Let Her Live
It has been more than six decades since India gained independence. But beneath the garb of so-called ‘freedom’, lies the tragedy of countless souls who are not even allowed to live, the victims in this context being girls. India has been consistently marching on its way to progress and advancement in all fields, but somewhere, she is still shackled in the chains of age-old belief and orthodox practice. It is extremely disheartening to note that even despite adopting the western culture in so many ways, India is still reluctant to give the girl child her dues.
Foetal sex determination, sex selective abortion, social discrimination, preference for sons, female infanticide, each one of these interlinked evils are prevalent in Indian society. The situation is particularly worse in some states like Punjab and Haryana, Bihar etc. As ultrasound techniques gained widespread use in the 1990’s, this process began to raise its ugly head. Eventually, the Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act was passed in 1994, making sex-selective abortion illegal. However, it has not been strongly enforced by the concerned authorities. What is disheartening to note is that these mishaps lead to disastrous consequences. Female foeticide often results in female trafficking, that is, women are bought and sold as brides in areas where number of females are alarmingly low because they are being killed in the womb.
Thankfully, changes are taking place slowly yet steadily. The silver lining is that at least the common people are realizing the havoc that such heinous acts wreak on societal balance. Celebrities and journalists are conducting several campaigns for increased awareness and to combat sex-selective abortions. The recently popular show Satyamev Jayate had an episode dedicated to this issue, hosted by Aamir Khan. A sting operation hundreds of doctors who are complicit in this crime was also aired, and their trials are now taking place. Recently, the Mumbai High Court upheld an amendment to the PCPNDT Act banning sex selection treatment. The Court pronounced that, “prenatal sex determination would be as good as female foeticide. Pre-conception sex determination violated a woman’s right to live and was against the Constitution.” Arvind Kumar, an official in the Hyderabad district, took over in 2004, and since then, he has enforced the PCPNDT Act. After investigating all the 389 diagnostic clinics in the city, 361 ultrasound scan centers were issued notices the licenses of 91 centers were cancelled.
In the rural areas where people do not have access to ultrasound scanning, they often resort to killing a girl child after it is born, which it popularly referred to as female infanticide. Though it is illegal, it is still taking place in a few states of India, which is further lowering the sex ratio. Bringing about changes in the scenario is a long process and would require women’s education and empowerment, so that she is able to raise her voice against such injustice. She must also be given right to property and land rights, so that she is able to lead an honourable life, and not simply regarded as a burden. States in the North-East and in Kerala where women have these rights exhibit a comparatively better sex ratio. Many state governments have framed independent laws and schemes in this direction, and many non-governmental organizations are also working to make a difference, such as by offering counseling to expectant mothers, monetary incentives, childcare support, health education and so forth. A recent case that seems to show hope took place in Lakhanpal, a small village in Punjab. It boasts of having 1,400 girls for every 1,000 boys, coming from a state with one of the worst sex ratios.
Besides good laws against female foeticide and infanticide, we need our women to rise in protest against such brutality. She should know what power she holds within her, and that her life is no less precious than a man’s. Also, the society in general needs to realize what a treasure a girl-child is to our country and that killing an innocent life is not only a moral and social crime but it will lead to dire outcome that in turn will devastate the society itself. She has an equal right to live, & also to live with dignity.