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HomeCulture & SocietyIndia’s Baby Girls: A Downward Spiraling Number on the Census

India’s Baby Girls: A Downward Spiraling Number on the Census

By Trisha Pande,

Edited by Nandini Bhatia

Indian women seem to bear an additional burden than that of the general problems that women from all over the globe face – in a nation that is up to its neck in poverty but continues to be projected to overtake giants like the USA or China in terms of economic growth, women aren’t spared at the hands of rape, domestic violence, gender inequality, dowry or female infanticide.

The darling baby girl that is born might grow up to become a woman who is subjected to torture by the mindless people that insist on committing crimes that take our country back by a hundred years on the scale of social advancement, but that darling baby girl is so often not even given the right to blink at the world because the cost of bringing her up is just too much.

Because of the alarmingly high rates of both – female infanticide and female foeticide, India faces the problem of having about 50 million more men than women, and these individual atrocities build up unit by unit to reveal an ugly picture – that in too many homes there is too little space for the girl child.
The problem, of course, does not just stop at the fact that parents murder their own child- either due to the crippling burden of poverty or because of the social desirability of having a male child. It goes on and complicates itself into the problem of human trafficking and the kidnapping of girls from other regions because some states have such a deficit of females that most of the ‘eligible’ bachelors have no one to build their married lives with.
There are instances of girls from West Bengal being forcibly taken from near their area of schooling and transported as far as Haryana, leading lives where they are raped repeatedly by men who have decided that they are married.

The onus lies upon society – some part of the problem is not being educated, but when prosperous states like Punjab and Gujarat have sky-high rates of female foeticide, then one can’t entirely blame this problem on the lack of education. The human sex ratio, which is the ratio of the males to the females in a given population, can be taken as a telltale sign of sex-selective abortion. Haryana has an immensely high ratio of 120, and Punjab stands at 118.
These are just numbers in a census survey and they don’t even look as menacing as they should, but these numbers are a wall behind which are the heinous ways and means because of which little girls never see the light of day. Many of those that are allowed to be born have fates that are even worse reserved for them. Their spines are snapped, they are fed with salt, strangled to death by the midwife who is so accustomed to this job that she doesn’t even blink an eye anymore. They are sold to the highest bidder like a commodity in a market when they are only a day old, given away into the arms of the one who has the most money, the most power.

There have been initiatives by the government to try and bring about some form of change – the ‘Baby Cradle’ scheme of 1992 was tried as a pilot in Tamil Nadu – where families that felt burdened by the birth of a girl could leave the baby at a state operated health facility for adoption, and the entire process would be anonymous, in the hope that more people would prefer adoption to murder. Initially deemed a failure because over 1200 cases of female infanticide occurred, the scheme was allowed to go on along with giving money to families who needed it and had been blessed with more than one daughter.

Deep in the heart of Telangana, members of the Lambada community have joined hands with the local non-profit called the ‘Gramya Resource Centre for Women’ and keep a close watch over the girls that attend school, and are alerted if a girl fails to attend school for a period of a few weeks, and start off on a mission to make sure that she has not been sold or married off. They also save victims of trafficking and help them get educated. The best way to curb the problem, they believe, is by providing employment and a means of earning and sustenance for the parents who are left with no option but to find some way of providing for their families because they have no land to toil on or sell.

The Pre-Conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex-Selection) Act of 1994 or the PNDT Act seeks to protect the unborn girl child and aims to prevent the misuse of ultrasound to determine the gender of the child before he or she is born. The illegal sex-selective abortion that many doctors continue to perform has become a gigantic 1,000 crore industry which is an absolutely shameful fact for India.

Doctors, radiologists and parents must be all enlightened towards the equality and impartiality that both genders that develop in the womb must be showered with. The government must look into the issue more closely and be vigilant so as to identify the places that continue to conduct malpractice and not only advise, but aid their patients to take the life of their own children. In terms of female infanticide, parents who do it because of reasons of poverty must be given feasible ways of supporting and maintaining their families. Dowry and the social pressure to produce a boy are both evils that must be challenged by effective information dissemination – by giving the minds of the public a good shaking and making them realise that a bright young girl – she’s equally able and important as a bright little boy.

Trisha Pande is studying Sociology at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, and is eager to work on the field and conduct sociological research. She lives among stacks of books which tell tales from different eras, continents and cultures. Writing has always been an outlet for her; and hopefully it shall forever be able to perform that function. Someday, she hopes to visit the women of Afghanistan, live with them and be able to understand their everyday life.

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