The Plight of the Girl Child

Female feticide is one of the biggest challenges that India is facing today in terms of gender. It has become a significant social phenomenon. It transcends all barriers of caste, class and community and even the north-south dichotomy.

The World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap report for the year 2007 has shown India at a dismal 120th position. The gender gap report looks at the disparities in terms of health, education, economic status and political participation between men and women. India is facing the toughest test when it comes to bridging the existing disparities. If we consider the gender gap alone, then the biggest challenge that India faces today is of female feticide. Sex selective abortions and increase in the number of female infanticide cases have become a significant social phenomenon in several parts of India.

It would be wrong to say that the government is doing nothing, but the problem is that sometimes even the government becomes helpless. If the people are not ready to change their mentality despite being educated, then ‘we’ are to be blamed. Any progress toward halting infanticide has been foiled by the rise in sex-selective abortions. One thing which is clear is that laws can be enacted but whether we follow the law is up to us. Our government frames one law at a time and there are several people ready to break it. This group includes unethical doctors and the couple who go in for this form of genocide. The other form of killing a girl child is infanticide – intentional act of killing a female within one year of her birth. This has led to an escalating gap in the sex ratio. The Indian Medical Association estimates that five million female foetuses are aborted each year. The ratio among children up to the age of six was 962 girls per 1,000 boys in 1981, but twenty years later, the inequity had worsened: 927 girls per 1,000 boys. This ratio is amongst the most imbalanced in the world. The local, religious and social customs have also added fuel to the fire. India is still a largely feudal and patriarchal society. In many parts of our country (especially in UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana, Tamilnadu and Punjab), women are viewed as an economic liability despite contributing in several ways to our society and economy. Women in India are victims of the patriarchal ideology that oppresses them. The most disturbing factor is the fact that sex selective abortion is prevalent even amongst the educated class.

We need to understand the gravity of this problem before it is too late. There are numerous reasons behind this and mostly are social evils such as dowry system and lack of education and rights for women in India. The government can just provide few more schemes such as literacy programmes for females, more access to primary health centres and campaigns to show the necessity of women in a society.

Any law enacted will amount to nothing, if we as a society continue to deny our women the dignity, liberty and opportunities that are rightfully theirs. No society will ever prosper as a whole when half of it is constantly treated as somehow being inferior to the other half. The Indian men need to carry the responsibility on their shoulders because they are going to suffer a lot. The way things are heading, they will face the need to look for brides from elsewhere – if any are available and willing to marry them. I say Indian men because they have more rights in the society and if they understand the problem, then they can certainly check this practice. There is no other form of violence that is more painful, more abhorrent and more shameful. Some needs to be done, and something needs to be done as soon as possible.

Rishabh Srivastava

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