Monday, May 2, 2011

No society can survive without women, the practice of female foeticide not only is a violation of human rights but also puts a question mark on our integrity as humans writes Salman Nizami .

As one grows through the difficult experiences ofpuberty, enjoying the liberty of education, exploring the joys of woman hood, it is nauseating to know that someone will never feel the thrill of dancing in the first shower of rain, never breathe the air of freedom, will never be the person she could have been, without any fault of hers but only because she was a girl, a woman in the making. Once in our lives, most of us must have heard that a child is a ‘gift’ from God. Though whatever biology may suggest, it is not an uncommon sight in Kashmir to see couples praying to be blessed with a child. But almost half of Kashmir, no longer considers it a blessing if that child happens to be a girl. The blessing soon becomes a curse and the ‘precious gift’ is done away with as soon as possible before extending another demand to God, that of a ‘male’ child. The doing away often includes either being ‘given’ in marriage to another toddler (orin some cases, to men twice or even thrice their age) or worse, slaying her even before she can take one free breath. Of late, technology seems to have facilitated this diabolical slaughter even before the birth of the child in the form of female foeticide.

Female foeticide is a practice that involves pre-natal sex determination and a subsequent abortion if the sex of the foetus isfemale. While the methods of detection may vary from amniocentesis and chronic villus sampling to ultrasonography, the reasons often cited are family pressure, the ‘expenditure’ required for having a girl child ( an obvious reference to dowry that would be necessary for the future marriage) and the perennial desire of the patriarchal society to have a son, an heir, a successor. The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice but conformity. So people who don’t dare to carry this ‘burden’ often end up conforming to the ludicrous norms.

The sex ratio in Kashmir for the age group six and below has become skewed sharply against the girl child, reinforcing suspicions of female children ‘vanishing’ in the valley. From a healthy ratio in 2001 of more than 1,000 girls for every 1,000 boys in six districts of the valley, all the ten districts in the region this time have shown the numbers going down to fewer than 900 girls for every 1,000 boys in this age category. This is surprising because abortion does not have religious or social sanction in the region, where Muslims are dominant in numbers.The sharp downward trend has taken the overall sex ratio in the state for this age group from 941 in 2001 to 859 in 2011. The gender ratio for the overall population in the state has gone against the national trend, with the state having only 883 females for 1,000 males from 891 reported in 2001, and the country reporting an improvement to 940 from 933.“In 2001 six districts out of 10 (in Kashmir) had more than 1,000 girls for 1,000 boys. Today the very same districts are 100-150 points down. Pulwama in south Kashmir, which ranked third in the sex ratio in 2001 with 1,046 girls for every 1,000 boys born, has gone down to 836 girl children for 1,000 boys,” said Chander Shekhar Sapru, joint chief principal census officer, Jammu and Kashmir. The situation is worse in the Jammu region, however, Samba district there has the lowest girl-child ratio in the state at an alarming 787. Jammu district is also precariously placed at 795. “Jammu and Samba districts have been cause for concern and the trend is continuing in the current census also, but Kashmir, which seemed untouched by female foeticide, is cause for worry,” Sapru added. More shocking still is the fact that this trend is far stronger in urban than rural areas and among the literate than the illiterate, exploding the myth that education and affluence will help to eradicate gender bias. (Even some tribal areas are much better off than cities as far as sex ratios are concerned). Though the government enacted the Pre- Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act in1994, which came into force in 1996, situation far from improving, further worsened. A concomitant rise in the number of private clinics providing sex determination test was seen as a result of banning such practices in government hospitals, with even farmers with marginal incomes willing to take loans at 25 percent interest to have the test. Before the Act was amended in 2003, the technology had already reached even in areas which do not have potable water. As a result, the sex ratio recorded in India in 2001 in children was 927 females per 1000 males as compared to 1961 when it is 976 females per 1000 males. UN reports reveal that between 35 to 40 million girls missing from the Indian population.It is appalling to see in what is still considered one of the noblest professions, doctors participating in this illegal and inhuman money making venture, completely ignoring their ethical duties. Often the result such detections is subtly conveyed with a nod for a boy or a shake of the head or a grimace for a girl, as if she is an incoming catastrophe. It is ironic to see that maximum sex- selective abortions are performed by lady doctors. Even more disheartening is the fact that women agree (whatever may be their justification) to undergo a sex – selective abortion knowingly contributing to the depletion of their own sex. While an abortion is understandable for medical reasons or keeping a small family, it’s absolutely incomprehensible that a child is aborted only because it is a girl. Though female foeticide had entered the lexicon of feminist struggle long back yet the fight still continues. It is a subject of grave concern especially when there is a vocal and influential school of thought that justifies selective abortion of female foetuses. Though the matter has been brought up now and then, this issue needs to be taken more seriously than ever and it needs be rewritten and revocalized until it the dogmatic mind set of people undergoes a change. Apart from the looking into factors responsible for female foeticide like low status of women insociety and dowry, one also needs to be vigilant and brave enough to speak against this evil if one witnesses or comes to know about it. Also a more scientific approach towards things is required and the forestalling religious and cultural beliefs need to be replaced by rationality. No society can survive without women. The practice of femalefoeticide not only is a violation of human rights but also puts a question mark on our integrity as humans. It stagnates our growth as people. If the patriarchal society has made the rules then they can surely be reworked. Why do we need to have different attitudes towards men and women? Why can’t they just be treated as individuals and valued for their worth? Her every unformed limb is battling for her rights, her every stifled cry begs for freedom and her every unsung death mourns the dilatory demise of humanity.

Salman Nizami is a Journalist working on the effects of kashmir conflict on the masses and can be mailed

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