Julie read me a beautiful news story a few nights ago about how a health officer in Maharashtra, India, Dr. Bhagwan Pawar, set out to help girls change their names.
Dr. Pawar conducted a survey in his district and discovered that 222 girls had been named “Nakusa,” a Marathi word which means “unwanted” in English.
In an interview with India Real Time, Dr. Pawar said: “In most cases, after the birth of two or more female children, the next one would be named ‘Nakusa’ by the parents.”
Indian culture places high value on male children, so much so that hospitals are legally forbidden to reveal the sex of the child before birth in hopes of preventing gender selective abortions, according to an Associated Press article.
This same article goes on to point out that male children are preferred to females partly because it’s very expensive to give girls away in marriage. Families often go into debt to provide a dowry at their daughter’s wedding, whereas a boy brings a bride and her dowry back to the family.
So people like Dr. Pawar and his team are conducting renaming ceremonies to change girls’ names from “unwanted” to names like “Vaishali” that mean “prosperous, beautiful and good.”
Can you imagine what it would be like to be named “Unwanted” by your parents?
Imagine hearing the roll called at school, and your name came up every day as “Undesirable.” “Leftover.” “Wish-you-were-a-boy.” “Unloved.”
What an incredible act of justice to let the girls take on new names!
This story reminded me of a story in Hosea 1-2, where the prophet Hosea, under God’s instruction, names his children “Lo-Ruhama” (which means “not loved”) and “Lo-Ammi” (which means “not my people”). Their names were to be a message to the people of Israel that God was upset with them for their disobedience and idolatry. God wanted desperately for Israel to return to him.
And then, in a wonderful act of grace (because Israel, after all, deserved to be called the names given to Hosea’s children – while Hosea’s children and the Indian girls did not), God says (Hosea 2:16-23):
16 “In that day,” declares the LORD,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.’
17 I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips;
no longer will their names be invoked.
18 In that day I will make a covenant for them
with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the creatures that move along the ground.
Bow and sword and battle
I will abolish from the land,
so that all may lie down in safety.
19 I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
20 I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the LORD.
21 “In that day I will respond,”
declares the LORD—
“I will respond to the skies,
and they will respond to the earth;
22 and the earth will respond to the grain,
the new wine and the olive oil,
and they will respond to Jezreel.
23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”
Dr. Pawar and his team reflect the love and justice of God in their renaming work.