India has launched a campaign on social media to celebrate daughters, daughters-in-law and granddaughters this week and is observing a Daughter’s Day on Thursday.
Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi told the BBC that the Daughters’ Day and the Daughters’ Week were aimed at reducing female foeticide, improving India’s skewed sex ratio and educating girls.
“We are asking people to celebrate the young women and girls in their lives,” Mrs Gandhi said.
“The time has come to celebrate women. Women are doing much better now, there’s more confidence in them. We want to spread the message that the girl child should be valued,” she added. To kick-off the campaign to mark Daughters’ Day on Thursday, she tweeted a photograph with her daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
The campaign asks people to post photographs with their daughters, daughters-in-law and granddaughters on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms using the hashtag #BBBPDaughtersWeek.
And in the first few days of the launch of the campaign, Mrs Gandhi has re-tweeted dozens of photos sent by people to her.
On the face of it, it seems to be a fun campaign, but dig a little deeper and what is at stake is much more serious. India, and Indians, are often accused of patriarchy. And a look at the government data confirms that India is often very unkind to those of the female gender.
A preference for sons has led to hundreds of thousands of female foetuses being aborted every year, at least 22 women are killed for dowry every day, a rape is reported every 22 minutes and every five minutes a woman is assaulted within her home. For decades, the authorities and campaigners have struggled to deal with these challenges.
Over the years, India has brought in tougher laws banning sex selective abortions, dowry has long been outlawed, there are civil remedies available to women trapped in abusive marriages and rape laws have been rewritten to include the death penalty. Of course, there are more positive stories about Indian women – today there are many powerful women politicians, scientists, in leading banks – both private and government, and in the corporate sector.
But patriarchal attitudes are deeply entrenched in Indian society continue.
Mrs Gandhi explains why her campaign singles out daughters, daughters-in-law and granddaughters:
Daughters because people think “she’s a burden, she’s inferior to a son, she’s a bad investment since she will marry and leave for her bridal home”.
Daughters-in-law because “we are killing them the most” and “we are trying to tell people to treat their daughters-in-law as they would treat their own daughters”.
Granddaughter because “in most cases, it’s the mother-in-law who forces her daughter-in-law to abort her female foetus and we are appealing to the grandmothers to let the girl child a chance to be born”.
The government, she says, is working hard to better the lot of the women and the girl child.
In January last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (save daughter, educate daughter) programme (BBBP) to address the issue of the skewed child sex ratio.
In his monthly radio address last year, Mr Modi asked fathers across the country to click selfies with their daughters and send them to him, borrowing an idea from a villager in Haryana.
Mrs Gandhi’s Daughters’ Day campaign is another attempt to chip away at the patriarchy and to cajole more people to begin valuing their daughters.