Friday, November 27, 2009
When She cries ... Female Infanticide
Madhu* is a daily wager while working under the hot sun and dust she knows that she has to leave home early with her sum of money. Her 5 year old daughter wants a jeans for her birthday. " Aaj kal ke bacchon ko sirf jeans weans chahiye to dilana to padega na" (today's children desire only jeans now will have to fulfill what she wants) she said resurrecting her assured smile. A few years back she knew how much struggle she had to face just to keep her daughter alive, today she is happy that with her hard work and determination she has not only managed to keep her daughter alive but also given her every basic facility whatever within her capacity. Madhu shudders to think of the day her daughter was born, when she lay on bed weak due to pregnancy watching her mother-in-law picking up the new born and trying to strangulate her. With all her mite she saved her daughter and left her in laws house with her new born and her 4 year old son with the help of an Aangan wadi helper. The struggle didn't stop here, at her father's home her brother refused to take her in, only after her sympathetic parents much request was she let-in. Her in-laws kept harassing her time and again, they wanted their son back but madhu knew she would not give up so soon . After a few months she shifted to the city with her mother and started working as daily wager and house maid. Today after 4 years her ex-husband has married again and she knows she will never be able to give her children their father, yet she is happy she has given her children their life's and that is proud about. There's nothing like living with dignity she knows she was right then and now too.
In another such incident as quoted from Dahlburg, book "Where killing baby girls 'is no big sin'." Lakshmi already had one daughter, so when she gave birth to a second girl, she killed her. For the three days of her second child's short life, Lakshmi admits, she refused to nurse her. To silence the infant's famished cries, the impoverished village woman squeezed the milky sap from an oleander shrub, mixed it with castor oil, and forced the poisonous potion down the newborn's throat. The baby bled from the nose, then died soon afterward. Female neighbors buried her in a small hole near Lakshmi's square thatched hut of sun baked mud. They sympathized with Lakshmi, and in the same circumstances, some would probably have done what she did. For despite the risk of execution by hanging and about 16 months of a much-ballyhooed government scheme to assist families with daughters, in some hamlets of TamilNadu, murdering girls is still sometimes believed to be a wiser course than raising them. "A daughter is always liabilities. How can I bring up a second?" Lakshmi, 28, answered firmly when asked by a visitor how she could have taken her own child's life eight years ago. "Instead of her suffering the way I do, I thought it was better to get rid of her."
Two separate incidents two completely different mothers, how could motherhood distinguish between her girl child and her boy child ??A report states that 300 women die every day during childbirth or of pregnancy-related complications. The country has skewed the world’s sex ratio and the UN estimates 48 million girls have gone “missing” in India. Female foetus are either aborted or murdered immediately after birth. In India from several years we have witnessed the same situation , over and over again little babies are killed just when they breathe there first breath. The only thing that has changed is the process and the means in which the death of the new born is executed but not the mindset. Decades before the parents waited until the mother gives birth, and when they find out that a daughter is born, they go ahead and kill the baby by adopting various means such as strangling the baby, giving her poison, dumping her in a garbage bin, drowning her, burying her alive, starving her, stuffing her mouth with salt, or leaving her outdoors overnight so she dies of exposure. Today also the rural areas don't go for sex detection methods they prefer the child to be born and be killed, but now they are afraid of being caught. So from a quick and relatively painless procedure, it had turned into a prolonged and torturous one. "Now they are afraid of detection," said Mary* , a public health nurse. "If someone registers a case of suspected infanticide and the body is exhumed, the 'old' methods of killing can be detected." As a result, modern methods had evolved. The newborn was deliberately weakened and dehydrated by its own parents. They did this by wrapping it in a wet towel or dipping it in cold water soon after delivery or as soon as it came home from hospital. If it was still alive after a few hours, it was taken to a doctor who diagnosed pneumonia and prescribed medicines. The prescription was carefully preserved, but the medicines were never bought. When the child finally died, the parents had a medical certificate to prove pneumonia. Sometimes, the infant was fed a drop of alcohol to create diarrhea. Another certifiable 'disease'.
Urban areas are no far behind although they might not kill the girl after it is born, they do try to determine the sex of the foetus. They very well do know it is illegal and doctor's are not permitted to do so but for a little more money doctor's do do it. A sex determination scan can cost anything from Rs 300 upwards. The whole package, including abortion of the female foetus, costs about Rs 7,000. This luxury is not afforded by the poor so they prefer to kill the child after its birth. This ubiquitous scan is responsible for the mass massacre of female foetuses in Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana. Today several villages in these areas have no woman at all, several of them where woman haven't been born in decades. Stories echo that the direct result of female infanticide is the amplification of trading of poor girls. One such media record from Bhuwaneshwar recorded driven by acute poverty, a dalit mother in Orissa sold her 20-day-old daughter to a neighbour for Rs 600.
Gauri* a village midwife who had witnessed the killing of many female infants. Her job, she said, was only to deliver the baby. What they did with it was a family decision. Giving a perfect explanation as to why more girl babies were getting killed every year. She said "The value of a girl goes down every time the value of gold goes up." Where the daughter's life is spared, parents often neglect her and expect her to work around the house serving her brothers and father. Girls are rarely sent to school, and if they are, they are removed after a few years of education and put to work - perhaps sent to cities to work as maids in homes, and send back money earned by them. The scene in cities is no different where somehow or the other a girl child is bound to live by the fences of her home, riches hasn't changed anything rather enhanced the percentage of dowry to be given. Even today men are believed to be the bread earners and contributors to their parents family where as the women are considered as liability who will leave the home once married so even if they earn, it will be enjoyed by her in-laws and not her family. In short doing anything for the girl child is much of a waste.
The WEF report ranked India 121st in terms of the education gap between genders. Deep-rooted prejudices against female children, low enrolment of girls in school, child labour, high dropout rates for girls and poor infrastructure were said to be the main factors.Only 36 per cent of women, compared to 85 per cent of men, were in the workforce. Women made up only 3 per cent of senior officers and managerial positions. Experts say gender inequality is harming the prospect of continued rapid economic growth. Chanda Kochchar, the Managing director & CEO of ICICI Bank, said the labour potential of women could greatly add to the economic strength of India.
“If the ratio of working women goes up to 50 per cent in next 20 years, we will be adding 0.5 per cent to our GDP every year,” she said.
Although it is much easier to highlight the problem and tougher to solve it, the mindset hasn't changed for ages but the beginning like Madhu is on the way. We need to understand that there's something fundamentally wrong with the society that considers the superiority of males on accounting his physical strength and considers woman weak, submissive and sacrificial. We need to begin from home teach our kids that there's no difference between girl and a boy and stop impelling girls masking her security, boys have no special rights that a girl cannot enjoy. But the dilemma is who is to blame for this the mother who kills the child in agreement with her family members? or the society that even today leaves no stoned upturned to prove that men are better ? Will punishment to this crime eliminate the problem or will it keep on aggravating?? issues unsolved and unresolved...... May be in near future we will truly need men to have wombs to carry babies. We would have no Mother's left.
( *Names changed to protect identity )
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