Sunday, 17 October 2010

Walter Astrada: Undesired


"Fear is contagious, but courage is also contagious" - Ruchira Gupta

Here's an extremely well done production (click the image) by MediaStorm of the remarkable work by photojournalist Walter Astrada. It deals with the issue of Indian women having to face immense cultural pressures to bear a son. This arises from the belief that males earn money while females do not, and are financial burdens on their families due to the tradition of dowry payment.

The multimedia reportage informs us that "The numbers are staggering. Since 1980, an estimated 40 million women are 'missing,' by way of abortion, neglect or murder. 7,000 female fetuses are aborted every day according to the U.N., aborted solely because they are girls. One dowry death is reported every 77 minutes. Countless others are never known."

Although the Indian government has declared dowry and sex selective abortions illegal, these practices are still followed because of cultural prejudices, and traditions.

I've noticed that Walter Astrada photographed in Vrindavan, the so-called City of Widows where I photographed as well a couple of years back. In that particular segment, it seems to me that there's somewhat of an inaccuracy. One of the text panels suggests that widows in traditional families are not allowed to remarry, and are abandoned by their husbands' family. Since the following photographs are of a widows' ashram in Vrinadavan, it could be construed that all widows of traditional families in India are sent to live the rest of their lives in these refuges.

That's not the case.

Only those women of extreme poverty with no other means of personal or extended support will come to Vrindavan and other places like it.