Friday, June 8, 2012

Dowry and Killing the Girl child - Make the connection. Stop the practice

It turns out that they are not just killing them in the womb any more.

In the past few months, cases of absolute brutality have surfaced against toddlers - 2.5 year old Tara who eventually died from her injuries, 3 month old Afreen who was admitted in a Bangalore hospital and who also succumbed to her injuries and more recently, Shireen eighteen months old from Indore who was brutally beaten by an adult...all girls.

Recently the government crack down on Sex Determination (under the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 (PNDT), as amended in 2002) by nursing homes, hospitals and clinics (yes, including those that exist in bye-lanes and hidden corners) has made news in all leading newspapers, as some very renowned hospitals were also caught revealing the sex of the unborn child to parents.

Suddenly I found hospitals put up boards to announce that the practice of sex determination is illegal and they wouldn't indulge in it. The crackdown perhaps helped more girl children to come into this world, but the fact remains that many of them are unwelcome and undesired.

There is a deep malaise in the core of the very fabric of our society that looks upon the birth of a boy as a cause for celebration and of a girl as cause for unhappiness.

Because boys ensure the continuance of family lineage with their precious XY Chromosome and girls...well...girls only end up getting married the cost of which has to be borne by the parents.

The absurd reality of the culture that India is so famous for in Western countries is not lost on parents who have girls of 'marriageable' age and whose biggest concern and perhaps life's biggest achievement and expenditure would be to ensure that the girls are married off with as much pomp and gaiety as they can afford.

Being rich or poor has nothing to do with it. The pressure on parents who have a daughter is immense since the demands of the "marriage market" keep increasing by the day.

From having weddings at resorts, to designer clothes to diamond jewellery, the average cost of hosting a 'simple' wedding ranges from 45 - 150 million rupees based on which segment of society you belong to. Most parents go beyond their financial capacities to host a "good wedding", in other words, satisfy the groom's and his parent's demands, because of the deep rooted belief that money can go a long way in ensuring the happiness of the wedlock.

While you would expect that girls, with a rise in education, employment opportunities and increase in awareness, would be keen on curbing practices that virtually entrap their parents, the fact is that nothing has changed. If anything the scenario has only changed for the worse.

Girls themselves want fairytale weddings. They are unwilling to compromise on the "best" money can buy/they can afford for their big day and succumb to the pressures of the wedding hullabaloo.

Couples who seek to get married with the concurrence of their parents (read: love matches as opposed to arranged), also expect the parents to bear the cost of the wedding. From fancy locations, to hiring specialised photographers and wedding planners, the concept of a 'simple' wedding no longer exists.

And that’s the reason why couples even from affluent families are scared of having more than one daughter. And if another is on the way, she is simply killed in the womb to ensure that the burden is not theirs to bear. Lately what is being witnessed is also that even if she is born, her life is nothing short of living hell.

I've written about this before and it still pains me to know that my own cousins sisters are being put through the ignominy of aborting female foetuses to fulfill the desire to have a male child/heir. Many of my cousins brothers have forced their wives to it too.

Doesn’t this act of absolute brutality diminish the lines that distinguish us from animals?

It has been suggested by law makers that the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1986, must carry the mandatory provision of consent of the mother for aborting the foetus. But such amendments to existing laws are useless as perpetrators do not seek refuge under the provisos of law. Instead they find a nursing home in the next bye-lane that will bend the rules for monetary benefits. Moreover, women, even in rich families, are not emancipated enough to go against the decision of the elders or the husband.

The discrimination girls in India face has to do with cultural beliefs and social norms. Until we challenge these norms, no legislation can stop the selective murders of the girl child, either in the womb or after her birth. 

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