In a country that worships mothers, that symbolizes prosperity with women, female foeticide is a disheartening, ironical truth. The barbaric tradition of killing unborn female babies has been rampant for centuries, continuing into this so-called “modern” era.
The practice has ensued through the innate prejudice that most patriarchal societies hold against the fairer sex. The notion that sons are the future bread earners and the support for parents in old age has, in turn, termed daughters as burdens. Burdens who stay at home and deplete family resources through dowry. These societal implications impel families to kill the baby girl even before she is born.
One would presume, with an increase in literacy rates and the government’s active campaigning against it, the practice would decrease. However, ironically the more educated urban population also has a hand in the continuation of this practice along with the rural population. Many families harbor guilt for their actions but feel they had no choice, whereas others defend it as the only possible solution for their financial security. In a lot of cases, the mothers are threatened with violence or even death if they do not comply with the murder of their unborn child.
India’s national gender ratio has maintained a decreasing rate for the past few decades, going from 945 in the early nineties to 918 per 1000 boys in 2011, with a quite a few states having numbers as low as 780 girls per 1000 boys. The low sex ratio is can be linked to the many contemporary societal hazards that the country faces including sexual harassment and female trafficking. The government has passed laws in an attempt to curb this practice, the first being the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971. This act termed abortion legal only under the cases of severe health risk to the mother or rape. However, the advancement in medical technologies which easily enabled pre-natal sex-determination increased to rates of female feticide. The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse)(PCPNDT) Act of 2004, prohibits prenatal sex screening and sex-selective abortion.
Apart from the laws laid out, the government has started with many schemes to curb female feticide. The “Baby Cradle” scheme enabled parents to anonymously place their child in cradles situated in orphanages, offices of NGOs and government hospitals, and give them up for adoption. This saves them from having to face the formal procedures and questioning and also from the idea of killing the child. The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme is a 100 crore project with ensuring the survival and protection of the girl child is a pivotal initiative.
In spite of the various actions taken by the government, proper implementation still remains a concern. Of course, battling a practice that has been present for centuries is extremely daunting but as citizens, increasing awareness of this inhumane murder is a possible agenda. A change can only be expected if awareness of the issue and realization of crime sinks into the grassroots of the society.
By Harshiel B. Shah