To the day I die, I’ll never forget how the operating room filled with the smell of charred flesh and burnt hair. Her dark Indian skin peeled off her body like a snake shedding its skin. The surgeons performed an escharotomy, cutting her skin allowing for the intense swelling that occurs when a body has been burned.
As I looked at the burns covering eighty percent of her body, I caught my first glimpse of the way some women are treated in the world today.
I was seventeen...my father offered to bring me with him to work, as a consolation prize for not allowing me to attend a raging party.
I don’t know what her ‘offense’ was, but it was enough to cause her husband to bind her and light her on fire in a parking lot. In India, it’s doubtful if anyone would raise an eyebrow. It’s the way disobedient or undervalued wives are ‘handled.’
This past week, I provided anesthesia for a woman, badly burned and it brought back the memories from more than ten years ago.
It has to be a depressing thought for some Indian girls, knowing their future is not in their hands – knowing their livelihood depends on a whim of male family members.
That is assuming, they are even born.
The disparagement for females is so strong in India and China that many females are aborted- just because they’re girls. According to Unicef, up to 50 million girls and women are missing from India’s population. In China- same story, different country.
While the government of India has tried to curb this practice by banning gender-revealing ultrasounds and celebrating a national ‘Girl Child Day’, some just find it easier to get rid of their little girls.
Lakshmi, a 28 year old mother murdered her second baby girl by refusing to feed her. Answering why, she stated, “Instead of her suffering the way I do, I thought it was better to get rid of her.” *
If that many little girls are being executed, it should come as no big surprise that over 5,000 women in India are burnt to death because their dowry is seen as too immodest.**
This genocide can be stopped only with awareness and empowerment of the women who are at risk. Educated women are not only able to make a living, but are able to stop the myth that says girl babies are unlucky and a drain on resources.
There are many women and men who are taking a stand for those who can’t stand for themselves. And today, those women are being celebrated.
Today is International Women’s Day.
Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held globally to inspire women and celebrate achievements. Although women still lack access to education and healthcare and are on the receiving end of more violence than men, they celebrate because things are getting better.
Celebrate today. But as you celebrate, don’t forget those who are so often forgotten. Remember the helpless woman laying on the operating room.
Fight to make it known that burning your wife is NOT okay. Murdering your baby girls is NOT acceptable.
And if I were you, I’d mention that in some countries, kids and husbands give their mothers and wives presents for International Women’s Day.
Today, I’m celebrating the fact that I have the freedom to obtain a higher education, a husband who although might not buy me a present today- treats me with love and respect, and a country that allows me to write whatever the heck I want on this blog.
What are YOU celebrating today?