India, with 1,270,272,105 (1.27 billion) people is the second most populated country in the world, whereas China is at the apex with over 1,360,044,605 (1.36 billion). In India, we have only 940 females per 1,000 males. Kerala with 1058 females per 1000 males is the state with the highest female sex ratio. Pondicherry (1001) is second, whereas Chhattisgarh (990) and Tamil Nadu (986) are at third and fourth places respectively. Haryana with 861 has hit the rock bottom with the lowest female sex ratio. (Source http://www.indiaonlinepages.com/)
Abortion is legal in India, pre-natal sex determination isn’t. However finding somebody to do it for you is also not a herculean task. There are many doctors and clinics willing to do it. And if it is a girl then there are other things to be taken care of. Families across India prefer a male progeny to a female one. This prejudice is ingrained in our society and culture and is the reason of the declined sex-ratio in India.
Today some of the key reason, why families prefer a boy are as follows:
- The fear of dowry. Demanding for dowry is a crime, but it happens anyway. So instead of abhorring this practice, people find it easier to just kill the girl child.
- The fact that a girl is “paraya dhan” and will soon be off to her in-law’s place and also that she will not continue the family name or lineage
- The fact that she can’t economically support her parents and the family and play the role of the bread-earner of the family
- Also that she will not be there to look after her parents in their old age and light their funeral pyre
Female infanticide is the selective abortion/elimination of the girl child in the womb itself, done consciously by the mother, after the detection of the child’s gender through illegal and illegitimate medical means like Ultrasound. This is typically done under family pressure from the husband or the in-laws or even the woman’s parents. Like many societies around the world, India too is patriarchal in nature. The fanatic obsession with the male sex, though, is one of a kind. This aversion to girl-child not only is making the sex-ratio rapidly decline but is also the cause of many other deaths. The pressure to give birth to a boy often leads to suicides and murder attempts by the in-laws, which are often sadly successful. To all those ignorant ones out there, it is not in the hands of a woman to choose or influence the sex of her unborn baby. Rather it is the male counterpart who is responsible for this. Let me elucidate this further: The XX and XY chromosomes are the pair of chromosomes that determine the sex of an unborn child. The male gametes or sperm cells are heterogametic and contain two types of sex chromosomes; they are either X or Y. Whereas, female gametes or eggs contain only the X sex chromosome and are homogametic. If a sperm cell containing an X chromosome fertilizes an egg, the ensuing zygote will be XX or female. If the sperm cell contains a Y chromosome, then the ensuing zygote will be XY or male. So, it all depends on whether an X or a Y chromosome from the man fertilizes the egg. Stop blaming the women for it!
India’s legal framework undertakes to provide equal rights for all, notwithstanding gender. In practice, however, the state of affairs is completely different. Strong male preference, with the acute consequence of elimination of the girl child, has continued to increase instead of decreasing with the spread of education and economic development. The Legal initiatives taken to keep a check on the declining sex-ratio are as follows:
Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994.The PCPNDT act was enacted in 1994,but came into force in 1996,all over India. It aims to prohibit and regulate pre-natal and pre-conception diagnostic techniques.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act,1971. The MTP act was enacted in 1971 and came into force in the year 1972.This act clearly states the conditions under which a pregnancy may be aborted or terminated. (Abortion in India is legal only up to twenty weeks of pregnancy under detailed conditions and circumstances)
The Dowry Prohibition Act. This act prohibits the request, payment or acceptance of a dowry, demanded or given as a precondition for a marriage. According to this act, the accused is punishable with imprisonment for a term not than five years, and with fine not less than fifteen thousand rupees or the amount of the value of such dowry, whichever is more.
For a country where women are raised to pedestals as Devis and welcomed as “Laxmi”, this is indeed a sad state of affairs. It is not easy to change the mindset and attitude of the people overnight but it is not impossible either. Make an initiative to make people realize that girls are not a bane rather a boon. Make an initiative to save the girl child!