Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Female foeticide - part 1

I have a fear of flying but due to constraints of work, I need to fly at times.  On one such occassion, I was upgraded to business class on a flight from Chennai to Delhi courtesy my frequent flyer pointsI hoped to forget my fears and enjoy the business class luxuries for once.  The beautiful and smiling hostess served me a delectable fruit juice and also offered me an array of magazines to browse, which were never available in my usual economy class.   Savouring my juice i flipped through the magazines & newspapers and as the plane got ready for take off,  I accidentally came across an article by Ms Sanchita Sharma, in the Hindustan Times dated 30 Jan 2011.  Though the name of the topic was 'health wise', it concentrated on female foeticide.  She gave some startling statistics as follows:-

2001 census - we had 927 females/1000 males which further reduced to 906 females/1000 males in the 2006/8 sample survey 

The writer had mentioned several modus operandi that were being used by the people including the usage of mobile ultra sound machines (small enough to fit into pocket to avoid police) for gender determination. As the poor do not have the means to pay for these higher cost technologies, they are just dumping the girl children on the streets.  A particularly heart wrenching story which was mentioned was of a girl child who was dumped in the cold waters of a canal with her neo natal material still intact.  This showed that she was transported straight from the delivery room to the canal, which also brought memories of few other stories that i read earlier..
The juice didn't feel tasty anymore and I felt like throwing up.  The good part was that I didnt realise that we had taken off which was usually the most scariest part for me.

I took out my writing pad and commenced penning my thoughts over the next two hours.  Whatever had come to my mind that day - I pondered over it for many months later, discussed with some eminent persons and collected my thoughts which are reporduced over the next five posts.

The Govt had indeed banned gender selection tests and it is claimed by various NGO's/Govt organisations that it had brought down the female foeticide rate.  However it can be seen by the census data there is still a reduction in the number of females over the years.  As technology progresses, it will become more and more difficult to stop these 'killer' scans.  On the contrary, high cost back door methods would be used instaed of the 'walk in' scan and the black market would thrive on our obsession with boys.  

So, how do you stop this infanticide?  Surely, no amount of Govt legislation to ban these tests would help because we Indians are very innovative at finding alternate means.  There needs to be a fundamental change in the perception of the people and the social customs in our country. 

At the moment, the birth of a girl is only taken as a double blow to the family, i.e - 
1.  She doesn't continue the family lineage 
2. She has to be married off by spending a huge amount of money.
 Apart from the two above major reasons, the others are:- 
3.  She cannot look after her parents in their old age
4.  Some of the Parents with girl children feel inferior
5.  Traditionally, she cannot light the pyre of her parents
6.  A lifetime committment is required to look after the girl even after the marriage
7.   She has to be protected and looked after wherever she goes unlike a boy

If we objectively analyse each point, we can see that all of them are imposed on the girls and their parents by the social customs and not by their choice.  It is the normal society which is enforcing all the above points on the girls & their parents in the name of our established 'customs and traditions'.

Therefore, female infanticide as we see it now is only the end product. There are a lot of social factors that are driving people to engage in this dastardly act and to really make a difference, these social factors need to be addressed first.

A few suggestions to take this forward in part 2....      

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