cross posted at Bread and Roses: Front Page
India is proposing to register all women who are pregnant. This ostensibly is being done in order to curb the number of female fetuses being aborted and to help stop the number of female child infanticides.
Currently up to 500,000 female fetuses are being aborted yearly. The preference for boys has “[…]reduced the number of girls per 1,000 boys from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001.” ((http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/07/14/ap3914376.html))
Boys tend to be preferred because they carry on the family name. But families here also fear the financial burden of girls – when it comes time to pay huge traditional dowries to their daughters’ future husbands upon marriage. ((http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/2007-03/2007-03-05-voa17.cfm))
Until there is a change in the way females are viewed societally, the attempt to limit abortions will only result in more female children suffering. As they are more likely to be killed at birth and less likely to receive the same care in feeding and medical attention and less likely to receive education.
There are many mitigating circumstances in the law that permit a woman to have an abortion. Rape is one, the inability of an unmarried woman to care for a child is another. Any pregnancy that causes mental anguish to a woman can be legally terminated even against medical advice. The minister ought to be looking at the root cause of female foeticide, not try to enter a personal domain. ((http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?id=db8deabe-930d-40d9-8f91-c02f151bc8ff&&Headline=Getting+up+close+and+far+too+personal))
Limiting abortion will increase the number of pregnancy related illnesses and very likely the maternal death rate as women carry more pregnancies without more access to medical care.
According to the UNICEF, India accounts for almost 20 per cent of the world’s maternal mortality cases. ((http://www.timesnow.tv/Sections/Sports/Govt_to_monitor_pregnancies/articleshow/2201091.cms))
Not only would the task of monitoring all pregnancies be almost impossible, there would need to be very careful monitoring of who is doing the monitoring. Miscarriages and still births could turn innocent women into suspected criminals, particularly if the fetus/child is female. As complications are quite common in areas where there is much poverty and little health care, this proposal could create yet another burden that the women must live under.
While it is a laudable goal to protect India from becoming a country with a population heavily skewed towards males, and the difficulties resulting from such skewed populations, it is important that any measures taken do not interfere with women’s reproductive rights, and adhere strongly to democratic principals.
The following article gives more in depth background to this issue.
India’s Missing Girls
Bhavia is sleeping swaddled in a woolly peach cardigan amid the wailing and flailing limbs of 20 other babies. Nurses in lilac saris and face masks scoop the bundles from rockers and jig them under the wintry Delhi sun. Two days ago, the baby girl became the newest arrival at Palna, an orphanage in the capital’s Civil Lines district. But Bhavia is not an orphan. She is what used to be known as “a foundling”, abandoned by her mother in a local hospital.
When Bhavia came to Palna she was nameless, with no date of birth. What is certain, from a cursory glance at the line of babies, is that an orphanage is one of the few places in India where males are outnumbered. For every boy lying in the sunny courtyard, there are four girls. Some have been dumped outside police stations, some in railway toilets, crowded fairgrounds, or the dark corners of bus stations. Others were left outside the orphanage in a wicker cradle, in a specially built alcove by a busy road. The weight of a child here will set off an alarm, alerting Palna’s staff to a new arrival.
Almost always, it is girls who are left in the cradle. Healthy boys are only deserted in India if born to single mothers; boys left by a married couple are the disabled ones. Not all abandoned girls come from families too poor to feed them, however. Some have been found with a neatly packed bag containing a change of clothes, milk formula and disposable nappies.
[..]The question for India is what sort of future it faces without enough women. One dystopian answer, given by academics Valerie M Hudson and Andrea den Boer, is that a generation of men unable to find wives has already emerged. In their book, Bare Branches, they write of men who will never marry and have children. It is these men, they say, who are already largely responsible for social unrest in those areas where women are in short supply.
Indian scholars, they say, have noted a growing relationship between sex ratios and violent crime in Indian states. When potential wives are scarce, it is the least-skilled and educated men who are left on the shelf. Hudson and Den Boer put forward a scenario where large areas of India could be overrun by this under-class, with marauding groups of under-educated testosterone-high youths wreaking havoc. “It will mean a stronger masculine and macho culture,” says Den Boer, co-author and lecturer in International Politics at the University of Kent. “Men do change their behaviour when they settle down. Those growing pools of men that don’t are more likely to congregate to take part in stealing, gangs, bootlegging and terrorism.”
At the heart of the matter lies the most sacred institution in Indian life: marriage. New money has raised the price of wedlock, a ritual still governed by the past. Not only do most Indians believe in arranged marriage, in which dowry payments are made; there is also a widespread acceptance of the inequality between bride-givers and bride-takers.
The bride’s side, according to convention, is supposed to give but never take from the groom’s family. In today’s India that translates into an evermore expensive gift list of consumer goods. Decades ago, a wealthy bride’s father would have been expected to give gold bracelets. Today it is jewellery, fridges, cars and foreign holidays – and the bride’s family may end up paying the bill for the rest of their lives.
A son, by contrast, is an asset to his family. Even leaving aside the wealth his bride will bring, a boy will retain the family – and the caste – name. He will also inherit the property, and is seen as a way of securing parent-care in old age.
Indians, therefore, have come to view the girl child as a burden, an investment without return. A favourite Hindi saying translates as: “Having a girl is to plant a seed in someone else’s garden.”
Full Article here
WOMEN’S UN REPORT NETWORK
BnR post by lagatta Two-day-old baby girl in India survives being buried alive.