An Indian district held a renaming ceremony on Saturday that allowed more than 200 girls whose names mean “unwanted” to choose new monikers for themselves.

Girls in rural areas are often given the names “Nakusa” or “Nakushi,” the Hindi words for “unwanted,” when the parents wanted a boy instead. In Hindu culture, marrying off a daughter is expensive, and families often go into debt arranging those marriages and financing elaborate dowries. A son, on the other hand, will one day bring home a bride — and her dowry.

The preference for boys has gotten so bad that to prevent sex-selective abortions, Indian hospitals are not permitted to tell parents the gender of an unborn fetus.

“Typically, if a rural couple has one or two girls, they dislike it when their third child also turns out to be a girl. They then name her ‘Nakusha’. Other derogatory names given to girls are ‘Dagadi’ and ‘Dhondi,’ which means “a stone,” one official said.

The girls at this weekend’s ceremony received certificates with their new names along with small flower bouquets. Many chose to name themselves after Bollywood stars or Hindu goddesses, while others selected traditional names with happier meanings.

A 15-year-old girl, who’d been named Nakusa by a grandfather disappointed by her birth, chose the new name Ashmita, which means “very tough” or “rock hard” in Hindi.

“Now in school, my classmates and friends will be calling me this new name, and that makes me very happy,” she said.

[USA Today]

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