I just returned from a two week trip to India. Unfortunately the weather was not at all in our favor—it rained almost every day, except for maybe four days. But when it rains in India, the locals don’t cower inside or cancel their plans for the day as we do here in the US. They continue on with whatever has been planned for the day, and most of them don’t even bother with umbrellas or raincoats. It was a rather fresh look at the delayed monsoons as we strolled around New Delhi, getting sopping wet, shopping and enjoying the rain with all the New Delhi-ites. The rain seemed to intensify all that makes India so unique—it sounded noisier, looked busier, bigger, and oh-so-much-more crowded. The rain brought people who normally would stay inside; outside to enjoy the cooling rains. The streets and stores were crammed with crowds and the brand new Metro was packed with commuters. Restaurants and malls were jammed with patrons and shoppers. It seemed as though the entire population of India was out and about.
Controlling the growing population, is still one of the pressing issues that Indians face. In the 1970’s, Indira Gandhi, was known for her sterilization programs to control the growing population. Since then, the Indian government has adopted the slogan of Hum do, hamre do (We two, ours two) to promote family planning. This policy seemed satisfying only if the two children in question were boys. The National Family Health Survey revealed that “94.8 per cent women are happy with the ‘Hum do hamare do’ concept only if both their children are sons, 90.1 per cent don’t want more children if at least one of their two children is a male child. But 51.2 per cent families with two daughters felt their families were not yet complete and wanted to have more children” (1). Recently, the Indian government has upped the ante. Although it seems that the idea of Hum do hamre do, has not yet fully taken hold, a new policy represented by the slogan, “We two, ours one,” has been pasted on billboards, ads and painted on the backs of trucks and rickshaws all over India. Whether Indians will comply with this new policy or not, is yet to be determined. I sincerely hope they don’t.
The idea of having only one child seems like a fitting solution to the growing population in India. But at what cost? I visited China about ten years ago and the policy of one child per family had been in effect since 1978. The Chinese government allows only one child per family, unless that child is a girl and is born in a rural family. What struck me while I visited China, was that the policy of one child per family, had created a complete absence of relatives. There were no brother in laws, no sister in laws, no brothers, no sisters, no cousins, no aunts and no uncles. I would imagine that few Chinese even knew the words for these relationships. My two sons created a sensation. All over China, we were asked if they were real brothers. Their heads were patted and their pictures were snapped. It made me sad to realize that something so simple as a relationship between brothers, was unheard of by the local Chinese. To me, there was a void in the family units that could not be masked by the friendly smiles on the faces of the Chinese people.
It should go without saying, that it is these kinds of government policies, that cause the most harm to women and to the unborn female. In both India and China, the male child is still revered and preferred to a female. When only one child is allowed, couples will do anything to make sure that that child is a male.
There is no substitution for the the support, encouragement, love and concern given by extended family members. No government policy, no matter what problem it claims to solve, should eliminate entire family relationships. The cost to the family unit is too great.