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Female foeticide;Woman should have fundamental right to decide which pregnancy to carry!

Female foeticide;Woman should have fundamental right to decide which pregnancy to carry!

The obsession for son in preference to a girl child has been rampant in India for several generations, because it believes that boys are more useful to society and to their parents. It has resulted in several problems. Female foeticide is one such grave social problem arising out of the so-called “traditional thoughts” of our society. Illegal abortion of the female foetus is done due to family pressure from in-laws, husband or the woman’s parents. Female feticide– is killing upwards of one million females in India annually with far-ranging and tragic consequences. Resultantly, sex ratio in India is abysmally low of 927 girls to every 1000 boys at the national level and about 800 in some areas of Punjab and Haryana. Experts warn that the demographic crisis will lead to increasing sexual violence and abuse against women and female children, trafficking, increasing number of child marriages, increasing maternal deaths due to abortions and early marriages and increase in practices like polyandry. The mindset of ‘boy’ continues even in the modern society and educated parents. The girl children have been killed at various stages of their lives by their own parents. With the advent of technology, some doctors have also been roped in to assist the parents in their nefarious designs, despite the laws to the contrary. This process began in the early 1990s when ultrasound techniques gained widespread use. Earlier, there was a tendency for families to continuously produce children until a male child was born. Now the unwanted pregnancy is surgically terminated for various reasons, especially the gender selection.  PCPNDT Act forbids such surgical procedures or even determination of the sex of the unborn children as per the amendment of 2003. Salient features of the amendment included pre conception sex selection   bringing ultrasound in its ambit and empowering authorities with the power of search, seizure and sealing the machines and equipments of the violators.  While the Act has not really helped to save many girls it has been often used to harass private doctors to settle scores or to get the palms greased. Since wealth, social mobility and conventional education have not led to a change in male-dominated hierarchies, greater effort needs to be made to challenge patriarchal concepts. The focus of restoring the gender ratio needs to be shifted from the doctors to society at large.

How to change the mindset of society at large?

In a complete reversal of the government strategy to fight female foeticide, Union women and child development minister said recently, at a conference in Jaipur ‘there is a need to  lift the two-decade-old ban on sex determination of the foetus and making the process mandatory to prevent female foeticide. This will ensure institutional deliveries and virtually abolish the practice of home deliveries. Home deliveries pose a threat to a newborn as there might be an attempt on its life’, she said. She further said there have been instances of influential people getting sonographies done and pregnancies terminated despite the ban, resulting in avoidable action against doctors involved in the process. There’s no point in increasing the number of people in prisons, which are already overburdened’, she said. While doctors have heaved a sigh of relief, media and activists opposed the idea. Some of them opine ‘With poor health infrastructure, especially in rural India, institutional deliveries are not likely to be available to all.  Women are not cattle, their pregnancies cannot be tracked. Maneka Gandhi, should know babies are born in the fields, on pavements and in homes in India, how can all pregnancies be registered, mandatory scans done and female foeticide prevented?. Moreover, a mandatory registration of pregnancy violates a woman’s dignity and privacy. Is it practical to provide institutional deliveries to all the women of the country or even register each pregnancy and conduct ultrasound test on all’? They ask. “It is a good thing expected to happen in future”, commented Indian medical association and several individual doctors.

 It is woman’s fundamental right to be or not be the beast of the burden!

The impression going round is that it is doctors greed, which is responsible for the skewed ratio. However, no doctor will feel happy in performing illegal abortion or other acts that are contrary to law or welfare of the humanity.  Raising fingers at doctors’ professional income or mocking at earning their livelihood shows bias against the profession. Doctors have been neither instigators nor solicitors of sex selection or female foeticide , but in the process got a bad name always. Entire burden of restoring gender ratio seems to have been shifted to medical professionals. Doctors alone are neither capable  nor responsible for improving the ratio of females’ verses males! In this context what needs to be further said and done is that ‘every woman should have a fundamental right to decide ‘which pregnancy to continue and which one to terminate on demand. Doctors or law should not curb this fundamental right. There is a need to enact a law by the Parliament making it a fundamental right of women, since they are the beasts of burden. There should be no criminalization of  termination of pregnancy if the same is got done after due consideration by the parents and doctors. After all it is the parents who have to look after the child, and if an unwanted child whether male or female, is to be brought up, how difficult would it be? The emphasis on family planning has to increase and parents educated about the benefits of fewer children. Parents need to be further enlightened about the benefits of rearing healthy children irrespective of the gender. Government should give more incentives to the parents of girl children.


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