A woman who decides to abort her child can be driven by political reasons, economic and financial reasons, social reasons, religious reasons, cultural reasons or even health issues. None of these reasons however can spare a woman the mental turmoil she goes through when she decides to abort her child. The emotional pain and feeling of loss can linger for a long time perhaps even during her whole lifetime.
A woman who chooses to abort her own unborn child because it is going to be a female denies her own femininity. So how desperate must her situation be that she even opts to do so? How dire must her situation be, her material status, the social pressures she is subjected to? Her situation is tragic because she is subjected to outdated patriarchal notions that a male is more superior to a female or because a female is considered a bigger financial and moral burden to the family. These practices deny a females right to live even before she is born and tragically enough through her own mother, grandmother!!
Sex selective abortive practices in India have tragically developed from a technological advancement in medical sciences. This combined with morally unscrupulous medical practitioners who are driven by profit have led to the over 12 million female fetus that have been aborted over 30 years in India. None of the laws passed by the Indian legislative system have been effective in stopping this practice because Indian law enforcing authorities do not have effective checks and balances in place and are not doing their jobs. It is time that the feminist movements in India address the social issues that lead to such oppressive practices. Professionals see the need for feminism in India to start “acknowledging sexism in daily life and attempting to challenge and eliminate it through deconstructing mutually exclusive notions of femininity and masculinity as biologically determined categories which opens the way towards an equitable society for both men and women”.
The Indian female is a victim of her own society’s elevation of males to a higher status than a female. The necessary step forward should mean fighting to establish equal political, economic and social rights for women.
India is considered the worst place for women. Indian woman have a tough position in life. Right from birth they are subjugated to a subordinate position in life, in the family and in society and are denied women rights. How is this subordinate position documented?
- A cultural preference for male children together with a fear of dowry payments has led to sex selective abortions and abortion of over 12 million girls over the past 3 decades and a subsequently distorted male-female ratio of 1000 men to 940 females at the national level with some states having much more drastic ratios. These developments have been possible in spite of the Indian “Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques Act 1994.”
- On the education front cultural prejudices in favor of males has meant that girls chances of education is definitely less than for boys. Though good 97% of girls get primary education, almost 17.9% of females do not have Secondary or High school education.
- Child marriage is still prevalent even though India has promulgated many laws that forbid the same, the latest legislation being “The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006”. According to the International Center for research on women 47% of girls are married before they are 18.
- Dowry related harassment of women who do not satisfy dowry demands and brutal assault partially through burning is still common in different parts of Indian society.
- Widows even today are shunned in many parts of Indian society and once a woman becomes a widow she is often allocated a subordinate position within her family and by society at large.
The reasons for these developments are manifold but two fundamental patterns emerge as being the root cause of this situation:
- Outdated customs are ingrained in the psyche of large sections of Indian society. So India urgently needs to start a “Social and Cultural Change Drive” so that many social practices are seen in the perspective of the 21st century.
- India has an abundance of legal regulations protecting the rights of children and women in many issues. But India has weak records on law enforcement, so that de-facto women’s rights are not ensured.
Mitu Khurana a woman like any other in India. And yet her painful journey through the prejudices and contorted perceptions of Indian society are an eye opener. She like her husband and his family is educated. She is a doctor and yet! She is tricked into having an ultra sound sex determination test during her pregnancy. She was bullied to abort the female fetus (twins) she was carrying when her husband knew they were going to be females. She refused, stood up for her convictions and decided to have her twins in spite of all the family pressure. She filed a law suit.
Female foeticide and infanticide is barbaric. I am a pro-lifer. Education should widen one’s horizon and make one receptive for other views. It is tragic to know that education has in this case not opened the eyes of her husband’s family. As a doctor one knows enough about the chromosomes and that the male determines the gender of a new born. This development really needs to be stopped.