Coming from a part of the country which is distinctively different in many aspects – be it culture, norms, and values, eating habits, dress code – to Haryana, where I have been working for two years in the issue is gender-biased sex selection, has been an interesting journey.
Haryana, a state located in the northern part of the country, best known for sports, strength, education, scenic beauty, its contribution to agriculture and also for its lowest child sex ratio in the entire country. This is where as a part of my work I supervise and coordinate training with frontline health workers on this issue of sex selection. During the course of the work, I visit the field regularly and have varied experiences that have enriched this lifetime.
The day I first went for training with my Assamese attire all the women could notice nothing else but that, wondering from which planet has this girl come? With some confusion and awkwardness inside me, I continued my work and tried my best to look normal. Gradually people started approaching asking me where I was from, what I was wearing and – the most annoying question, perhaps – whether I was married. It turned into a proposal when someone actually asked if I would be interested in getting married to one of her relatives.
This first time was not the only time. During the training, we did stumble around the truth behind women being bought from different parts of the country like Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and the north-eastern states. That is when I realised that girls from Assam are also bought and forced to live with much older men to bear their male children, under the garb of marriage. So much so that some people were familiar with my attire. This experience was a resounding one. On one hand, one had read news clips of communities banning love marriages between two consenting adults, within the same village, within the same sub-castes and sometimes banning marriages to other casts and other religions. But here was a case in point where the lack of women to marry had led them to traffic humans, who were totally different from them in all possible ways and clearly this was not a choice for neither the women nor the man and his family. So then these marriage proposals were not an appreciation for a qualified, strong, independent woman that I consider myself, but for a woman available for producing male children in a state that decided not to have daughters of their own.