By Mayuri Khanna:
Both ‘female foeticide’ (the killing of a girl child in the womb) and ‘female infanticide’ (killing of baby girls after birth) have as if become common phenomena these days, resulting in abandoning baby girls or leaving them starved to die.
The government conducted a study that revealed that nearly three million girls, one million more than boys, are ‘missing’ in 2011 compared to 2001 and there are now 48 fewer girls per 1,000 boys than there were in 1981. According to the report, female child population in the age group of 0-6 years was 78.83 million in 2001 which declined to 75.84 million in 2011.
The population of girl child was 15.88% of the total female population of 496.5 million in 2001, which declined to 12.9% of the total number of 586.47 million women in 2011.
There are many reasons stated for these acts, such as preferring a boy child, the prevailing dowry system, poverty, and socio-economic conditions, lack of a woman’s decision-making power etc. But these can’t be reasons enough for taking a life.
I feel that there has been a decline in the moral and ethical standard of the people which is the primary reason behind this deterioration. This can be evidently seen in the regions like Haryana and Punjab where child sex ratio is the lowest.
The government, civil society and various other sections have taken many initiatives in this regard. The government has adopted a life-cycle approach for overall empowerment of women and for maintaining their dignity. But do you think government can improve the thinking process or moral standard of the people or the society by placing few laws?
This question has led many people like me to perceive the issue of female infanticide in a new way. The government has made laws for banning legal abortions, for child marriage, for uprooting dowry practices, for banning sex selective tests, etc. but how can the government compel either of the parents to love their unwanted girls?
The parents who are ‘not able to’ go for female foeticide, leave them to die after birth by not taking proper care of her nutrition and health. In a recent case – A father abandoned his two daughters, aged seven and three in Delhi. The girls were found in extremely poor health, with maggots feeding on their heads. The girls had been starving for a week.
Girl children in India are usually abandoned on roadsides, temples, garbage bins, public toilets. Are you thinking how can the parents’ pride or convenience outweigh the right to life of an individual? Well, the million dollar question here is who is responsible for such a pitiful state of girls in the society – parents, government or the so called ‘civilised society’? And what steps can be taken to improve the situation?
It is said that individuals comprose the basic element of society and development of an individual should make for a civilised and better society. But in case of India, it seems that the existence of individual thinking has ended due to strict norms and cultural taboos. The societal pressure on an individual is often very high; this reduces the power of an individual to differentiate between right and wrong.
The ill practices of dowry, the patriarchal thinking – they need to change. Awareness campaigns need to be catered through art, music to touch the emotional chord of the individual. Every religion condemns the practice of female infanticide, hence the participation of various religious groups can be initiated to generate the value of gender equality. The change has already started as recently women have been allowed to visit various religious places which were restricted for them. But many changes are yet to come.