Friday, 4 December 2009

International Volunteer Day Festival of Street Theatre

December 5th is International Volunteer Day and Delhi has a number of events taking place. We'd taken a walk over to the Gandhi Memorial and stumbled across one of these - a festival of Street Theatre  - taking place in its gardens. Various youth and school groups were performing and I managed to video one group of young tennage girls staging a play about female feotocide.

This is a huge issue in India - according to a recent report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) up to 50 million girls are missing from India' s population as a result of systematic gender discrimination. In most countries in the world, there are approximately 105 female births for every 100 males. In India, there are less than 93 women for every 100 men in the population and in sm estates this is much lower.

The accepted reason for such a disparity is the practice of female infanticide in India, prompted by the existence of a dowry system which requires the family to pay out a great deal of money when a female child is married. For a poor family, the birth of a girl child can signal the beginning of financial ruin and extreme hardship.

However this anti-female bias is by no means limited to poor families. Medical diagnostics can detect the baby's sex in the womb and these were reputedly even advertised with catchlines such as spend 600 rupees now and save 50,000 later. The implication is that by avoiding a girl, a family will avoid paying a large dowry on the marriage of her daughter. It is now supposed to be illegal to identify the sex of a unbord child, but of course it still happens. 

On a more positive note, the girls performance we witnessed was  fantastic to see, very open, honest, forthright, dramatic and great to see these young women committed to a cause and enjoying themsleves performing in the open air. A young Indian man also videoing the show came over to me to explain the story the play was telling, you can just about hear you quiet explanation in the background about  two thirds of the way through.


Street Theatre  - Female Foetocide

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