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Every year, a considerable part of India’s girl child population falls prey to the illegal practice of female infanticide, a crime that remains under-reported due to the lack of reliable data.
So, on the occasion of World Infant Protection Day, let’s try to catch up with the current situation of girl children in our country and do a fact check on Female Infanticide.
Infant protection Day is observed to spread awareness regarding protecting, promoting and developing infants. In a country where the lives of newborn girls are being compromised even as you read this article, before talking about promoting and developing infants, we need to talk about protecting our infant girls.
Before getting into the whys and hows, I will let a list of data and figures do the initial explaining.
According to census 2011 (A large scale national survey that takes place once every ten years), the overall sex ratio has increased from 933 females for every 1,000 males in 2001, to 940 in 2011. While the stats have improved on a macro level, the story is different when we explore the micro picture.
According to the provisional data presented by census office, the child sex ratio (0-6 years) has declined from 927 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2001, to 914 girls in 2011. This sharp decline has led to a skewed child ratio.
Let’s dig a little deeper. If you study the child sex ratio of every state independently, you will see a stark divide between north and south. Jammu and Kashmir’s child sex ratio, according to media reports, has fallen to 859 girls for every 1,000 boys, making it the third-worst state after Haryana and Punjab. On the other hand, women outnumber men in Kerala and Puducherry.
The difference of digits between the overall sex ratio and the child sex ratio, over the two decades, indicates that a girl child’s chances at a life improve once she crosses the age of six. Imagine fitting these lives into stats and figures and telling you that our country is not suitable for girls who are below six years of age.
In India, the female child population in the age group of 0-6 years declined from 78.83 million in 2001 to 75.84 million in 2011. This means we lost approximately 3 million girls, some to female foeticide, some to female infanticide, and some to various other unknown factors, and there is no concrete record of How? Why? Or Where?
An obvious question that would hit you after going through the data is – with all the schemes, acts, and policies put in place by the government to promote a healthier sex ratio, what is going wrong? Where are we falling short? And the answer is – a policy can’t work like a magic wand if the people it is being implemented on are not ready to change. This culture of preferring sons over daughters, prevalent in our country, is the root cause of an unstable sex ratio.
The practice of female foeticide and infanticide have been two major concerns of the policymakers when it comes to balancing the sex ratio in the country.
Female foeticide is the illegal process of finding out the sex of the fetus and undergoing an abortion if it is a girl. A practice that was alarmingly rampant in India but has reduced over the last few years, thanks to some effective policies initiated by the government. But this led to another very real issue – Female infanticide. It is the practice of deliberately killing newborn female children.
If the sex is not determined during the pregnancy, the possibility of female foeticide decreases, but on the other hand, the possibility of female infanticide increases.
If they can’t kill her in the womb, they do it after she is born. The worst possible example of ‘Where there’s a will there’s a way’.
Sometimes, the weirdest of things can bring people together. In India, one of the common strings is the craze of having a son. In our country, son preference is a common characteristic that is prevalent across religions, castes, various groups of socio-economic status. You can call it a flaw that unites almost all the social groups present in India. There is nothing people wouldn’t do to have a son instead of a daughter.
A son, to most of these people, is a quick fix to everything. To their financial instability, bad health, old age struggles, and their road to Salvation.
Girls, on the other hand, are a liability, a drain on family resources, they are incapable of providing support to their parents, and raising one is like “watering a neighbour’s plan” because someday she will marry a guy and move to her real house, her in-law’s place, and take a truck full of dowry with her, and leaves a huge hole in her father’s pocket. Clearly, a bad investment!
Women in India face immense pressure from their families to give birth to sons. Too bad biology does not care about these preferences, discrimination, and cannot be manipulated by the common men into changing the sex of a fetus. So they do what they can, they physically assault the women if they give birth to a daughter, or if they refuse to engage in illegal practices of sex determination.
One way of stopping these practices is by empowering girls and women. Women are the source of life and possess the power to shape or direct the way society functions. Little more awareness and little less ignorance is what makes a society progressive.
The government is playing its part. In 1991, the state launched a scheme called ‘Girl Child Protection’. Under this scheme, to avail long term financial benefits, the families in the rural part of India have to meet certain criterions listed to ensure that the girl child is raised properly, with all her basic needs fulfilled. As part of this scheme, the government provides financial assistance to girl children at different stages – delivery, joining education, completion of class X, XII, etc.
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana, Balika Samridhi Yojana, Mukhyamantri Rajshri Yojana, and many more such schemes have been made available to people across India. These schemes are expected to encourage people into giving birth to girl children and raising them with all the basic facilities they would need while growing up. While all this might sound perfect in theory, the practical picture is different.
To stabilise India’s sex ratio, there is a need to fight and defeat the popular notion that sons are better than daughters. People can decide if they want to be parents or not, but they can’t pick and choose their children’s sex because regardless of it’s sex, every life is equally precious.
So, while people in other parts of this world discuss the best way of promoting and developing infants, and giving their children a healthy future, let us start from the very beginning and vow to give every girl child born in India a chance to live.
Do not judge a life based on GENDER!