The Menace of Female Foeticide and Infanticide

The Menace of Female Foeticide and Infanticide

Born to Die

“It’s a Girl!” have been the three deadliest words for most people of our stereotypical Indian society. India is patriarchal. A hierarchy prevails in its social order and a fanatic preference for male children is very common in our country. In places where cultural norms value male over female children, selective abortions or female foeticides and infanticides are prevalent. From the ancient times, men have been glowingly praised as the key to continue the family lineage whilst females are forced to undergo multiple pregnancies or abortions until they become breeding machines that produce male offspring only. This is deliberately done under family pressure from the husband or the in-laws or even the woman’s parents. Unfortunately true that a majority of female foeticide and infanticide cases involve the enthusiastic participation of women themselves, both old and young. Even the mothers-to-be agree to this misdeed out of an inherited social bias and a sense of duty towards the family.

According to a survey, an Indian girl between the ages of one to five years old is 75 percent more likely to die than an Indian boy, giving the country the worst gender differential in child mortality in the world. Despite several efforts of the Indian government at the national as well as State level, why are we unable to arrest this trend? Answers to such a question would only reveal a dirtier picture than ever. Female infanticide has existed long before sonography and abortion techniques arrived in India. Each State in the country, has chillingly evolved their own unique ways of giving full stops to the lives of female infants – drowning the infant in a bucket of milk, feeding her salt or burying her alive in an earthen pot, throwing her into the garbage bin or abandoning her somewhere in the forest.

Since ancient times, a female child is considered as a social and economic burden for the family, so the insensitive parents prefer to kill the baby before or after birth without realizing its negative aspects in the future. The main reason perhaps is the idea that the male offspring will better support the family since sons are seen as the main source of income. Even though today women have many career options and have attained heights professionally, the common misconception still remains. Due to this stereotypical thinking, a daughter is considered a liability and outside commodity and even deprived of good food and nutrition, proper education and play. Hence, even in these times of technological advancements, most parents in India opt for the brutal attack on the underbelly or upon the female infant after birth. The age-old Indian system of exorbitant dowry also puts a damper on the spirits of those who are blessed with a girl child. When a girl is born, the parents begin to calculate the expense of her future marriage, the lump sum that will paid to the future groom's family. Because of this, the birth of a girl is seen as a tragedy waiting to happen.

Since childhood, a girl is made to regard herself to be inferior, dependent, weak or physically delicate in comparison to a boy. This is something which has no relevance today. But society does discriminate against a girl in terms of giving her the freedom and creating unfathomable expectations from them. Girls are usually considered the second class citizen or the secondary sex, meant to be only in the kitchen or for bearing babies. Gender based discrimination against female children is pervasive across the country. It is seen in all strata of society and manifested in various forms. She faces higher risks of malnutrition, disease, disability, and retardation of growth and development. This results not only in the brutal killing of the female foetus but also infanticide and neglect of the female child after birth, in childhood and during the teenage years.

Female foeticide and infanticide is a crime and social disaster for the future of women in our country. The reasons for such a brutal practice in our society should be identified and solved. Technological advancement in science and industrialization of the health sector has made it very easy for parents to further sustain the practice of sex selective abortion. Hence, there should be a legal stoppage on it in order to get control over such barbarous acts. Laws should be strict and one should be severely punished if found guilty of such cruel practices. Permanent termination of license of hospitals should be done if they are found practicing such heinous crimes. Marketing of medical equipments, especially for illegal sex determination and abortion, should be stopped. Parents who opt for sex selective abortion should be penalized. Campaigns and seminars should be regularly organized for creating mass awareness in the society. Free education is a must and should be imparted at large in order to change the patriarchal mindsets of the people.

Indrani Medhi

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