Birth of a Girl

mehran rafaat

For a long time, the history books tell us, the birth of a female brought shame and sorrow to her family. Although the world has progressed in terms of education and technology, in some countries the birth of a girl is still considered a shame, a sorrow, and bad luck.  

Let me share a story about the birth of a girl in my neighbor’s family. It was family of five brothers, all married with children. 

The eldest son had six daughters. With the birth of each daughter, his wife was threatened with separation and divorce. She was beaten and sent away to stay with her mother’s family. Her husband wanted a son. A male child is a source of pride. 

But again his wife gave birth to a girl. The family grieved. The baby’s father did not come to visit his newborn daughter. His wife was brought home by her brother. She was not welcomed nor asked about her health. Her husband was angry. He told his wife and family he would marry a second wife. His wife cried. His father had a heart attack because his daughter-in-law was also his niece.

Shocked by his father’s reaction, the husband came up with a plan.

“Nobody knows about the birth of this child,” he told his wife, “so why shouldn’t I tell everyone the child is a boy, until everything settles down? I can’t face any other nonsense from people. It is a shame. You know it better than I do.”

His wife couldn’t say a word. So the man told everyone his wife had given birth to a boy and the child was given a boy’s name: Khalid. Everyone came and the family played out the lie quite beautifully. The baby grew day by day. 

By the time Khalid was seven years old, the child’s world was becoming very small. She went to school in disguise and was taught to behave like a boy. She was not allowed to play with other children. She was miserable.  

At twelve, she played with boys, wore boys’ clothes, and could only look on as the girls in the family wore beautiful clothes, adorned their arms with bangles, and colored their lips and nails.

Khalid cried with jealousy at not being able to enjoy such girlish pleasures.  

One day she became very sick. Her parents decided to allow her to wear girls’ clothing and accessories, but only after 10 p.m. when she would not be seen.

This was welcome news for Khalid. She wore colorful clothes and painted her nails. She sat in front of the mirror and talked to herself for hours because the other children were asleep. She wore a wig because she loved having long hair. Her mother suffered over the lie every second of her daughter’s life.

But this story of an unwelcome girl is not unique. It repeats itself every day in Afghanistan, where the women are mothers, sisters, and devoted wives—but also unwelcome, unwanted, and born in shame.

By Humira

Photo: Mehran Rafaat, six, left, and her twin sisters, Benafsha, center and Beheshta, near their home in Badghis Province, Afghanistan. By Adam Ferguson.


Comments

  1. Elizabeth Titus says:

    Thank you, Humira, for telling the truth about baby girls in your country. Sadly, the same is true in other cultures, such as China and India. I adopted an unwanted baby girl in China, and today, she is in college.

    Best,
    Liz

  2. My word, what a story! What is going to become of Khalid when she begins to develop?? May her family be brave and allow this girl to live her life as she is! I hope she will get to write about her experiences. If only to cope!

    All best,
    Stacy

  3. rthis is so evil,so sad.women are the givers of life,they are above men in everyway when it comes to this. men only donate sperm together they form life.girls like this will want to have lives of their own,at least they can be educated without being shot in the head,but the sham is they are only allowed the propagada of their countries.being divorced would be worse than putting up with the cruelity they are taught to endure.women have no choice.

  4. Humira

    This story breaks my heart. Keep up the good work. Someday, eventually, attitudes will change.

    Best,

    elaine

  5. Dear Humira,
    This story leaves me with such sadness for the girls and women of Afghanistan. Mothers who are blamed for the sex of a child and who are not allowed to celebrate their daughters; girls who are unwanted from birth and grow into women who will be persecuted when they become mothers to daughters. It’s such a terrible cycle. Your story does a wonderful job of pointing out the injustice of it all.
    Best,
    Claire

  6. Mandy C. (Dimensions of Freedom Class) says:

    Humira,

    That’s so sad, to just look on, knowing your neighbor’s family is so dysfunctional and cruel. The baby’s father should be ashamed of himself. He should love his own flesh and blood, no matter the gender. Also, if he cannot father a son, it means there’s something wrong with HIM, not his wife. In the 46 chromosomes in the human body, the 23rd pair (sex chromosomes) determine the gender of a person (XX = female and XY = male). A man and a woman, when producing a child, each contribute one chromosome for the embryo:
    For a daughter: the mother gives X chromosome and the man gives X chromosome
    For a son: the mother gives X chromosome and the father gives Y chromosome

    A woman can only give X chromosomes, but men can give X or Y chromosomes. Therefore, not being able to produce the “treasured son,” is ALWAYS the MAN’S FAULT!

  7. Mandy C. (Dimensions of Freedom Class) says:

    Producing a child is already in itself, a gift from above. Some people go through life knowing they will never have biological children of their own because they’re not capable of it. Some women go through countless fertility treatments just for the hope of producing one child of her own, (and in some sad cases, suffer miscarriages). Your neighbor should thank the heavens that he even has children in the first place! Children are gifts. He had countless gifts bestowed upon him that he takes for granted.
    Khalid reminds me of a friend I know from my old boarding school in China. In China, there is a one-child-policy. My friend was punished for being born a girl. Her mother calls her “son,” as does her father. She dresses like a boy, and talks and has mannerisms like one too. She also has a short crew cut. It is by choice though: she does it for approval. She wants her parent’s love, and the only way they’d love her, is if she acts like the son they never had.

  8. Andrea Hernandez says:

    Dear Humira,
    Thank you so much for sharing this story! You have opened my eyes in ways i cannot explain. I am so sad to hear that many girls suffer this way and are brought down with shame. It shouldn’t be like that but because of you many people all over the world can now know the reality of these children in Afghanistan.
    All best,
    Andrea H.

Speak Your Mind