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‘Fighting not for myself but for my daughter’s equitable future’

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It’s almost surreal to believe that in today’s Kerala, such archaic practices still persist. Yet, in my own life, this harsh reality unfolded on the night of my wedding, back on April 12, 2012, at Holy Magi Church in Muvattupuzha. That evening, within the confines of my husband’s home, I was confronted with an unsettling demand from my new family: to conceive only a “good boy child”.
To drive home their point, my father-in-law handed me a handwritten note, detailing

pre-conception sex selection

methods for the birth of a male child. They claimed it was successfully used for one of their relatives in the US.
The contents of this note, a Malayalam translation of an antiquated magazine article, dumbfounded me. It provided explicit instructions on the timing and method of intercourse, promising a 95% chance of conceiving not just any boy, but a “good boy” – one described as fair, handsome, and intelligent. I was given several “medicinal” powders to ensure the birth of a light-skinned child. The article even suggested thinking of great male personalities during conception.
The shock of this revelation was profound. How could such

regressive beliefs

persist within a family I had just entered? I was curious. I questioned my mother-in-law about their aversion to having a girl child. Her response was disheartening: “Girls were always a financial burden.” Their justification – “girls take money out, boys bring money in” – struck me as not just outdated, but deeply offensive. As an only child of my parents, I couldn’t relate to such sentiments. Instead of confronting them, I chose to keep silent, hoping for some semblance of change.

Soon after, my husband and I relocated to the UK, where I remained childless until 2014. Throughout this period, all family calls and conversations with my husband were dominated by the topic of having a male heir. When my pregnancy was confirmed, my husband accused me bitterly of misleading him about my menstrual dates, calling my conception an accidental mistake. Three months later, he booked me a ticket home, and I stayed in Kollam with my parents for the remainder of the pregnancy.

When my daughter was born in December 2014, my husband’s indifference became painfully evident. Rarely did he visit us, showing little interest in our daughter’s upbringing. In May 2015, my daughter and I arrived in the UK, but our stay lasted only a month. Since our return, he remained emotionally distant and made no effort to see or interact with our child.
Despite being separated for nine years, divorce proceedings dragged on, with my husband refusing to pay maintenance. In 2022, a trial court granted maintenance, but my husband filed a revision petition with high court, prolonging the process. Following high court’s directive, he now pays maintenance, and paradoxically seeks custody for our daughter’s free education in England.
As I delved deeper into the legal intricacies, I discovered the nuances of Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act. It became clear that I was not just a victim of

gender-based discrimination

and abuse, but also a casualty of an outdated legal system that failed to address such injustices.
The belief that a son holds greater value than a daughter is deeply entrenched in our society, perpetuating a cycle of discrimination and injustice. My battle, documented under Article 226, extends far beyond seeking justice for myself. It’s about securing a brighter and more equitable future for my daughter, free from the shackles of antiquated beliefs and systemic injustices.
(As told to Sudha Nambudiri)

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