Born dead

Dismal Record
July 7, DHNS:
Born dead
July 7, DHNS:
Friday, July 08, 2011
Despite Bangalore emerging as a cosmopolitan city, its sex-ratio continues to be skewed against the girl child, write Sandeep Moudgal & Chethan Kumar
Bangalore, the City of sobriquets, has for long ensured its denizens a lifestyle that is the envy of most other cities. But lurking behind the glamour and sheen of a city whose stupendous strides have seen many wanting to make it their home, is a shame so dubious that even barbaric times of yore pale into insignificance.At a time when gender discrimination is a strict no no, and there is much talk about the equality of sexes, Bangalore presents a sorry picture of itself, when it comes to giving the girl child her due. And here’s why: according to the latest UNICEF report, while as many as 7,000 cases of female foeticide have been recorded in the country, Bangalore records a dismal ratio of 908 girl children for every 1,000 male children. This only proves that the city is still living in the dark ages. The technical and economic strides that have put it on the global map notwithstanding.

This comes at a time when, as per provisional numbers under Census 2011, the average child sex ratio has fallen drastically to 914 females for every 1,000 males in the country as compared to 921 in 2001.

Mitu’s story

Of course, there are a few cases that have been saved. Guddu and Paari, now six, were among the fortunate few saved by their mother, Mitu Khurana, from being meted out a ‘death sentence’ when still in the womb.

Thanks to Mitu, a paediatrician, their stories of survival have been recorded from the day of birth, as part of a legal battle between their parents, the first individual case registered under the Pre-conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.

Asked to undergo an abortion after being tricked into going through an ultrasound to determine the sex of the foetus, Mitu fled from the harassing in-laws and husband, filed for separation and later lodged a complaint against her in-laws, along with the hospital which aided in determining the sex of the foetus.

“I took up the issue of female foeticide for the sake of my children as I did not want my daughters to go through the same ordeal as me,” says Khurana.

Despite a three-year struggle seeking justice, the judiciary has failed her, Mitu adds.
“There is absolutely no regard for the laws of this land. It appears that the laws are made to accommodate only the rich,” laments a distraught Khurana.

Throwing up her arms, the 35-year-old Delhiite now believes that she is ill-equipped to continue with the struggle alone. “I am feeling inadequate to fight the battle on my own. I need help and support,” she cries out.

As if driving a nail in Khurana’s desperation coffin is the harsh reality that Dr Vasundhara Bhoopathi, member, PC & PNDT Committee in Karnataka, speaks of. There has been a marked increase in sex determination cases in Bangalore urban. “Despite being a city with a burgeoning middle class and educated class, the general attitude towards women has not changed,” she said.

Dr Bhoopathi claimed that there has been a higher degree of caution which is being practiced by citizens to avoid being questioned under the PC-PNDT act.

“These days, parents who wish to identify the sex of the foetus ‘request’ the doctors to conduct sex determination on the pretext of finalising the colours for the baby’s room. If the doctor says it is pink, then the foetus is a girl. If he says blue, then it is a boy,” she revealed.

In Bangalore urban, the committee, formulated as per the Central Government rules and regulations to monitor sex determination rackets, has conducted 200 visits between 2002 and November 2010 and issued notices to 20 hospitals in the city.

However, instead of acting as a deterrent, committee members claim that the lack of convictions has only seen female foeticide continue unchallenged in the state. “With legal battles taking a minimum of two to three years to close, mothers or witnesses in sex determination cases turn hostile, resulting in little or no conviction rates,” said Dr Bhoopathi.

It has been 15 years since the PC-PNDT Act of 1994 was enforced in the country to eradicate female foeticide. Yet, little has been achieved by the Centre or the State in eradicating the crime.

Mothers like Mitu Khurana are just isolated instances when a woman breaks free from societal compulsions. However, those like the Khuranas have not been able to ensure the general perceptions that good education and ‘advocacy’ per se, would wipe out such social evil practices.

“Advocacy alone cannot eradicate female foeticide. We need a stronger enforcing will and a faster judiciary to end the violation of this basic human right. Why should any child be devoid of its rights, be it a girl or a boy?” asks the mother of two, hoping for a better future for her daughters.

Will Khurana’s distressing call be lost in the wilderness of social apathy and inadequacy of the country’s long-drawn judicial system or will the likes of Guddu and Paari live to etch their own interesting tales? Only time will tell. For now though, thousands of Guddus and Paaris may or may not be handed god’s gift of life because their mothers will be forced to suppress their individual will against the larger dictates of a male-driven society.


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