Why do daughters go missing???? Sex Selective Abortion in India
The girl child must be saved from sex selective abortion that is rampant in India, never giving her a chance to be born. Today in the worst affected states the child sex ration has fallen alarmingly. A girl's life is subject to economic and social oppression in the stiff and rigid patriarchy of the Indian society and the social evil of dowry has made the girl child to be least preferred by a family. If sex selective abortion has not been carried out to eliminate the female life in a foetus, the new born is being killed in a later stage. There have been instances of new born baby girl being found half eaten by street dogs from a bin! It made it to the front of our newspapers but never on our hearts and on our minds because we still seem to walk on as fast on this path as ever before.
The government of India has woken up from its slumber of ignorance and is attempting to contain the escalating gender disparity. It is inculcating strategies in its health programs and other development initiatives based on community but how effective are these to stop sex selective abortions are yet to be seen. With the gap in the child sex ratio ever rising, one is forced to believe that people who are engaged in this practice are smarter than the government! Research shows that this practice is most rampant among the middle class and the educated lot!
The child sex ratio is the worst affected in the states of Punjab and Haryana where it stands less than 800 girls for every 1000 boys! In India, the ratio has shown a sharp decline from 976 girls to 1000 boys in the year 1961 to just 927 in 2001. As per global trends the normal child sex ratio should be as high as 950. To tackle this phenomenon the government of India has banned ultrasound to determine the sex of the child during pregnancy by the 'Pre conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT Act. Any doctor giving consent or being party to the process of sex determination before the birth of the child is held as a criminal offender. However to add to this figure is the reality that most sex selective abortions are unrecorded because it is all done under the table under the wraps of gender discrimination and so called Indian 'tradition'. It’s almost impossible to convict anyone because the chain involves everyone and not just the doctor.
A renown NGO by the name VIMOCHANA in their research and field survey conducted in the southern state of Karnataka found that in all the hospitals where they studied the response of doctors to requests of aborting the female child, was met with zero resistance from the doctors! This survey was implemented under cover and in disguise and the results were shocking. Though the law of the land is strict on paper a lot is going on out of the vigil of law. This NGO has also recorded the extent to which doctors in Karnataka have gone to carry out this practice fully aware of the law and devising smart ways to escape from its clutches. In one instance, informants have mentioned how doctors use a + sign for indicating a male and – for a female, and in some cases they have a picture of Lord Krishna ( male god of the Indian Mythology) on one wall and Goddess Laxmi ( female god) on other. They then look at the wall with Lord Krishna to inform the couple that the child in the womb is a male and to the wall with Goddess Laxmi to indicate a female child in the womb. Every method to contain this practice has been over ridden by people. A grass root worker of a government health program in villages of the country says that the pregnancies are terminated as early as before the completion of first trimester. If the pregnancy is to bear a male child, it is allowed to carry on and it’s even recorded in the government statistics but if it is the other way round, the PHC is never informed. It’s a hush-hush matter .If we want the sex selective abortion to end, we need to have a policy to address the social issue of oppression of the woman and dowry.
After a lot of research and analysis it has been found that one of the reasons why sex selective abortion has not been able to be recorded officially, is because the mother has been a willing party and in the absence of resistance from her, the aim of the government to stop this practice will never come true. Most often these women have seen so much of oppression in their family, community and society and borne the brunt of violence in one form or the other, they resign to believe that she must not bear a girl child to save her progeny from a similar fate.
In this light, the problem of sex selective abortion in India is a gender and human rights issue, one that has deep roots in our culture. Will we as a nation be able to mellow down our culture to protect the right of a girl to be born? Or will we allow this termination of girls while still in the wombs of their mothers? If this trend carries on the child sex ratio will drop down even further. With the drop of the number of the girl in the nation, we should expect a rise in crime against women and a pressure on the dynamics of securing a life partner in marriage and consequently, a rise in inter caste marriages. Is India prepared to brace this dip in its equilibrium or will it step up its policy, advocacy, implementation and efforts to change the mind sets of people as a whole to narrow the present gender imbalances.
I take this vow today to be a woman of strength, economically self reliant and socially productive, empowering other women to seek strength within themselves. I take this vow to bear a female child and never let myself think that she will live a life of deprivation and oppression. I take this vow to rear her up to become a strong person tomorrow. I take this vow to instil in her the faith that it is worthwhile to give our daughters a chance to be born, to grow, to live and to excel among us.
The day the women of my country stand up and take this vow we will get to see all our daughters who went missing.