Why don't Indian girls like shy men?

Discrimination: India murders its wives


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Siwan Anderson has just put her young children to bed in her city apartment in Vancouver on the Canadian Pacific coast. As is so often the case, she then sits down at her desk again and goes about her oppressive work. Anderson, 44, is an economics professor at the University of British Columbia. Her research area is gender economics, a new field. She wants to know how many more women than men die in India every year, even though women are naturally more viable than men. And above all: Are women systematically killed in India? Murdered a million times?

In front of Anderson is a book on Indian women's rights and lots of stacks of paper. She opens a video conference call to India on her laptop. There the employee of a non-profit organization researches a case for you.

Anderson's research partner on the American East Coast, the economics professor Debraj Ray from New York University, will later also take part in the video conference. Ray, 55, is a noted development economist and co-editor of the prestigious journal American Economic Review. He is sitting in his university office in Manhattan. During the video conference, two bronze Indian figures can be seen on a shelf behind him.

Did the parents give the girl the same food as their son?

After the conference, Anderson and Ray emailed their questions to India again. "Regarding the case of 18-month-old Anchal from Ghuman village, who died, I would like to know: do mother and father react differently to her death? Did they give the girl the same food as her son?" Asks Anderson. Ray adds: "Do girls get the same medicine from their parents as boys? Do they go to the doctor as often?"

At the intersection of two sandy paths in the jungle between the villages of Sangi and Jawa in the state of Madhya Pradesh, Ramnaresh Yadav stops at a small stall to devote himself to the questions of Western researchers over a tea with hot milk and sugar. He recalls: "The parents both cried when Anchal died, the mother with loud screams, the father a few quiet tears."

Yadav is a quiet man in his mid-twenties from a low artisan caste. For the non-governmental organization "Right to Food", he tours the villages in the northeast of the central Indian state, one of the poorest regions in the world. He goes from one mud hut to the next, from one starving child to another. This is his job.

In the morning he was in the village of Ghuman, where he not only talked about the dead Anchal, but also held the one and a half year old Pratima in his arms. She hung there limp and with thin limbs, weighed only four pounds, could neither talk nor walk nor crawl. "She will die," said her mother Munni Kol, a 40-year-old woman in a red sari who had aged prematurely. But Yadav promised help. He talked for a long time, then got Pratima a place in the nutritional rehabilitation center of a distant infirmary. There the girl will get enough to eat for the first time in her life.

At the request of the researchers, Yadav goes back to Ghuman in the afternoon, visits the parents of Anchal on the edge of the village in front of their mud hut and asks them: "Did you give the girl the same meal as your son?" - "We treat the children equally," replies Ram Kailash, Anchal's 35-year-old father.

But that's what everyone in India says: parents, teachers, civil servants, politicians. Equality is part of the official discourse. But he is deceiving, and Yadav knows exactly, he knows the family well, has often visited them and observed the togetherness. "They always gave their son more to eat than their two girls. If Anchal or her sister wanted a second serving, they were pushed away by their parents. But the boy always got twice. And of course they went to the doctor with the boy when he was sick and gave him medicine. Anchal, on the other hand, had a fever several times, but her parents did not take her to the doctor. "

The fact that Yadav is telling the truth can be seen at first glance from Anchal's family: The strong father, a brickworker, holds his well-fed, three-year-old son in his arms and speaks in a loud voice. His shy wife stands silently next to him and, ashamed, fends off attempts to clasp her first-born daughter. They give a typical Indian family picture: Here the cherished son, there the annoying daughter. So were Ankhal's own parents gravedigger? Was it ultimately a murder of the unwanted girl? Yadav asks himself these questions in the following days.