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In Rajasthan’s Bundi, four young women cremated their father, and the family was allegedly ostracised for this act. This incident illustrates the extent of son preference in our society.
A 58-year-old resident of Barli Bundi Rager colony in Rajasthan’s Bundi district, Durgashankar Tailor died on Saturday after a prolonged illness, had no son. His four daughters fulfilled his last wish that they should shoulder his bier and perform his last rites, even though it is alleged that community leaders threatened to ostracise them.
The eldest of the daughters 25-year-old Meena said, “The community leaders first told us not to participate in the last rites, which we refused to agree to. After we finished our father’s last rites, they directed us and our wailing mother to prostrate before them and seek forgiveness for our act. We refused to do that as we had done nothing wrong.”
She added that when they returned from the crematorium, they were not allowed to take bath in the community complex. All the family members had to take bath at home and cook food at home, even though that goes against custom.
However, when the community head Chandulal Chandeliya was asked, he denied the allegation that the family had been ostracised.
Funeral rites in most communities are the preserve of men, and even the presence of women on funeral grounds are often disapproved of. Increasingly though, many daughters are shouldering this final responsibility. But society continues to believe that if a daughter performs the ceremony, the soul of the deceased will not find that much-sought-after sweet nectar of moksh/mukti/liberation. So many superstitions are taken as given, no questions asked.
Why is that a problem? Firstly, it is a socially acceptable form of gender discrimination, which undermines women’s roles in the cremation of their dearest ones. According to the UN Gender Equality Index 2014, India is one of the worst offenders when it comes to child mortality in any country, ranking 138 out of 148 nations. One of the biggest identified drivers of that problem is the preference for the male child that is ingrained in our society – not only is the female child less likely to be born, she also receives less care once she is born. The importance of sons performing the last rites of parents only fuels this idea.
Image source: By https://www.flickr.com/photos/fyunkie/ (https://www.flickr.com/photos/fyunkie/947823175/) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
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