Dr. Sheikh Arshid
Abortion of female foetus is called female foeticide. This is a considered a major social problem and crime in India and has cultural connections with the dowry system that is ingrained in the Indian culture, despite the fact that it has been prohibited by law since 1961. In India, unlike any Western culture, strong preference for sons over daughters exists. Pregnancies are planned by resorting to differential contraception – contraception is used based on the number of surviving sons irrespective of family size. Following conception, foetal sex is determined by pre-natal diagnostic techniques after which female foetuses are aborted. The magnitude of the Problem is that more than 10 million female foetuses have been illegally aborted in India. Certain castes regularly practiced female infanticide and later female foeticide. This process began in the early 1990s when ultrasound techniques gained widespread use in India. There was tendency for families to continuously produce children until a male child was born. This was primarily due to the large sexist culture that exists in India against women. This is reflected by literacy rates among women as well as economic participation, which are both particularly low in states where female foeticide is prominent and an unequal population ratio exists alongside. The government initially supported the practice to control population growth. The Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act was passed in 1994, making sex-selective abortion illegal. It was then amended in 2003 holding medical professionals legally responsible. However, the PCPNDT Act has been poorly enforced by authorities.
Causes of female foeticide:
1. Dowry system: The root cause of female foeticide is the dowry system in our society. A number of girls are killed inside the womb due to fear of dowry by many poor class families. They are worried about giving the dowry during the marriage of their girls, which poor people cant afford. Parents start thinking about her marriage from the day she born. They have started gathering things and money for her marriage not for education and good living facilities for their girl. Dowry is a big burden on our society. Dowry is also a major cause of womans death who is newly married and murdered by continuous harassment and torture by husbands or in-laws family.
2. Considering girl a financial obligation only: Girls are considered as financial obligation by many parents. They conceive that money spend on a girl will be total waste as she will go to her in-laws home after the marriage. Birth of a boy is considered as path to heaven and being trapped in such orthodox ideas the girls are put to death before their birth.
3. Rise in inflation: The other root cause of female foeticide is rise in the inflation. Due to rise in inflation parents think hundred times before giving birth to a girl child. They worry about the educating and marrying their daughter.
4. Access to modern technology and its misuse: The advancement in technology is the major cause of female foeticide. Now-a-days parent determines the sex of a child before birth by using Ultrasound scanning machine that gives a lot of useful information about the early foetus growth during the pregnancy. Unfortunately, many IVF specialists misuse Ultrasound scan technology to check the baby sex which is against the law and nature.
5.Corruption in medical field: The medical profession which was once an honest and respected field of the job but today is corruption at every level. The corruption is also a major factor in the rise of female foeticide. Doctors take a lot of money to check baby gender using an ultrasound scan and then abortion.
6. The desire of a boy: The boy is considered as the status symbol in our society. People think that he will expend our family, earn good money, is strong physically & emotionally and he can better take care of his parents till the end. The desire of a boy is the main cause of this crime. In many cases, parents give birth to many girls or kill them in the womb till than a boy does not take birth.
7. A girl can not proceed the family lineage: Mostly people think girls cannot proceed with their fathers family because girls will have to go to the in-law family after the marriage. Parents families will go end after her marriage and no one will be there for parents care.
8. Girls are not safe (Eve Teasing): Our society is also responsible for girl killing in the womb. Boys tease the girls when they found them alone or even in public places. They do bad comments on their dresses, characters, sexual harassment, acid throwing, and dating abuse. That’s why parents afraid to send girls outside the home, school, colleges and another city.
9. Raped or sexual harassment:Many females are afraid that girls are prone to sexual harassment that degrades the family reputation in society. Thousands of women are raped every day in the world and killed many of them. This also the biggest cause of fatal crime.
10. A girl is not as strong as a boy:We feel girls cannot do the work as well as boys do like they cant join the army and police, girls cannot do heavy-duty jobs, driving buses & trucks and professional pilots. This is the phobia that irritates parents that girls cant reach to all the top places so they take risk to go for female foeticide.
11. Gender Discrimination: In our society boy and girl face huge gender discrimination we treat boys different from girls and provide them greater oppurtunities at the home, in public places, offices and educational institutes. So parents feel girls are burden on their shoulders and then they go for female foeticide.
12. Lack of Education: Female foeticide ratio is higher in the countries or regions where the illiteracy rate is high, lack of education and knowledge. People are still living with traditional thoughts and culture which is anti-women. Most of the women still at home and busy in household work and the reason behind it that people think that women are just for housework and she does not require education and work skills.
Deterrence (enforcing the law), counseling (community education) peer pressure (holding last rites after abortions to unnerve the family and doctors) and incentives for informers can be used as effective tools to bring about an appreciable change in attitude.
What Steps Should We Take To Stop Female Foeticide?
1. Change thinking and Save Girl: Yes, the first thing we need to do change people thinking who think girls cannot change the world. We should not forget a man takes birth from a woman. So a female can do all the things that a man can do perfectly. Our mother also needs to take a step forward and report to your husband or any in-law family member who says about foetus abortion due to just a girl in the womb. Need for girls nursing the same as we do for boys and train them for life challenge and career, not just for housewives and baby-makers.
2. Implement strict Law: Govt needs to make strong & strict law so that everybody thinks about the punishment before doing this heinous crime. We need to take strong action again doctors, labs and hospitals where cases like abortions take place.
4. Public awareness programs: Govt or people need to spread awareness and education in our society about this inequality. We should include female foeticide topics in school and college syllabus, organize regular events in rural and urban regions, use technology to spread awareness, make girls feel safe, kill the dowry system and any other cause which is responsible for women foeticide. Aware people about that the boys and girls both are equally important in a family. We should focus on their future, lives, and education. Always remember one thing A Man Alone cannot Expend a Family Without a Woman.
5.More reservation for girls in education: Government should provide financial support to those families who are not able to educate their children. Proper measures should be taken to implement anti -dowry law and culprits should be punished. Government should provide financial support for the marriage of girls belonging to poor families.
6. Emphasis should be given to women empowerment: Women education will help in eradicating this problem. As the women will become independent, they can take decision according to their volition. There is a need of remove the myth of son preference from our society only then this problem can be tackled.
7. Creating Social Awareness: Increasing awareness of the problem has led to multiple campaigns by celebrities and journalists to combat sex-selective abortions.The Beti Bachao, or Save girls campaign, has been underway in many Indian communities since the early 20th century. The campaign uses the media to raise awareness of the gender disparities creating and resulting from sex-selective abortion. Beti Bachao activities include rallies, posters, short videos and television commercials, some of which are sponsored by state and local governments and other organizations.
8. End gender disparity: Eliminate gender disparities in education, job and other social works .A skewed population composition, due to a bias against the girl child, can have many adverse social consequences. We have a social responsibility to bring about an end to prejudices and discrimination against the girl child. We must encourage all such steps that will contribute to the welfare of the girl child – proper nutrition, education, opportunity to work and to be financially independent. A girl child is an asset to the nation. Evidence indicates that the problem of female foeticide is more prevalent in orthodox families. It is, therefore, essential that these socio-cultural factors be tackled by changing the thought process through awareness generation, mass appeal and social action. In addition to this all concerned i.e. the religious and social leaders, voluntary organizations, women groups, socially responsible media, the doctors; the Medical Council/Association (by enforcing medical ethics and penalties on deviant doctors) and law enforcement personnel should work in a coordinated way.
Right to education, health and empowerment are the fundamental rights of every Indian woman. The horrible illegal practice of female foeticide has to be stopped by harsh laws and change in the mind-set of the people. Save the girl child for a better tomorrow. It is sincerely hoped that such measures would equip women to exercise their rights. The Ministry of State for Health and Family Welfare is also embarking on a massive national level awareness and sensitisation program on a sustained basis to check female foeticide. Non-government organisations, media, entertainment industry, spiritual leaders, medical fraternity and youth will be involved in a big way as agents of social change in the campaign. Deterrence (enforcing the law), counseling (community education) peer pressure (holding last rites after abortions to unnerve the family and doctors) and incentives for informers can be used as effective tools to bring about an appreciable change in attitude.
( The author from Kuchmulla Tral writes frequently on social and religious issues. Views are his own, firstname.lastname@example.org)