Changing Mindsets

 “Government schemes are good but they alone can do nothing.  A change in the mindset of people is required.” - Varsha Joshi, Director of Census Operations in India, addressing a media consultation on 'Declining sex ratio and Census 2011'

“Law alone cannot solve the problem of female foeticide. What we need is a change in mindset” - Justice S. Radhakrishna of the Bombay High Court

“Enforcing a law is not enough. You have to change people’s mindset and empower women.” - Delhi’s Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit


Ideas have Consequences

Beliefs are ideas that lie unseen, like the underground roots of a tree.  Our values and behaviours grow out of those ideas, like the trunk and branches of the tree.  Female foeticide is an example of a fruit which can be seen, the consequence in our society resulting from the false belief that women are inferior to men.  To stop female foeticide we have to address the beliefs at the root of the problem.

  • The issue of female foeticide is basically an issue of human rights and human dignity and not just the case of discrimination against women.
  • Our intervention cannot just focus on the issue of female foeticide alone without addressing the man-woman position and relationship in home, workplaces, communities, and in society at large.
  • We have to emphasize the intrinsic value of a human being in this debate and make it a moral campaign by underlying the value of all human beings.
  • We need to focus our attention on addressing the root causes of female foeticide i.e – the low view of women in our society. It has to be done at the levels of mindset change, attitudinal change and behavioral change.
‘Heirloom’s Shadow’ – by Ram Rai, Acrylic on Canvas, 36’’ x 48’’
Artist’s comment: As the ring is passed from grandfather to father to son, so certain traditions pass through generations unchanged, casting their oppressive shadow on those under whom it falls.  -Ram Rai

Case Study: Truth Transforms

“Beating our wives was a common practice amongst us, but now it has stopped in our families.  Though we may have sometimes arguments or fights, but we are able to seek forgiveness from our wives and start again. We also now recognize the value of sending both our sons and daughters to school.” - Community leaders in rural Uttar Pradesh after grasping the truth that men and women are equal.  A traditionally held belief that women are inferior had previously resulted in domestic violence, exclusion of women from decision-making, and providing education only to boys.


“Ideas have consequences and some ideas can lead to brutal outcomes. For example, the most prominent indicator of whether a female will be sold to a brothel, killed as a foetus, abused in her marriage or family, or denied a place of decision making in her community or marriage is determined not by her gender, but by the value we place on females as a whole. Research concludes that when culture values females as much as males, equal numbers of girls and boys survive to adulthood. Gender-justice begins with an idea—valuing females and males equally.” - Mimi Haddad

Often when a daughter is born in India she is greeted by her family not with joy but with sorrow, even anger.

Case Study – No Celebration at the birth of a girl

Even while only the head has appeared midway during birth, the mother in rural Gujarat is asking the midwife: “Is it a boy or a girl?” “How can I tell whether it is a girl or a boy by looking at its face?” the midwife responds humorously. But there is no humour when the baby is taken out to the relatives and they frantically unwrap the baby’s blanket to see what gender it is. On discovering the baby is a girl the disappointment is palpable and total. Even the nurses and doctors, as they pass by, lift up the sheet to check the baby’s gender and shake their head with a “tse, tse” to see it is a girl. A boy’s birth on the other hand, would have been greeted with sweets, shouts, and celebrations.