From InfoChange India, originally posted from Central Chronicle and Asian Age
Saat pheras (seven rounds of the holy fire) at Hindu weddings are passé. It is now time for eight pheras; the extra one is for not indulging in gender discrimination and female foeticide
Priests belonging to Gayatri Parivar, a spiritual movement centred in Jaipur and spread across the world, will now make couples take an additional eighth phera at the time of marriage, promising not to indulge in gender discrimination and female foeticide.
Manoj Sengar, a Gayatri Parivar priest in Kanpur, says: “We have launched this initiative from June 21. We will inform anyone who comes to us for marriage, and if they agree we will solemnise the wedding. If not, they are free to go elsewhere.”
The Gayatri Parivar, which vows to remove social evils and make the Hindu religion less ritualistic, is catching on with the young generation, with more people opting for Gayatri weddings that cut out vulgar displays of wealth.
“Female foeticide is not only a criminal act but also a social evil. The man-woman ratio is increasingly imbalanced. This will endanger the human species one day,” Sengar explained. Members of the movement feel the “eighth phera” will not irk other Hindu priests. “We are not altering any ritual, we are merely adding something and that does not damage the essence of the ceremony,” Sengar said.
The Parivar believes the declining female sex ratio highlights a grassroots problem. The large number of atrocities and growing violence against women, despite a new-found prosperity across the country, shows that the root causes of discrimination and violence against women and girls are not being addressed.
Social activists say there are 39.7 million fewer women in India than there should be due to the strong son-preference in Indian society.
India’s overall sex ratio has consistently declined over the years. From 972 females per 1,000 males in 1901, it fell to 933 in 2001. The census (2001) also registered a decline in the juvenile sex ratio (0-6 years), from 945 girls per 1,000 boys in 1991 to 927 girls per 1,000 boys — a drop of 18 points.
Though the country’s overall population rose by about 21% between 1991 and 2001, the child sex ratio plummeted rapidly. The fall has been particularly sharp in states like Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Maharasthra, where the ratio has declined to less than 900 girls per 1,000 boys.
Source: Central Chronicle, June 28, 2010
Asian Age, June 27, 2010