Cry from womb
It is often said that India is hostile to women from the womb to the tomb. This claim is amply borne out by latest official figures for 2007-09, which reveal that despite legislation to halt female foeticide, its practice continues and millions of girls are killed while still in the womb.
India’s sex ratio stands at a shocking 906 females per 1000 males. The latest annual report of ‘the twenty point programme – 2006’ reveals that the country has lost 50 million girls to foeticide. Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are the worst offenders. While Punjab’s sex ratio stands at 836 females per 1000 males – it showed no improvement between 2007 and 2009 – that of Haryana, UP and Rajasthan was 849, 874 and 875 respectively.
These four states have often been described as ‘India’s Bermuda Triangle’, where girls go missing without a trace. The reasons for their ‘disappearance’ are not difficult to find. The four states are among India’s most hostile to women. In the grip of a deeply patriarchical and misogynist culture, their societies have failed to respond even to legislation such as the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, which forbids sex selection of the foetus. This clearly underscores the fact that legislation by itself, however strong its provisions, cannot bring change.
It has to be supported by powerful campaigns to change patriarchical mindsets.
While Karnataka can draw some satisfaction from the fact that its sex ratio (944) is among the highest in the country, second only to Kerala, which tops the list at 968, it cannot afford to be complacent.
Its sex ratio stood at 960 in 1991 and 949 in 2001, which means that Karnataka too is indulging in female foeticide. Statistics reveal that in Karnataka, Bangalore is among the worst offenders. Karnataka’s ‘heartening’ sex ratio figures only indicate that in a country of poor performers it is marginally better.
In the wake of the brutal gang-rape case in Delhi, as Indians struggle to build a violence-free and gender-just society, they must go to the root of the problem which lies in the deep prejudice against women that becomes visible even before she is born.
Sadly, women, even highly educated ones, are often complicit in foeticide. Thus in seeking to create awareness on violence against women we must work amid men and women and tackle not just rape but an array of gender-related violence such as foeticide, female malnutrition and so on.