Microcephaly is a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected. A baby’s head grows during pregnancy because the baby’s brain grows. Microcephaly can occur because a baby’s brain has not developed properly during pregnancy or has stopped growing after birth, which results in smaller head size. Microcephaly can be an isolated condition, meaning that it can occur with no other major congenital disabilities or in combination with other major congenital disabilities.
There are a number of causes of Microcephaly, one of the major causes is cousin marriages in the Pakistani Administered Jammu Kashmir, where traditionally they don’t allow their girls to marry out of the family, which can cause genetic mutation in the offspring.
Filmmaker Jawad Ahmed Paras reached out to a family in a small town of neelum valley to find out the reasons for Microcephaly. Three brothers are microcephalic in this family where their parents were cousins. The documentary investigates the reasons for Microcephaly in the families of Kashmir.
In the local language, the microcephalic children are called MATTU which means “abnormal person”. In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, microcephalic children find refuge at the shrine of Shah Daula in Varedia, Gujarat. They are revered as divine creatures and simultaneously stripped of their human dignity. Reportedly, infertile from across the country flock to the shrine in the hopes of having a normal baby. Other pilgrims bring in their sick infants and hope of their bright health conditions in the future. The shrine of Shah Daula is considered the abode of fertility for women.