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'Unwanted' Indian girls change their names in special ceremony

Almost 300 girls who were called Nakusa (or Unwanted) at birth have changed their names in India.

Girls hold certificates stating their new official names during a renaming ceremony in Satara, India,
Girls hold certificates stating their new official names during a renaming ceremony in Satara, India,
Image: AP/Press Association Images

ALMOST 300 INDIAN girls who were called Nakusa, which means ‘Unwanted’ in Hindi, have changed their names at a special ceremony.

The central Indian district of Satara held the renaming ceremony in the hopes of giving the 285 girls a new dignity.

The move comes as the country tries to fight gender discrimination across the country, where parents often show preferential treatment to their sons over their daughters.

The Hindustan Times reports that parents gave the name to their daughters at birth, believing that it would ensure their next child was a boy.

At the ceremony, the girls received certificates with their new names, as well as a small bouquet of flowers.

Many of the girls, originally called Nakusa or Nakushi, were inspired by their favourite Bollywood stars when choosing their new names. Aishwarya was a popular choice, after film actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

Others chose traditional names which mean prosperous, beautiful and good.

“Now in school, my classmates and friends will be calling me this new name, and that makes me very happy,” said a 15-year-old girl who had been named Nakusa by a grandfather disappointed by her birth. She chose the new name “Ashmita,” which means “very tough” or “rock hard” in Hindi.

Many of the mothers were happy with the name changes.

One 26-year-old mother told the Hindustan Times that it meant a new identity for her, as well as her daughter, who was renamed Mansi.

Census

In the Maharashtra state, where the naming ceremony took place, there are just 833 girls for every 1,000 boys – down from 913 about 10 years ago.

Such ratios are the result of abortions of female fetuses or neglect of young girls, which leads to a higher death rate. Hospitals are now banned from revealing the gender of an unborn fetus.

Some believe that the Indian preference for boys comes from the high cost of marrying girls off because families have to enter expensive dowry agreements. Other traditions, such as boys lighting their parents’ funeral pyres, also play a part.

Last month, Plan International found that the majority of boys and girls in India believe that families should educate boys over girls if resources are scarce. Less value is put on educating girls, who are still seen as the family carer and cook, said the organisation’s report.

IBN Live spoke to some of the happy girls after the ceremony, which they said has allowed them to validate their existence for the first time in their lives.


-Additional reporting by AP

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