Murder in the womb – 17 Nov 2010

The Hitavada report dated 31st October 2010 on the front page of ‘Nagpur City Line’ gives a detailed account of the diminishing sex ratio in the city of Nagpur. Last year the ratio was 934 girls per 1000 boys in the city and this year it has further decreased to 875. This is a reflection of the state of affairs in the entire nation and Nagpur is not an exception. Those who think that female infanticide is predominantly a North Indian phenomenon would stand corrected as a progressive city like Nagpur also follows the rule of female bias. India not only stands to shame but also gains notoriety as the world talks about female infanticide as a phenomenon peculiar only to this country. What is wrong with us?? Have we lost our heads? Have we become terrorists to our own children? Have we no sense of morality and guilt? Do people who kill a girl foetus ever sleep in peace?

In India the ratio is fast becoming skewed in favour of males. This is certainly not the probability ratio of God or nature but man-made. The world wide sex ratio at birth (SRB) is 105 male babies to 100 female babies. India measures the SRB in thousands and the normal SRB for India was considered as 950 female babies to a 1000 male babies in 1991 census. The 2001 census raised the alarm of vanishing girl babies when the figures showed a further decline in the SRB to 925. The deterioration of the SRB was highlighted by various reports in magazines and surveys and the nation screamed when one district in Punjab state called Fatehgarh Sahib showed a ratio of only 754 female babies. People were appalled at the silent genocide.

Traditionally it is not an unknown fact that girls are not wanted- let’s face it. The preference for the son is deeply rooted in the ‘holy’ Indian culture. Whatever may have been the reasons for this preference, economic, social and spiritual (performance of last rites of parents after death), there is no justification for selective killing. Girls were and still are considered economic burdens and of no economic benefit to parents. The practice of dowry for her marriage is a further burden on parents. However it is important to mention here that earlier when the modern technological methods of sex determination were not invented, people hating girl babies were killing them by neglect after birth. The female infant mortality rate was higher due to poor nutrition, disease and poor health care. Now with the invention of ‘wonderful’ pre-natal diagnostic methods lives of parents who hate girls have become easier.

The Central and State governments showed their concerns by banning the practice of female infanticide by the Pre-Natal Diagnostics Regulation and Prevention of Misuse Act in 1994. But of course for law offenders and desperate parents there are ways of by-passing a piece of legislation on paper. One doctor explained to me on reading the Hitavada report how the practice is carried on by mercenary doctors. There are mobile ultrasound machines which they carry around to neighbouring communities and make sex detections. It’s then the choice of the parents to decide what to do with the foetus- to go ahead or to abort. They may actually charge a higher fee if they detect a male foetus!

We Indians will go to hell with such attitudes. We should die with shame when we hear of such happenings. We should condemn our traditional thinking and culture in the loudest possible manner. We have already attracted the attention of the international media on atrocious issues like bride burning, honour killings, female foeticide and dowry deaths. On my recent trip to Canada I experienced a personal shame when the local government came down heavily on the some sections of Indian communities settled in Canada for increasing crimes on women with special focus on honour killings.

All is not lost one would like to argue. There are good and conscientious parents too. There are a good enough number of good parents who do not discriminate between babies on the basis of sex but accept them as God’s gift. I know many parents who have adopted a girl child as a conscious choice. We also have many proud parents of daughters who have given their girls the best of education, values and a sense of independence. I would appreciate and applaud such good souls for their right mindedness and humane attitudes. I fear that such goodness should not become the exception rather than being the norm.

For sceptics who think that all this is radical feminism and hence crap should take a look at the global report. The World Economic Forum has released a report “Global Gender Gap 2010” in which India is ranked at a dismal position – 112th. Four different aspects of women’s life – Education, Health, Finance, and Political participation/power are compared between 134 nations. India ranks at 120th, 132nd and 128th position in education, health and finance (economic self reliance).

Will a proud Indian please stand up…..

Published in The Hitavada – Womens World 17 Nov 2010

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