About a decade ago, while I was still working for the Air Force, I knew someone whom I will call, for the purposes of this article, Sergeant Panigrahi.
Sergeant Panigrahi had a daughter, who at that time was about seven years old. At least, she was biologically his daughter. But you’d never know it to look at her.
You see, Sergeant Panigrahi and his wife brought her up as a boy. They dressed her in boy’s clothes, cut her hair in a crew cut, called her by a boy’s nickname (which has escaped my memory), and even referred to her as “he”, not “she”, in her presence. But for the fact that I had to write the treatment sheets and prescriptions, I’d never have known that this was a female.
I don’t know where the sergeant is now or whether he is still in the air force. The last I saw of him was in circa 2007, and he must have long since been transferred elsewhere and he ought to at least be a warrant officer by now. And his daughter, whom he’d brought up as a boy, must be in her mid-teens...and realised that she is, you know, actually a she.
I can only imagine the psychological trauma the poor kid had to go through when she started getting her periods, sprouting breasts, and the rest of it. I can only imagine how much her parents managed to screw up her sexual identity for her.
Why did they do it?
To this day, especially in North India, the craze for a male child is so extreme that it defies rational analysis. The most common response is to breed and breed until the couple has achieved the desired male heir; and this is, I’m sure, what Sergeant Panigrahi would have done if he’d not been restricted to a sergeant’s salary. In rural communities, where polygamy is rampant, if one wife doesn’t produce a male baby after several tries, the commonest recourse is that the would-be father of a son simply “marries” again.
What he doesn’t do, of course, is adopt a boy. That wouldn’t be someone of their own “flesh and blood”, would it?
Some years ago – in 2012 or 2013, if I’m not mistaken – there was a case where the middle-aged daughter of a prominent business family got a sex change operation done and became a “male”. There was a rumour in the media that she’d done this in order to inherit the family business, because a daughter can’t inherit. This is actually total rubbish; there’s no law to discriminate on the basis of gender where inheritance is concerned. But, because of the rumour and the prominence of the person involved, it got splashed all over the media, and a lot of people suddenly became aware that sex change operations were a thing.
So can you tell me what happened? Yes, of course. All over the country, couples rushed to the nearest surgeon, daughter in tow, demanding that she be turned at once into a son. I don’t know how many were actually put to the knife, but I would be amazed if there weren’t at least a few.
I think about this kind of thing each time I hear about female genital mutilation. I also think of this kind of thing each time I see a picture of a four-year-old girl in high heels or a twee little bikini top to cover her nonexistent boobs.
In what world is this a good idea?
Just how much do people in different cultures hate their female children, and express it in whatever way is socially acceptable to them?
The hell with it. I need to write something to cheer myself up now.