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.