A recent survey in Delhi by a non-government Centre for Social Research has found that female foeticide in the country is constantly growing at an alarming rate. The survey, supported by the Union Ministry for Health and Family Welfare, investigates the social, economical and policy related causes that are leading to a ‘startling’ low sex ratio in the Capital of a Country which boasts of ‘Equality’ as a fundamental right of its citizens.
Female foeticide is an expression of one of the worst forms of violence against women where female foetuses are selectively aborted after pre-natal sex determination, thus avoiding the birth of girls. Firstly, this common practice to ‘rid them of the burden’ was female infanticide where a girl child would be killed as soon as she was born. But now with the ‘advancement’ in Science and Technology the procedure has become more convenient too. With the possibility of sex determination, when the foetus is a few months old, couples prefer to abort the child when they discover the fact –that it’s a ‘girl child.’ To put it plainly, life is snatched out of the hands of a girl even before she can fold her fingers to hold on to it.
Though the practice of sex determination is considered criminal in India, many doctors continue pandering to the needs of the couples, accumulating money in the process. In June 2007, a doctor was arrested on charges of illegally aborting 260 female fetuses after the police recovered bones from the septic tank in the basement of his maternity clinic in the outskirts of New Delhi. One of the worst cases reported was in Orissa where the Orissa police on July 23, 2007, recovered as many as 30 polythene bags stuffed with female fetuses and the body parts of new-born babies from a dry well near a private clinic in Nayagarh, close to Bhubaneswar. These few incidents are the ones which have come to light after causalities -so one can imagine the extent to which this horrendous scandal is rooted.
Statistics released by the UN reveal that as many as 10 million girls in India have been brutally murdered in the past two decades, becoming victims of evil practices like female foeticide and infanticide. What is even more shocking is that female foeticide has seen a steep climb in the more flourishing states like Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, which have unfortunately shown a continuously declining sex ratio in the last decade, while surprisingly such cases of inhuman behaviour in states like Sikkim, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Jammu & Kashmir have been unheard.
The statistics given above speak for themselves. Education seems to have had limited effect in fighting violence against women. The traditional ideals and customs are so deeply entrenched in our ‘male-dominated’ society that ‘liberated India’ seems to be a far fetched idea. The woman of today has left behind her fears and has very confidently blended herself in the public arena. Despite these changing trends, Gender Bias is still very apparent. In India, the sex ratio for majority of the states continues to dip, the reason being the unwanted girl-child. Till a few years back, and even at many instances now, giving birth to a girl had become a social stigma. While the birth of a boy was extravagantly celebrated, the time when a girl was born had the aura of a funeral. Girls, since time immemorial have been considered a ‘burden’ as well as an unwanted pile of ‘garbage’.. These situations arise out of many social factors which have ruled the Indian mind set since a long time.
The dowry system, the idea of ‘family honor’, ‘ladki ghar ki izzat hoti hai’, and many such beliefs contribute to the complexities in bringing up a girl in our narrow minded society. People believe that if a girl is ‘ugly’ there would be problems getting her married and if she is ‘good-looking’ then continuous vigilance is needed to make sure she’s not ‘tainted’ before her marriage. So either way it is a dissatisfactory choice. One of the main reasons for the preference of a boy is the orthodox belief that the soul is emancipated only when the funeral rites are performed by the boy and it is the boy who carries the family lineage forward. These ideas are nothing but manipulations by men in the course of history to make inferior the idea of women. History and Reality are mostly miles apart. History, as we know it, is a manipulated version of those who write it i.e. the men in power.
With the ‘ever-declining’ sex ratio in the country many other problems arise.. The low population of the women in our country is certainly giving rise to an enormous increase in violence against them. The few ‘available’ become objects of sexual scrutiny. This leads to sexual exploitation of women as seen in the rising number of rape and molestation cases. The business of trafficking young girls from Nepal and West Bengal is also a consequence of this shortage of girls in urban areas. These girls are forcibly converted into sex workers thus increasing prostitution in the country. The natural balance of the society too is disturbed as it is a man and woman together who form one component of the society as a family.
Hence, for a peaceful and harmonious society- it is very important to have a balance between both the sexes, which can only be achieved by ‘Gender Equality’. The age- old ideas and beliefs against women are nothing but termites making our country hollow. Treating empowerment of women as a process of self-reliance and achievements of few individuals (who fight their way) is a limited view. Empowerment is a collective phenomenon where enough social and political mobilization needs to be created to make the same resources available to women as men. Our target should be to aspire for such a balanced society…and with the changing India; it wouldn’t take too long to wipe these thoughts away from the minds of the people.