International Girl Child Day : 24th September 2011


Come October and it’s that time of the year again when celebrations are on in full swing as we get ready to welcome Goddess Durga into our lives… With Durga Pooja we welcome Goddess Durga into our lives with great fervor. In fact though the festival is synonymous with West Bengal, Durga Pooja is celebrated across the country with great fervor, a time to invoke the blessings of Lakshmi, Saraswati, Uma, Parvati, Kali Jagatmata and many more Goddesses.

In fact in India through time immoral, the Goddess has been worshiped and portrayed as the Mother of the Universe, with powers to create and destroy the universe. Why then in this land of ‘Lakshmi / Saraswati/ Durga…’ do we treat out little goddesses the way we do?…

24th September 2011 is being celebrated across the globe as ‘International Girl Child Day’ … and what is shocking is …a search on the same topic on any search engine sites and India will have the same result… most headlines screaming out ‘Nothing to celebrate on Girl Child Day’.

Known globally for having one of the worst gender ratios, while earlier one would read up on how young girls were ‘taken care’ of by their parents by giving them away in child marriages,  today determining the sex of an unborn child via amniocentesis and ultrasound have worsened the situation leading to rampant female foeticide.

As per the latest Census for the year 2011, the total female sex ratio in India is 940 per 1000 males and the female child sex ratio is 944 girl children per every 1000 boy children of the same age group. Quite alarming are the figures seen in some of its states and union territories; a table here shows the bottom five states/ Union Territories and their declining female sex ratio

 Serial No.  State/UT  Female sex ration as per Census 2011
1 Haryana 877
2 NCT of Delhi 866
3 Chandigarh 818
4 Dadra & Nagar Haveli 775
5 Daman in Daman & Diu 618

The situation is far worse when it comes to the rural child sex ratio in India, with the results for the Census 2011 showing a further dip in the rural child sex ratiodeclining from 927 in 2001 to 914 in 2011. Amongst the Union Territories of the country, the rural areas of Andaman and Nicobar islands registered the highest child sex ratio at 975, and the shocking fact was that the nation’s capital Delhi registered the lowest number at 809. While amongst India’s states, the prevalent rural child sex ratio were highest in Meghalaya and Chattisgarh, both states having registered a rural child sex ratio of 972, Haryana has the lowest ratio of 831.

Reasons behind female foeticide vary from socio economic conditions to personal preferences, religion, dowry, etc with male children being preferred over females. Many religions do not permit a female child to perform last rights of the soul of the departed parent, with many religious places of worship  not even permitting women to enter. According to Manusmriti (the Laws of Manu) an ideal woman is represented as an obedient and submissive person, always needing the care of a male: first father, then husband, then son.

While amniocentesis was introduced in 1975 to enable foetal abnormalities to be detected, the medical tool too was abused by many to determine the baby’s sex. In fact many posters have been found outside clinics NOT JUST VILLAGES BUT INDIA’S METROPOLITAN CITIES shamelessly advertising the slogan ‘It is better to pay Rs.500 now than Rs.50,000  (in dowry) later!’ It is shocking that there’s hardly any stringent action been taken against these clinics.

The Pre- Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act was enacted by the Government in 1994, and came into effect in 1996. The state of affairs has hardly witnessed any major improvements with many private clinics still providing sex determination test.

In 2007, newspapers reports literally ‘unearthed’ how many of these private clinics were rampantly aborting female fetuses. The story broke out after reports came in of over 40 female fetuses found dumped into an abandoned well. Later over 132 bags of decomposing human remains were found thus exposing the truth. In the words of Dr. Mishra “Femur, skull, forearm – probably. We are pretty sure these are all female, aborted at about five months which is the legal limit,” “You can say it was a hidden mass grave.” Many experts estimate India has lost around 10 million girls in the past 20 years due to female foeticide. The United Nations says an estimated 2,000 unborn girls are illegally aborted every day in India.

While abortions cannot alone be blamed for the highly skewed sex ratio, child marriages leading to early pregnancies and birth related deaths and dowry deaths too are to be blamed for the decline in the female ratio.

Another shocking expose was reported earlier in June 2011, about how baby girls were being ‘converted’ into boys in Indore by the hundreds every year, at ages where they are unable to give their consent by a life-changing operation called genitoplasty, and their tender bodies pumped with hormonal treatment (part of the procedure); a surgery which would ensure a family a boy at just 1.5 lakhs!

There have been cases of divorce if a woman delivers a girl child. Baby girls are abandoned in dustbins and at times, killed at birth, without the mother’s consent.

Another shocking fact is from the many genitoplasty experts of Indore interviews, each of them claim to have converted 200 to 300 girls into ‘boys’.

Something the law has not yet caught up to. While some claim they have done the operation on children whose internal organs do not match their external genitalia, there is no system to monitor the claims made by the surgeons.

From women being thrown out of their marital homes in many cases by the mother in law herself for giving birth to a female child to female infants being found abandoned in dustbins, or denying the girl child a right to education, a s India gets ready to participate in the ‘International Girl Child Day’ this 24th September, maybe we should really think hard and WONDER WHAT WE ARE REALLY CELEBRATING!!

And take a Pledge that by 24th September 2012, we will have made an about turn and finally have something to really celebrate!!


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