Lucknow: It was a little hard to believe that the singing, dancing group of 300 odd women supported by a sprinkling of men volunteers were actually hard-core activists all geared up to bring about gender equality in their state.
But as the strains of the old folk song of Uttar Pradesh “agle janam mohe bitya na dije, narak dije chahe…” (in my next birth, please do not give me a daughter, give me hell instead) fell on one’s ears, the pathos and the apprehension of impending doom due to the increasing female foeticide hit one strongly.
A Central Government order of February 2007 makes it mandatory for district magistrates to monitor foeticide cases The General Post Office park, situated in the heart of the city, played host to the cause on 8th March. While banners on women’s rights and gender equality fluttered in the afternoon breeze, it was the Right to Life of the unborn girl child that remained high on the agenda of the different NGO groups who had gathered on the occasion of Women’s Day. The demonstration was supported by UNICEF.
Protesting strongly against the shocking injustice of announcing the death sentence even before birth, Dr Rashmi Sinha, director of a leading local NGO, Mahila Samakhiya, said that the fast dwindling number of girls from society is a grave social problem that requires emergent rectification measures.
In sharp contrast to the western world where women outnumber men, in India it is vice versa. The root-cause of the problem lies in strong social prejudices and traditional belief that while a girl is a liability a boy is an asset. The belief has since time immemorial resulted in the girl child being strangulated to death by bribed mid-wives: “Still-born!” is how this heinous crime is dismissed.
The ultra sound machine which was to detect genetic abnormalities has today turned into a tool for ‘selective abortions’Thanks to the advancement of science, now the elimination takes place even before birth. Ultra-sound machines have replaced the mid-wife. It is sad but true that modern diagnostic equipment, instead of saving lives, is unfortunately being used in India as a tool to facilitate selective abortion.
Of course, the Pre-natal Diagnostic Technique Regulation and Prevention Act (PNDT) exists. It sentences anyone indulging in such practice to a three-year prison term and a fine of Rs 10,000; but how much it is put into force is anybody’s guess. The February 2007 central government order that makes it mandatory for all District Magistrates in India to monitor foeticide cases will hopefully give more teeth to the Act.
Aborting female foetuses is leading to a skewed sex ratio resulting in an unbalanced society. Punjab with 793 females per thousand tops the inglorious list. Uttar Pradesh is fast catching on, with some of the western districts of the state already matching Punjab’s tally.
Mahila Samakhiya is preparing a detailed report on the facts and figures surrounding UP’s missing women.
“Facts and figures will help us draft a foolproof strategy to counter this menace”, said Dr Kumkum Tripathi of Mahila Samikhiya.
According to Paula Roy, a lawyer-cum-social activist, education and social awareness is the only way of empowering women.
“More and more women must come forward and join this gender discrimination fight. Remember equity empowers”, she said.