I had resolved right at the onset of the year 2007 that I would try to do my bit to create awareness among my students about the socio-medical problems that would result in society on account of female feticide and infanticide. I am indeed lucky to have students who are receptive and look forward to these sessions. These are simple girls with a middle class background neither too ambitious nor over smart. I have also converted this time into one in which they can try expressing themselves in English. Since I make a note of their errors in expression the girls love pointing out to mistakes made by their friends who in turn wait for their turn to settle scores. All this is done in good spirit with all of them learning a lot in the process. On one such occasion I tried to generate opinion on what they perceive as reasons for a mother giving into pressure from their husbands or relatives to abort her unborn girl child. The response was almost unanimous. Their mothers keep mentioning about the financial strain that the family would face at the time of their marriage. In families where there was no male child the pressure on parents was even more. They fear that while they would do their best to procure a well employed groom for their daughters they themselves could have no expectations from their sons in law or daughters. The girls also felt that their mothers were also under pressure from their grandparents who believed that a grandson alone had a role to play in the performance of their last rites, to try again and again for a male issue. These mothers in turn opted for Sex Determination tests and chose to abort the unborn female child, very often much against their will. The awareness and easy availability of such tests to the middle class has only compounded the problem. Education, instead of helping them to stand up against their families, has only made them opt for the seemingly easy way out.
In the program I mentioned in my previous post, the secretary of the NGO group that works for child rights gave a heart rending account of a practice that is followed in rural Rajasthan. This may be the case in other states as well. Some of you could perhaps share more information in this regard.
It seems when a pregnant woman goes into labor the male members of the family wait in the front verandah or living room while the female huddle into a room in the interior with some older woman attending to the lady in question. The birth of a son is announced with gun shots in the air and bursting of fire crackers, but if the infant is a girl an elderly woman comes out and asks-
“ Baraat ko rehney doon ya lauta doon?” meaning “Shall I let the marriage party remain or should I send them back?”
The males then decide whether the girl should be allowed to live or not. If they decide that the girl should not live, the next question asked is “How should the ‘baraat’ be returned?” The male members then decide how the child may be put to death-the most common method being to stuff the baby’s mouth with tobacco.
Friends, it is not my intention to depress you. Those of us who can make an impact should do our bit by educating those around us of the social issues that can crop up if the female population dwindled. We may have more Draupadis marrying 5 men at the same time or prostitution may be legalized. Rapes and unwanted pregnancies may increase and we’d be hearing about love octagons instead of love triangles. I am not joking at all and believe me if this continues we will return to Stone Age very soon