“A cute smile, warm eyes
Little hands and fairy feet
I’d hoped one day I’ll have
Waiting in your womb
I didn’t see the knife coming
Mom, why was I stabbed?”
That must be the question thousands of unborn girls must be yearning to ask their parents…
Technically, female foeticide is defined as aborting the female foetus after sex determination test or pre-natal diagnostic test which includes:
3) Placental tissue sampling
In simple words, it is nothing but wanton killing of girls even before they are born. What fuels this desire? Why do people not want girls? Do we not call them ‘lakshmi’ in the Indian tradition? Then why do people do it? Who does it? Who helps them along? The questions are endless…the answers slow in coming.
The problem of female foeticide is not new to India. It is infact older than the country in years. It began way back in the pre- independence era. A girl child has always been thought of as a burden. Her birth is rarely celebrated. Her life, if she gets one, is littered with thorns… why?
This trend originally started in parts of Northern India like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. From there, it spread like a virus to the rest of the country. Today, only a few states like Andhra Pradesh are untouched by this evil.
If we look at the child sex ratios over the past few years, we’ll see a surprising trend. This ratio gives us the number of girls born for every thousand boys born in the country.
In the 2001 census, the highest child sex ratio has been reported in Mizoram (971 females against 1000 males) and Meghalaya (970).
Notably, Punjab and Haryana, which have traditionally seen low sex ratio, have recorded an increasing trend but still remained at the bottom of the list. Haryana has 830 female children and Punjab 846 against per 1000 male child.
Haryana's Jhajjar (774 females) and Mahendragarh (778 females) districts have the lowest sex ratio while Lahul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh has the highest sex ratio (1,013 females).
In the 2011 census, Kerala with 1084 has the highest sex ratio followed by Puducherry with 1038. Daman and Diu has the lowest sex ratio of 618.
These statistics give us a peek only into the number of girls born…what about those who couldn’t make it into this world? If official figures are to be believed, around 3 crore girls have been aborted…but trust me, this number must be way more in reality.
So who does it? Is it the uneducated, lower income group or people like us? People who have all the comforts and luxuries in the world? People who are well- educated and should, ideally, not discriminate against unborn girls on basis of gender? It is the latter. How do you think pre-natal sex determination to be possible without the use of the latest technology and money? It obviously cannot happen without an organized sector involving medical experts, business enterprises and of course, couples craving for boys. Yes, that is what it is- a multi-million industry with no limits on the profits. (I’m sometimes surprised how we can come up with such impressively objective definitions and terms.)
Over the past decades various NGOs like Jagruti, Centre of Social Research and Naari Sudhaar Andolan have taken up this cause. Then be it through street plays like Apoorn, candle light vigils, silent marches, campaigns, sloganeering, fasts and dharnas...they have tried to get the message across. Thousands of activists have given their life for this issue. But has it really had any effect? Have we really learnt a lesson? No…why else would such cases still be reported then?
In the recent uproar over the issue, everybody missed one point though… female foeticide is not always done under pressure. Women do abort their girls willingly. And it is generally not because of medical reasons or because giving birth to a girl is a way too expensive affair for them. Why do they do it then? Being females themselves, why do they deny life to another girl?
The reasons are numerous…from a simple craving for a boy to societal norms and pressures. The perpetrators of this crime have a zillion excuses for their deed. But then, if you listen to their reasoning, you’ll be forced to think are they really wrong? In the words of the woman who does our laundry:
"The government does support birth-control measures. How is this any different? Is aborting only a female foetus a crime?"
The more we think of it, the more we get entangled in this web of questions. It’ll take us sometime to answer those million un-answered voices…