India: A Dangerous Place To Be A Woman

Wednesday 26 June 2013, 09:56

Radha Bedi Radha Bedi Presenter

Being a girl can be tough. Let's face it! When I visited an all-girls orphanage in Patiala, in the northern state of India, Punjab, I realised how lucky I am.

I was there to film for the BBC Three documentary I’m presenting, India: A Dangerous Place To Be A Woman.

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The orphanage is one of hundreds across India

As a young British Indian and journalist, I wanted to go to India to uncover the reality of life for women there, six months after a young medical student was brutally gang-raped on board a bus in the Indian capital Delhi.

The story made international headlines and shocked the world.

I have visited India many times and spent time there. As my ancestral homeland, India is a fascinating place.

Full of rich culture and colour, its spiritual vibrancy can be seen everywhere and I feel a deep sense of belonging here.

Whilst filming for the documentary, I met many brave young girls and women willing to share their personal experiences of harassment and violence.

I met with a 15-year-old acid attack victim from Bihar and a 21-year-old woman who was severely molested and stripped of her clothes after attending a friend's birthday party.

At the orphanage I didn’t know what to expect. I walked in and was met with the most incredible young Indian girls.

Thirty or more, there were tiny baby girls to young teenagers. Some were bold - laughing and singing, others were coy, hiding and playing with their toys.

Full of heart and soul, I had never seen such warm smiles. I was truly taken aback.

Girls in this home have been abandoned by their parents for various reasons, be they economic or fear for their future and marriage prospects.

But all their stories boil down to one main reason: being a girl. There's a common mindset throughout India that a girl is a burden.

In a deep-rooted culture, sons are raised superior to daughters. Boys are seen as the ones that can only provide for the family and carry on the lineage.

Demands for dowry can translate into parents struggling to fulfill their final duty, their daughter's rite of passage at the time of marriage. It's no wonder then girls are abandoned.

Veena Veena: 'Most people think sons are better for them... People are scared to have girls'

Veena aunty, who runs the orphanage, raises each girl child as her own, educates them, inspires them and teaches them to stand on their own two feet. When coming of age, she can also find them a husband and a loving family - without demands for dowry.

As a proud parent, she gives each precious girl away in marriage as her own.

Whatever bitter personal story they all shared with me, the love oozing from every corner of this orphanage makes it a truly sweet, humble abode.

In Hindi there's a well-known phrase that a daughter is the goddess of her family and home - 'Ghar ki Lakshmi'. 

This place was a home to many Lakshmis. Beautiful and intelligent, respected and sacred.

Heena, one of the oldest in the orphanage, now 21, has been there for 17 years. Heena told me her mother gave her and her sister up to the orphanage, saying she could no longer raise them - but kept Heena's brother.

Heena and Radha Heena shares her story with Radha

I asked Heena if she would ever like to see her mother again.

She said No, this is my home. These girls are all my sisters. I have over 30 sisters! We shared a few tears, hugged and smiled together.

These wonderful individuals have proved being born a girl child in India is not a curse, she is not a burden or a weaker sex, from the day she is born to the last breath of her life.

I've shared their heartache, heard disturbing tales and witnessed a fighting spirit within them all. A burning desire to rise up, face every challenge, overcome it and stand tall.

Radha Bedi is the presenter of India: A Dangerous Place To Be A Woman.

India: A Dangerous Place To Be A Woman is on at 9pm on Thursday, 27 June on BBC Three. For further programme times, please see the upcoming broadcasts page.

If you, or someone you know, is affected by the issues raised in this programme, please see the information and support page for details of organisations which can help.

More on India: A Dangerous Place To Be A Woman
BBC Radio 4: Radha Bedi on Woman's Hour
Huffington Post: The blog: India: A Dangerous Place To Be A Woman

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Radha, I'd like to contribute to helping the young girl that had acid thrown on her. Do you know if she has had any proper treatment in a developed country? There must be something we can do to help her? Even if it costs a £100,000 we should fund, no one should have to live like that, it's terrible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.


    I would like to contribute towards Tubas treatment too. I don't have lots of money but I'm hoping that others will feel the same and between us we can do something too help. Please can you let me know if this s possible.



  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I would love to donate to help Tuba, is there anything set up for her?

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Hi Radha, I found your documentary so touching. I can't believe that in todays age women are actually being treated as the inferior sex. I would also like to help Tuba and the orphanage in Patiala. Please provide us with details.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I couldn't help but cry watching this programme. I remember when i last visited punjab, india, one of the problems they now face out there is that there are not enough women for the men to marry as many abort a girl at birth. But most still do not want a girl because they are seen as a burden. I would also like to make a contribution towards Tubas treatment, please can you provide us details of any trust that is set up for her treatment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Hi Radha, Thanks for bringing this to us it was well presented . My heart is breaking for Tuba and her parents. You could see how much she was loved by both her parents. I would also love to donate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    This was such a shocking and moving documentary. Please do tell us how we can support the young girl who has suffered the acid attack. I want to make a contribution to help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Hello Radha - what a very well researched and presented programme. All of the cases that you highlighted were shocking, but to pick out one I was horror struck to hear the story of Jyoti for the several days that it gripped the UK news. The danger is that this - and the wider issue of treatment of women in India - just become yesterdays news as we move onto the next shock story (yet another shooting in the US). This put the spotlight very much back on it. It was so sad to listen to Jyoti's father. Despite all of the government promises to the Indian nation that swift action would be taken, it is terrible indictment that the criminal case seems so far off being concluded. This programme was a real eye opener on a subject and culture that I know very little about. Thank you and very well done. I'm sure your parents are extremely proud of you - Tony

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I have just cried my eyes out more than in the last 15 years. I am truly disturbed by the issues and individual stories you have highlighted. I am greatful for what you have to done to expose this message as it may help speed up the process of change.

    The girl who had acid thrown in her face was probably the most heartbreaking thing I have ever seen. I am saddened to learn that this is not uncommon in Asia generally. And it happened here too, to Katie Piper the tv presenter who made an amazing turn around recovery but I fear that this poor girl will not have the means to do so.

    I just cannot fathom how people could be that evil. Also, where does this acid come from? It should be banned from being sold in any kind of public circumstance, that's for sure.

    Having been to India myself 2 years ago, I found the women there to be the ones working in shops / markets / hostels / and so I was under the illusion that women do very much have a level of independence and they often seemed smiley and happy people. Even the ones cooking on the pavements of the slums of Mumbai. My impression was that women are very much not 'hidden' away but out and about colouring the scenery with their saris, and enigmatic strength.

    It really breaks my heart to hear that mistreatment of women is so prevelant even throughout every class of people. And that pregnancies are being forecfully aborted based on the gender... I just cannot comprehend this crazy system. Without women India would be nothing. I pray and hope that this attitude can change, and quickly.

    Great job on presenting this. It must have been truly difficult.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I was extremely touched by last nights programme and would like to help the young girl who had the acid thrown in her face. The treatment she requires I would imagine will take years and be very costly. I don't have a lot of money myself but I will contribute to a fund for her to get treatment. Is there an official fund for Tuba?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Hi, I would also like to add, is there anything that could be done for Tuba's treatment? I would really like to contribute to this. No child should have to go through this. Mentality in india has GOT to change. Please let us know if anything can be done to treat Tuba, I'd be more than happy to help, and I'm sure there will be many happy to help too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    This intelligent programme has left me deeply moved. The tragedy of young Tuba, in particular, was unbearable. I would also like to contribute to a fund for her treatment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I knew there were injustices in India, but seeing it on this documentary just gave me no hope for this country.What can be done, how many people, how many women will try and change things, what have the protests achieved if the case hasn't as yet been fast-trackes to a a sentence.What does does it take to change things.I would like to contribute to Tuba, please kindly send details of how i can aid her recovery and also the orphanage in Patala.


  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Like everyone here I was deeply moved by Tuba's story and have just been on the Katie Piper website and sent an e-mail seeking advice of how we can help Tuba. I want to help Tuba please provide details of how we can give funds to get her treatment or what is the next steps.


  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    What a great programme, but also so very sad. The way women are treated and judged is terrible. What can we do to change the mentality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    A very emotional documentary, I wish to make a donation or the young girl Tuba medical treatment. It is very sad to hear society thinking in India and how women face calamities on a daily basis. I am a third generation Indian Muslim, and to see this documentary was heart wrenching. Well done again very informative.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Thank-you for a very informative documentary. I too would like to support all the girls/women affected by heinous crimes against them. We must educate children that both females and males are equal and valueable human beings. Tuba must be helped and I would like to make a contribution so she can get the best medical attention. Infact the subhumans who did what they did to her should be made to pay. They cannot be allowed to get away with it! Please also note it is not always the male of the species who are the perpertrators certain women are to blame too. It is a cultural thing that Mother In Laws think they can treat their daughter in laws in detrimental ways. I believe it is based on fear that they will be abandoned by their sons etc etc .. This whole thing is very complex but slowly and surely things must change and from what I can see they are changing because women and those in the lower spectrum of society are fighting back which can only be a positive thing. Thank-you to all those good people who do help without these brave wonderful people nothing would get done. They are the true Mavericks who help in a positive way!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Hi Radha,

    I am happy that you did this documentary exposing the ill-treatment of women in the Indian society. But as this documentary is mostly viewed by the western world, It would have been nice if you would have also portrayed the other side of the Indian society towards the end of the documentary, where they treat women as a goddess, education standards have improved, life style of Indian women and teenagers are far better than other developing countries of the world. This would have then sent out a mixed feelings and then people can make their own judgment about the status of women in India. I have this personal opinion that BBC always shows the negative side of India which is correct but should also show the positive side too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Hi Radha,

    Your documentary was really moving. I myself hail from Punjab and I'm aware of this cultural malice prevalent in India. I would also like to contribute towards helping Tuba. Also, would really appreciate if you can share the contact details of the girls orphanage in Patiala as would like to help the girls there.


  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I would also like to contribute towards helping Tuba. Please let me know if this is possible? Thank you.


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