiri Pandits from Hinduism to Islam. I, like many other Sikhs, am proud of this history that I have inherited. It is now time to earn it.

My question, because where I come from, is:

Why don’t we – Sikh men – then, protect the newborn (or the unborn) helpless female child in our own families who is totally at our mercy?

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