by Shashwati Talukdar
It is not surprising to see billboards advertising the services of a sexologist, bonafide or otherwise, all across North India. Years ago, on a research trip in U.P., I ended up speaking to several sexologists, and they said that most of their clientele were men, and what most people needed was basic sex education, and if not that, they usually came to get help from them to have male children– an obsession as we know that has resulted in a skewed sex ratio, with Punjab being one of the states with a high rate of disparity– its 27 on a list of 35. Though, Punjab seems to have improved its record in the last ten years.
We didn’t visit any of these doctors on this trip, but I wonder if the situation has changed, and people simply abort female fetuses instead of going to a “doctor.” The technology of sex determination has become more accessible and I assume, therefore, cheaper, and despite its criminalization, people have enough money to grease palms to get around its prohibition.
Perhaps, despite all evidence, people still believe a “doctor” or a health guru can help them get that precious male child, exhibit A being television star and yoga guru, Baba Ramdev.
But it seemed that it isn’t enough to have male children. They need to be tall too, interestingly, in the picture we have, its a woman in this ad on the side of an autorickshaw. In most of the ads we saw it was often men who were targeted. Perhaps it’s a social necessity in a state that used to contribute to the armed forces in great numbers. Starting with the formation of the Khalsa, and the British promotion of Sikhs and Gurkhas as ‘martial races’ , who then became the preferred recruits for the British Indian army. For a quick primer, see Amardeep Singh’s blog post about this legacy.
With this history of recruitment over a period of more than a century and a half, significant number of young men in Punjab have historically set their sights on a career in the military. A dream that curdled during the violent 1980s in the Punjab. After Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination in 1984 by her Punjabi bodyguards, the government stipulated that recruits from the Punjab would be reduced. That rule barred many young Punjabi men from opting for this career path, limiting their options. ‘And thus,’ as our wonderful hosts, the Kahlon’s in Chandigarh told us, ‘began the drug problem of Punjab.’
(Go here for the first post in the series)