Women- India’s Broken Wing

indian-woman.jpg15th august, 1947—a day when the founding fathers of our nation—India gave us our much desired and deserved freedom. Envisioning an eternity of development and growth; they became the torch bearers and streamlined our amorphous views of independence and sovereignty.60 years down the line; and India today is one of the world’s most successful democracy; largely stable with no internal political strife and comparatively harmonized society. Even after having the potentials of becoming one of the world’s global power with the second largest population in the world and being blessed with intellectual minds; we are still in the rat race for being developed. Featuring in the developing nations list for such a long time does raise the eyebrows of the few critical minds! Aiming at being a developed nation, we first need to define ‘development’ in its right sense for ourselves.

It becomes even more intriguing that in spite of the bustling population density we have an extremely skewed population distribution in India. And, at the heart of the problem lies the scar of gender discrimination which manifests in the form of female feticide and sex selection. Gender bias is such an omnipresent menace to the Indian society that the daunting figures of the population seem to be a hoax! The sex ratio of India according to the 2001 census is 933 females per 1000 males; up from 927 females per 1000 males according to the 1997 census.These figures leave out lot of details, that are usually brushed under the carpets. Education, liberation and economic empowerment might have brought up the country GDP and helped some Indians to feature in the world’s multimillionaire lists, but it has utterly failed to liberate the mentality and the stagnating thought process of the individuals at the grass root level.

The protracted bias against girls being unable to carry forward the family line has been ingrained and internalized completely. Even today, majority of educated and high class elite families prefer a boy rather than a girl because it is considered a ‘squandering’ of the ever precious wealth on girls as they are ultimately to be wedded away. However the blackest among all the evils is the prevalence of the ‘dowry system’. It is taken to be the mandatory pre-requisitive to be able to get the girl wedded thereby equating her actually with just another commodity that is very smartly bargained upon! With resources being more easily available to the masses, sex selection techniques have become all the more handy. And all the thanks to modernization and globalization! The effects are reaching the rural areas also and it has become easy for the uneducated lot to reap the benefits (bane though) of science. The sex ratio is 874 in Punjab while that in relatively backward states like Bihar is 921.

A recent report by the Pune based center for Youth development and Activities(CYDA) with the support of the UN Population Development Fund has found that there is increased fear among tribal elders that urbanization is bringing the largely ignorant lot of tribal youth to get an easy access to the cheaper and abundantly available though illegal female feticide practices. In fact the level of despise and abhorrence for the female girl child has reached such a desperate level that even if there do not exist any ultrasound labs; people take use of ‘midwives’ and procure herbs that change the sex of the baby from female to male!

Even the existent laws concerning the evil practices (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse Act of 1994) which entails three years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs.11,000 have failed to deter such crimes. It’s pretty evident that a mere fine of Rs.11,000 is hardly a deterrent as compared to the perceived incentive of getting ‘rid’ of the girl child. Also, rate of conviction under the law is very low with the first conviction coming only in 2006. The lax judiciary all the more adds to the menace making it lucrative enough to commit and being easily acquitted; if at all tried! This trend of sex selection precipitated in the rural areas by the advent of the technological advancements. Though there are quite a few ‘best performing’ districts in the country where the ratio is still better but taking them into the focus is like feeling happy about being the ‘best among the worst’. A competitive spirit has to be installed amongst the states so that they also take a step forward for rooting out the problem just like their other financial and political problems.

Long time ignorance may have served to be the bliss at the individual level but the figures are really detrimental and demeaning to India as a nation. Its time we heed the call of true progress, not only in economic terms but also in societal conditions. It’s true that attitudes do take time to be changed and thus the armor of ‘personal relevance’ has to be used to get the matter solved!

Arpita Chakraborty