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Infanticide: “Rather one thousand sons than a daughter”
The gift of life is the most precious. The essence of humanness is love for fellow beings, tolerance and respect for their existence. Like the other laws worldwide, the Indian law grants the Right to life under the Article 21, the violation of which is a punishable offence. However, a corrupt system of law and order grants promotion and even acceptance to the same. The bond between a mother and a child is beautiful, one that no language can possibly explain. A man and a woman were created to balance nature. One cannot do without the other. What gives us the right to disturb something that we have not created, or rather is beyond our power to create? Females get treated as second class citizens in their own country. Even an inhuman practice like female infanticide acquires social sanction and has been culturally accepted. Methods include female foeticide, strangulating the child, denial of food until it starves to death or even serving poison in milk. Causes stated range from birth of deformed children, child births before marriage and even lack of proper health care services giving rise to illnesses in either the mother or the child.
On the one hand, a woman who is successfully able to produce a male child becomes the ‘apple of the eye’ and is considered luckier for the family. Such is the pressure upon a woman to give birth to a male child that inability to produce one invites unexplainable torture and abuse. It is as if it were her fault, as if she had the right to choose or determine the child’s sex! The situation is severe among people belonging to the lowest rungs of the society. We are in no position to understand the condition of the mother who has to go through the pain of seeing a part of her own self being killed by her in- laws. Even if she manages to survive, let alone material needs, she is denied the most basic necessities of life, namely, food. Quite openly, she is deprived of all that the males in the family receive, has to remain hungry unless the males have their food and is served leftovers. The mother remains in a helpless state and has to tolerate the sight of her child being discriminated and neglected.
When will the society understand that we are not a burden? That we can do things that a man can, that we can equally contribute to the economic upliftment of the family, and in fact, take better care of our parents. Indian customs and rituals have shamefully denied human rights to women. It is believed that males bring home dowry, carry the generation forward, are bread earners and have the religious sanction of performing the last rites of their parents. For the poor and the downtrodden, female infanticide is necessary to avoid dowry, which is inevitably associated with the marriage of their daughters. During the 2001 Census, there were 923 girls for every 1000 male children. The ratio is threatening. Although revealing the sex of a child before birth is a criminal offence, it is still practiced rampantly. This has nonetheless given rise to violence against women as well as abduction and trafficking, disturbing the law and order in society. States in the North, South and Central India have recorded the highest number of female killings.
It is important to realise that every living being born has its natural right to live (unless one indulges in activities that violates the law of the land). The State has responded in the affirmative to save its female population. The Baby Cradle Scheme, launched in 1991 allows parent(s) to give up their child for adoption without bearing the brunt of legal hassles.
As a woman, I believe, women by their very nature are more caring and compassionate towards their parents. Rather than treating her as a liability and indulging in killing an innocent life, there is a need to invest in her education so that she can face all challenges. Contrary to popular belief that, ‘educating a girl is like watering your neighbour’s garden’, education is an indestructible asset. Separation, divorce and even a sudden death of the husband might increase difficulties for an illiterate wife. It is important to realise that a well educated and qualified woman will be in a position to take care of herself and her family and would not need to depend on a man for her survival. Her education will fuel her liberation.
Born and brought up in India, Anushree's thoughts have been conditioned by a surrounding diverse in all aspects. She aspires to travel round the world and have a taste of the culture, food and music. Her Masters in Political Science has given her a reality check as to where India stands in enlightening its womenfolk. Writing gives her the freedom to materialize her ideas and allow people to sneak into her mind. She finds it fun and liberating.