Saturday, 24 December 2016

Female Foeticide: The Tragedy of the Never-born girls

By: Team PenTastic

Written by Sudipta Das (2nd year, CSE)

In India, we have inherited the cultural legacy of having a strong preference for son among all communities, religious groups and citizens of varied socio-economic backgrounds. Patrilocality, patri-lineage and patriarchal attitude manifest in women and girls having subordinate position in the family,discrimination in property rights and low-paid or unpaid jobs.Social discrimination against women results in systematic neglect of women's health, from womb to tomb.

The reason for female foeticide can be linked with the evil of dowry, hypergamy etc., prevailing in our society .A more degrading and disparaging feature of the society which has been existing for the many preceding decades is the immense love for the male child, while giving utter disregard to the daughters.With the invention of new technologies to monitor the 'foetal' health, it was expected to be used for taking care of the health of the unborn child, but it became a terminator of female foetuses. Are female foetuses being deliberately eliminated or aborted? The answer is a shameful Yes. Are the technologies (ultrasonography, amniocentesis, chorian villi biopsy, material serum analysis etc.) assisting the elimination? Again the answer, to a great extent, is yes.

While there can be no moral or ethical justification for female foeticide, it continues to be practised. In fact, sex determination which was mainly restricted to metros only, is now prevalent in villages as well. The greatest supporters of a child (whether male or female) are the natural parents. Fathers often provide material comforts but deny daughters their right to choose their life partner (and some other fundamental rights too). A few lines from the poem, Lord Ullin's Daughter, come to mind when one thinks of the way a girl fears her father.

' O haste, thee, haste,' the lady cries,
" Though tempests round us gather;
I'll face the raging of the skies,
But not an angry father."

For a daughter there can be no greater misery, than to know that her father does not support her. If she was an unwanted child, the despair is compounded. To go through life and realize that she was thrust on her unwilling parents, is a fate much worse than death.

About a year back, Delhi University students and teachers came out of their class rooms to support the amendment to the Prenatal Diagnostic (PNDT) Bill which was tabled in the parliament, recommending more stringent measures against the doctors who selectively abort female foetuses. The amended PNDT Bill suggests certain important modifications in the existing 1994 PNDT Act.
Since 1979, when the first private sex determination clinic was set up in Punjab, such clinics have proliferated rapidly. By the early eighties, such diagnostic centers had mushroomed even in rural areas, conducting sex determination for a few hundred rupees.

According to 'Saheli' (a Delhi based women's group) between 1978 and 1982, 78000 female foetuses were aborted. Punjab has 846 girls for every 1000 boys, Haryana 830 girls/1000 boys and Delhi follows with 866 girls/1000 boys, as per 2011 census. The decline in the ratio in the urban areas is more than twice the one in the rural areas. It is true that the women should have the right to abort their unwanted foetus, but if the technology is being used only to eliminate the female foetus, then it has to be questioned.

We must take a nationwide campaign against gender discrimination and inequalities. Rallies and candle-light marches may create awareness, but these cannot solve the actual problem, that lies within the mentality of the people. The root causes for elimination of female foetuses have to be traced, diagnosed and remedied. Banning prenatal sex determination might add a feather in the cap of rights activists but it will not materially improve the lives of women. A social awakening for true respect to the girls is required and a lot of honest hard work with full political will, in this field, can only solve the problem.

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