We fought against patriarchy and religion for our sexual freedom. We now fight against multi-billion dollar sex industries to stop sexual exploitation of women. We fought against religion for our abortion rights. We now fight against misogynistic patriarchal societies to stop sex-selective abortion. It seems it is a never-ending fight.
”The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, ‘It’s a girl’ ”– Shirley Chisholm
Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize winning economist said in 1990, that more than 100 million women are missing. ‘In India, China and some other countries in the world , girls are killed, aborted & abandoned because they are girls. The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls are missing in the world today because of gendercide. 50 million missing campaign fighting gendercide in India. Gendercide is war on women.
We know at birth boys outnumber girls, there are 105 or 106 male children for every 100 female children. But later women outnumber men because women are more resistant to disease, and tend to live longer than men even if men and women receive similar nutritional and medical attention and general health care. India and China are having skewed sex ratio at birth. In some places of India there are even less than 700 girls for 1000 boys.
Abortion is legal, but sex-selective abortion is not legal in India. Some people have tried to talk about law. Those women who have killed their own female fetuses, cried out, ‘law, what is law? Will the law come to my aid when my husband throws me out of the house or kills me for giving birth to yet another girl! Will the law help me when my husband marries again in the hope of a son? Can the law change the way society looks at me because I have no son! ‘
If the woman cannot provide a son, her life is torn asunder by strife. To put it bluntly, the message flashed by society – and this is what people really think, no matter what they say – is that, if you have two sons, you have two eyes. If you have one son, you are blind in one eye. And if you have two daughters, you are completely blind.
The women who support female feticide also say, ‘why should we let them live? We do not want any girl. Should we let girls be born so that they suffer the way we are suffering? They say, what good does being alive do to us? It is better that an insufferable life ends before it can begin. It is better to go straight to heaven than stay alive and endure the kicks and blows of the world.’ Are they wrong in saying this?
Once upon a time, people in patriarchal society would run temple to temple and pray to god for a son, they would spend extravagantly on saints and hermits, but now there is no need of magic charms and spells, a medium even stronger than god has come to India – science. Scan machines, amniocentesis and other scientific tests reveal the sex of the embryo in the womb – if the sex is not right then it is got rid of. The right sex is masculine, the wrong sex feminine. The healthy sex is masculine, the disabled sex feminine.
Girls are quickly disappearing. Anti-women traditions have been carefully preserved over the ages. There are quite a few communities, which regard sons as only offspring, and not daughters. Till 1980, infant girls used to be killed after they were born. Feticide had not caught on. Despite being banned, the incidence of feticide is on the rise. It makes one afraid that as long as the status of girls in society does not improve, there is no way these murders, this bloodshed, can be prevented.
We say, if women are educated and self-reliant, then female infanticide and female feticide will stop. Most people believe that these occur among the poor and the uneducated. But, in fact, the opposite is true. The study shows in India the ratio of girls to boys is the most skewed in South Delhi, a place where the rich and the educated live. It is here that the maximum number of girls go missing. Down from 904 to 845 in just 10 years. 24,000 girls disappear from South Delhi every year. The Patels of Gujarat are a wonder. Traditionally rich peasants, there is no trace of girls in their villages. It’s femicide, the systematic killing of women. A holocaust going on against girls across the country. A pogrom.
Sometimes I think ‘educated’ people can plan the murder of their fetuses with much more skill than uneducated people. ‘Educated’ girls can learn patriarchal system much better than uneducated girls. They sure have better learning ability. They even practice it better. Misogyny can not be wiped out through conventional education that does not teach gender equality.
Since infant girls have been murdered over the ages, female feticide today does not go against anti-women tradition. It is like weeding – plucking off girls from the soil of the womb reserved for the production of sons. There is nothing surprising about murdering daughters in a race that has always been thirsty for sons. Killing of girl children was probably in vogue from the ancient Vedic age. The Atharva Veda says, Let girls be born elsewhere, let boys take birth here. Son is wealth. Son is a blessing. The son will be the father’s strength in old age. The father will go to heaven if the son lights his funeral pyre. It is the son who will rescue the father from hell.
Female feticide is causing social imbalance. Now brothers share a wife. The murder of girls has led to such an acute shortage of girls that an exchange system has been initiated. According to this system, parents agree to give their daughter in marriage on the condition that the groom’s sister marries the bride’s brother. “Bride Trafficking” has started. Men are now ‘recycling’ the use of women for sex and reproduction.
Now a days men want educated wives. So girls are getting educated so that they can sell well in the marriage mart. An educated wife can do the shopping, pay the bills, look after the children’s studies, and solve problems at school, all on her own. A man said, my wife has a postgraduate degree in Maths, all the better since she can help the kids with the homework. So I don’t need to engage a tutor for them. And why should my wife work outside the home? We don’t need any extra money in the family. She has a lot to do at home.
The money women earn is known as extra money. University degrees are meant to help the kids with their homework, nothing else. The norm is that middle class girls will not work after marriage.Only those girls, who badly need money for survival or those girls whose money husbands want, get permission to work outside the house.
Alas! So much for education! Educated girls have to pay more dowry. The more educated a girl is, the more educated husband she demands. And thus the amount of dowry required also escalates. Many people think that a handsome dowry enhances the dignity of the girl. However, dowry never improves the status of a girl in her in-laws’ house, rather it results in loss of dignity. The more dowry is paid, the more the girl’s status at her in-laws will deteriorate. The husband is not supposed to pay dowry, no matter how educated the girl is, no matter how grand the job she holds. The ‘Brides Wanted’ column is clear testimony to the value of girls in this society. Wanted: A fair complexion, beautiful, educated, homely girl from a respectable family. ‘Homely girl’ means a girl who will spend all 24 hours of the day on domestic chores, one who will not hold a job. ‘Respectable family’ means a family that will pay a handsome dowry. If the groom comes from an affluent family, it does not mean that a poor dowry will do, rather the dowry must be all the more generous. When this is the condition, why will people not believe that the birth of a girl means entails huge expenses! Girls are an inferior race – this belief is ingrained in both men and women across India. And since a girl belongs to an inferior race, dowry is needed to get rid of her.
The abortion clinics display an advertisement. Spend Rs 500, you’ll save Rs. 50,000. In other words, kill this one. If this one lives, you’ll lose Rs. 50,000 in dowry. For those yearning for a son, the sex determination clinics are modern temples.
Women have had to struggle for decades for the right of abortion. Acquiring the right of abortion was a huge event in the history of women’s emancipation. However, when in India, a foetus is aborted by virtue of belonging to a certain gender, and that gender is the feminine gender, then such abortion has no relation whatsoever with women’s liberty, but is inseparably related with the tragedy of women’s subjugation.
The law has not been able to eradicate the dowry system. It can never be eradicated as long as every member of the family continues to believe that a girl cannot be as economically powerful as a boy. Society needs a lot of change. Society must understand that girls are very important members of the society, not burdens for whom dowry must be paid, not machines for the production of sons. If women and men do not unite in the attempt to transform society, female feticide will continue unabated.
This society is not a fit place for girls, so it is better not to allow them to be born. This logic is something like this: there is too much shouting and screaming all around, the noise pollution is giving one a headache, so it is better to chop off the head. Many claim that if women themselves choose the gender of the child before giving birth, then they will be saved from many undesired pregnancies. How helpless she must be not to have the slightest control over the fetus growing inside her womb! Women are compelled to yield to societal as well as many kinds of family pressure and opt for abort a female fetus. An undesired pregnancy is not as terrible as this forsaken, helpless, undignified, disgraceful condition of women.
If the practice of female feticide continues as they are now, it will not be very many decades before there will be not a single girl in the country, only men. The good thing will be that men will find no more girls to torture, trample, rape and kill.