“Many Indian women continue to face grossly unequal treatment, according to gender experts. There were 56,000 maternal deaths in 2010, according to the UN Population Fund, and 45 percent of girls are married before the age of 18, according to a recent report by the International Center for Research on Women,” says a report in The Washington Post. The study lists India as 19th out of the 20 G-20 countries surveyed.
Flying in the face of such evidence is the size of India’s women’s contingent at London 2012. There are 23 women athletes at the games, compared to 60 for the men.
It’s obvious that, in some measures, women are fast catching up to the men in India. Why should boys have all the fun? All the glory? All the medals?
The figures for men and women participants from India get distorted by the fact that hockey, alone, accounts for 18 male participants. Remove hockey and we would have had 42 men and 23 women participating at London 2012.
And as we reach day 7 of the Games, Saina Nehwal will play in the semi-finals and Sania Mirza, partnering with Leander Paes, will be in action in the mixed doubles quarter-finals.
Sania is the first indian woman player to cross $1 million in earnings. For Saina, it’s been a lot harder, as badminton is not supported by the big bucks that tennis doles out. Her father expended time, energy and money to help realise his daughter’s dream.
Sania had the courage – which cannot be easy for an Indian Muslim girl – to marry a Pakistani Muslim. The courage comes in large part from the confidence of an achiever. Fewer will dare question the decisions of a girl who has won so many laurels for the country.
Between Sania and Saina, there’s a message which goes out to all of womankind in India – that, in certain aspects of Indian life, things are equal between the two genders, and sport is obviously one.
There’s another message which goes out as well – it doesn’t matter where you were born. While Sania might have been born in Bombay, Saina was born in Hisar, Haryana.
The achievements of Saina and Sania tell all the young girls in India – when it comes to sport, you can have the fun, you can succeed, you can achieve fame and riches.
And it doesn’t matter where you’re from.