By Dr Santosh Jain Passi & Akanksha Jain
Women play an important role in shaping the destiny of our civilization, yet the girl child, very often, not only faces neglect and disparity but sometimes the gravest forms of violence/crime. In India, traditions/rituals undermine the very existence of girl child. Despite tremendous hue and cry about gender equality and the enforcement of laws for achieving the same, a large number of new-born girls are still being dumped in the garbage, while the unborn female foetuses continue to be sniffed in the womb. Wrought with discrimition and prejudices, our society has often dealt the young girls/women with a rough hand, beginning even before their birth and following through infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood (including pregncy and lactation) till the last leg of their life.
Although, some of the age old traditions like Sati, Jauhar, and Devadasi have been banned and are largely defunct in modern India yet sporadic instances are still been reported from remote parts of the country. Similarly, the purdah system which is drifting away particularly among the urban and the elite, is still being practised in some communities particularly the rural households. Again child marriage - particularly of the girl child, although illegal, continues to be an issue in rural areas. Other issues of concern are domestic violence, dowry, rape, molestation, sexual harassment and immoral trafficking. Domestic violence is endemic and occurs despite the fact that women in India are legally protected under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.
Discrimition against girl child is in several forms - nutritiol deprivation by way of idequate breastfeeding and early weaning; unsatisfactory/sub-standard/delayed medical care; poor attention and care resulting in emotiol deprivation; and insufficient resource allocation for her health, nutrition, overall development and care as well as schooling and thereafter. All these are the documented causes of high morbidity and mortality among the females. Female foeticide/infanticide is perhaps the worst forms of violence against women where she is denied the most basic and fundamental right – ‘The Right to Life’. Traditiolly, the unwanted girl child was done away by poisoning the baby or letting her choke or simply by crushing her tender skull.
In our society, the practice of female infanticide had prevailed since long, but female foeticide is the legacy and contribution of the progress in medical science. Owing to technological advances, after pre-tal sex determition, the female embryos/foetuses are selectively elimited, thereby killing the girl child even before she is born.
The long standing tradition of son preference coupled with medical technology gives the status conscious Indian families, a choice between payment of large dowry for their daughters or elimiting the daughters even before their birth. As a result, the advanced medical technology and sophisticated sex determition techniques (post-implantation cell free foetal D testing, ultrasound scans, amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling - CVS) are now being used or rather misused, to get rid of the girl child much before she comes to this world.
In India, right from her birth, a girl child is treated as a burden - an extra mouth to feed, an overall liability and other’s property (prayaa Qa). On the other hand, having a son is considered essential so as to carry the family me. Therefore, prayers/lavish offerings are often made with the desire to bear a male child. In a deeply patriarchal society where daughters are often seen as a fincial liability, this trend has led to an uptick in crimes including rape, trafficking and the emergence of ‘wife-sharing’ in villages where the sex ratio is low. According to a report by Thomson Reuters, for women, India is the “fourth most dangerous country” in the world.
Sex ratio is a valuable determint of the female population vs. that of men. As per the Population Census-2011, our population comprises 940 females/1000 males indicating a low sex ratio. Declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR; 0-6 years) is a matter of great concern. Prof Ashish Bose – the leading demographer of our country had raised an alarm regarding the “missing girls” and stressed on segregated alysis of demographic data for the under six. As per the Census-2011, the child sex ratio has dropped to 919 females/1000 males. Some of the developed states like Harya, Punjab, NCT Delhi, Maharashtra and Gujarat lie far below the tiol average; and Delhi NCT has the lowest child sex ratio (871 girls/1,000 boys in 2011). Though, the overall sex ratio is showing a positive trend, the child sex ratio is registering a decline which is a matter of great concern. The decrease in female birth ratio is considered to be due to violent treatments meted out to the girl child at the time of birth.
A recent study (2011) has reported that as many as 12 million Indian girls may have been selectively aborted between 1980 and 2010. MacPherson (2007) had also reported that every year a large number of abortions are being performed solely because the foetus is female. Further, it has been highlighted that even in the rich and educated families, prevalence of sex selective abortions is higher for the second/third-born when the firstborn is a girl child.
Women and children constitute a sizeable part of the population and play a critical role in tiol development. Inclusive growth must begin by breaking an intergeneratiol cycle of inequity and multiple deprivations faced by the women and the girl-child. It is aptly said that “when we educate a man, we educate an individual; but when we educate a girl/woman, we educate the whole family or rather the entire tion and the humanity”.
Many women have touched heights in various fields, both at the tiol and Intertiol levels. Had their parents gone for female foeticide/infanticide, we would have been deprived of their contributions to the growth and development of the society! (PIB)