Kashmiri Families Prefer Male Children Over Female
Writes Gowher Bhat.
Indian history and culture brought many circumstances where females were given less human rights to live than males. There are regions in Northern India, that is publicly known as ('the girl killer belt.") Even though abortion became legal in Jammu and Kashmir several decades ago, the law was passed to allow women to terminate their pregnancy safely if the condition endangered their health.
However, through the years the law was abused, and the Health Department has received statistics showing proof that there is a decline in female births, since the invention of the ultrasound. The machine can detect the sex of an unborn child in the earliest stages of pregnancy. When officials at the Health Department compared their statistics from the past years, it became apparent that for every two male babies born; there was one female birth, and the ratio of male babies was increasing.
After investigations, they discovered women had ultrasounds to undergo sex-selective abortions. One woman admitted she terminated four female pregnancies and she will keep aborting until she gives birth to a boy. The discrimination has become so widely spread throughout India that women who deliver female babies do not want to breast-feed them after birth and abandon their girl baby at the hospital. Thousands of female newborn babies have died due to starvation and neglect in the past 20 years under the care of the parents. The 2001 census showed there were 859 girls for every 1,000 boys. The Director of Health Services in Kashmir, admits that authorities have become complacent and have not charted these activities because the ultrasound clinics had reputable reputations.
A law was passed in 1994 against sex-selection throughout India. A legislative bill called the PNDT Act (Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Act). Government regional workers and officers in Kashmir worry by the uprising of foeticide that has taken place throughout the decades. Health officials in the state have taken action ordering their officers to raid suspicious ultrasound clinics, including numerous diagnostic clinics in the Kashmir Valley. There are currently over 100 ultrasound clinics that have applied for legal registration, but no data for the ones who haven't applied. The registration requirements have been set up to help keep track of activities in the clinics that are to record and report every pregnancy tests conducted.
In short, this affects India in dozens of ways, eradicating a gender causes an unbalance in society and leads to disturbing practices, like wife buying and abuse. Many Kashmiri women have suffered silently without assistance under the history of discrimination and denial. Some women angrily said, "Why bother having a girl. I'm just passing the problems onto the child. She will go through the same."
Kashmir appears to have been putting its own back to the wall for years by underplaying these unlawful practices of female elimination. According to the "Women News Network Article of 2011,
"The major reason for this is the basic thinking among people and what we characterized as gender discrimination; the citizens feel that both of the sexes are not equal," said Dr. Dabler. "While as the male roles are considered desirable and preferable, women roles are considered damaging because girls undermine their families financial status and cast."
The families in the Valley feel this way because female children cause financial burdens in the future like the Dowry System, most lower class can't afford to pay their daughter's husband and family. There's the weak Social Security System, by having a boy assures his parents' that their son will take care of them in their elder years.
The government of India has began educating all stakeholders. It is clearing up the public misconceptions by emphasizing that sex determination is illegal, but abortion is legal for the women who have specific medical conditions. The government is also implementing programs that seek and reduce gender discrimination, by addressing the underlying social cause of sex selection. These policies provide conditional cash transfer and scholarships only available to girls, where payments of a girl and her parents link to each stage of her life such as when she is born, completion of her childhood immunizations, her enrolling in school at grade 1, her completing school grades 6, 9 and 12, and her marriage past the age 21. Some states are offering higher pension benefits to parents who raise one or two girls. However, on the flip side what makes all these programs ineffective is that they target only lower-income households while ignoring the population of higher income households partaking in female sex determination tests, and selective sex abortions. The stipulations are different, but selective sex abortions are proven to be higher amongst upper-class families.
On a personal note, this is very disturbing to me. To abort a child because of gender is against morality, undermining human rights and religious beliefs. If we keep killing the female babies, the gender will eradicate. I hope that the government enforces the law aggressively, and become forceful with their crusade with their implemented programs. Otherwise, India will be a whole different country in decades to come.