A New Name For Nakushi

NAT

Maharashtra has been struggling with a declining child sex ratio and is ranked among the five worst states in the country. The reasons are the same as elsewhere: preference for a male child. But in a shocking indicator of how extreme this desire is and how deep-rooted the bias against the girl child can get, scores of families across Maharashtra have simply named their daughters 'Nakushi' or 'Nakusha'—meaning 'unwanted' in Marathi.

Last week, the district administration of Satara, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan's home district, identified 222 such girls under the age of 18 and either renamed them or gave them the option of picking a new name for themselves.

District officials and activists say the practice of villagers naming girls 'Nakushi' was discovered last year and blamed it on a mix of frustration and ignorance. Mothers of Nakushis said it was a popular belief in these parts that if their girl was named Nakushi, their next-born would be a boy.

Varsha Deshpande, a local social activist who works for women's issues, said parents of such girls were usually poor and could not afford the technology that the rich used to illegally determine the sex of the foetus. "There are two issues here. We have to realise that the parents did not abort the child through sex selection and detection. They expressed their frustration by naming her 'Nakushi'. There are a large number of people in this state who go in for sex selection procedures. That is a larger worry," she says.

District Information Officer U B Sawant, one of the main organisers of the renaming ceremony, said the event hoped to spread awareness about girls and make them feel wanted. "A new name will make a big difference to their lives. We are also taking steps to improve the sex ratio," he says.

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