Female Feticide

The tradition of male preference with its deadly and cruel versions of female infanticide and disrespect of girls and their needs has been apparent throughout the subcontinent for centuries.

For as long as anyone can remember, a mother whose intrinsic desire it is to guard and nurture her newborn daughter has been forced by her family, her village, her culture – our society! – to violate her conscience, her womanhood and the very nature of her being as a mother … by taking the life she has brought forth. Simply because it is like her. A female.

For decades, our government has tried to stem the flow of our baby girls‘ blood in the rural areas of our country where the murder of newborn girls is rampant. Village mothers have been threatened, arrested, charged with murder and even imprisoned for committing female infanticide … all the while having us wonder whether they aren‘t just as much the victim as the culprit.

Tremendous efforts have been made by scores of social workers to bring relief and the perspective of life for our next generation of girls. We have sought to empower women economically, to educate them and even bait them with financial support in return for keeping their daughters. But the last decades have shown with appalling clarity that the much hoped for effect on women in our society has not crystallized and the way they view themselves and their daughters cannot be altered by offering education, economic empowerment and a higher living standard.

As the thought of cruel backward rituals of female infanticide offends our sense of decency, our progressive country‘s focus in this matter has been on these cases of lethal acts toward our newborn girls.

When actually for decades a far more insidious threat has loomed on the horizon of India‘s future – a threat that permeates the very spheres of our society that were deemed safe from ancient discriminations and suppressive traditions toward girls and women. The Child Sex Ratio (CSR) of our recent population census of 2001 and 2011 shows an alarming distortion progressing in favor of the male child.

According to Radhika Kaul Batra, senior advocacy officer at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), anything below a CSR of 950 (950 girls per 1000 boys) indicates some kind of anti-female intervention.

But female infanticide has been an integral part of India‘s culture for centuries!

Why are the CSRs normal or just slightly skewed up to the 1991 census, already noticeably deteriorating in 2001 and alarmingly distorted in 2011?

As Lakshmi, a mother in a rural village of Tamil Nadu who already has one daughter, points out to us: „It is all very well for the town people to speak. They can afford to have themselves tested by machines and kill the girl child even when it is in the womb. In what way is that less of a crime?“

“They can afford. They can afford. They can afford …”

An ominous echo heralding a new age of contempt for the female gender. A sound slowly building until its clanging roar has even our politicians in despair: „Indian women are more endangered than tigers!“, Renuka Choudhary, Minister for Women and Child Welfare, lamented in January of 2006.

Yes, „they can afford“ – Our educated, financially well-situated urban women can afford an ultrasound scan during their pregnancy.

They can afford to find the right doctor who will be willing to break the law to disclose the gender of their unborn child.

They can afford to have a sex-selective abortion.

What they cannot afford is to choose life for their second, third or fourth daughter.

They cannot afford to confront their husbands, in-laws and society with their wish to keep their female baby.

In a family that only plans for a maximum of two children, these women cannot afford to have more than one daughter.

The sheer magnitude of this new wave of female elimination has far surpassed our expectations, has caught our beloved country off guard and left India with millions of her daughters missing, carelessly cast out in her clinics‘ refuse bins.

Dr. Sabu George has over 30 years of field experience and has been studying female foeticide, female infanticide, and the malnutrition and neglect of female children extensively.

He urges: „If we do not stop [the] medical malpractice [of sex-selective abortions] immediately, there won‘t be any women left. We have no time. It has to be done at once.“

This was ten years ago in 2006.

Since then, India has seen 15.6 million foetuses aborted every year. A vast number of them female.

Surveys in Mumbai have shown that upon disclosure of the unborn‘s gender 95% of the couples expecting a girl will opt for a sex-selective abortion while 100% of the unborn boys – every single one – will be carried to term.

The philosophy of the superiority of men on the one hand and women as a liability of lesser worth on the other is present in all villages, districts, cities and states of our beautiful country. It permeates the mentality of all tribes, people groups, professions and castes of our society.

And as we know, out of a people‘s philosophy is born its world view.

And the way a civilisation views itself and its individual members in turn determines its behavior.

Our culture‘s disregard for the female gender – the women who still constitute nearly half of our society – has gained India notoriety throughout the world.

The father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi Ji, once said: „The greatness of a nation is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”

“The greatness of a nation is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”

Without even a hint of hesitation we can state that the weakest members of our society – of every civilization – are and will always be those who cannot speak for themselves.

Those whose voices cannot and will not be heard.

These voiceless ones are the unborn children in their mothers‘ wombs.

Although their vocal chords function perfectly even at the young age of twelve weeks and can be seen in ultrasound scans to vibrate in frantic screams during abortion procedures, they die without a single sound reaching their mothers‘ ear.

Hidden from view and surrounded by amniotic fluid, their mothers‘ wombs become these female foetuses‘ tombs.

Who will raise their voice for these weakest members of our society?

Even those fortunate girls who are allowed to live need our voice to be heard:

Our voice telling them they are an integral part of our society, every bit as valuable as their male counterparts.

Our voice telling them they deserve to be treated with equal respect, provision, opportunities and care.

Our voice strengthening the resolve of mothers unwilling to violate their daughters‘ right to life.

Our voice being heard alongside these mothers in dire need of support from someone … Is there anyone?

Our voice raised in a society that is failing half of its members – reminding, admonishing and decrying the insupportable state of this system.

Who will stand up for these weakest members of our society?

The injustice toward girls and women surrounds us at every turn, seeping out of every crack in our flawed system, oozing its sickening mentality into all areas of society until one day soon we could be left without a future to stand up for.

Dr. Sabu George‘s admonition should startle us all and have us scrambling out of our comfortable chairs and offices – „We have no time.“ …

That is certainly what happened to us here at Life for All in Coimbatore.

As a result we:

Educate Indian society of the imperative need for a balanced demography in our country. Since its inception in 2009 Life for All has been sharing this critical message with pregnant women, village communities, medical practitioners, spiritual leaders, legal professionals and students. To date we have reached more than 75,000 people, many of them opinion leaders.

Shelter pregnant ladies who are pressured, abused by or expulsed from their families in our Life Center in Tamil Nadu.

We have watched these ladies positively alter not only their own lives and those of their families but impact the villages and communities to which they return.

We see inner healing from the traumatic effects previous abortions have had on them.

We see self-assurance, a new strength and wholeness in them as they embrace their lives as women and as mothers of daughters – empowered to be just that: the proud and loving mother of a daughter.

But we have not only seen individual lives change through our work but hospitals rethinking their philosophy and approach to feticide through abortion.

The giant of female feticide is devouring our future at an alarming rate, all the while mocking our inability to grasp the magnitude of the consequences.

Our idleness can cost us our future.

Not only our girls‘ futures, so much is obvious –

Inactivity at a time like this can cost us India‘s future.

Because „we“ – simply – „have no time.“

We have no time to lose.

If you are pregnant and need help, please contact us here. We are here to help you!