Female Foticide

Before I start off on a tangent, let me confess that the above dialogue is not, in fact, a hypothetical conversation. This was part of a sting operation conducted by a team of journalists in one of the leading hospitals in India. The woman is a mother to be, while the doctor is a highly acclaimed medical practitioner. If you were wondering about the annoying repetition of the pronoun ‘it’, be ready to understand that the thing being so dispassionately discussed is the woman’s unborn girl child.

Yes, this is the talk between an aspiring parent and her gynecologist.

While instances of abortion aren’t newsflash in India or any other nation, the cruelty being flaunted in this particular case is, for lack of a better word, horrifying. I happened to catch this exchange in a programme on television, Satyamev Jayate (Official website), which is a recent endeavor to throw light on the brutal underbelly of a supposed sophisticated society.

It is a novel venture to voice the injustice that is rampant in the country, and to work together as an informed community to abolish such evil acts and their perpetrators once and for all. The topic for this hub is, therefore, Female Feticide. Satyamev Jayate-The Girl Child is Precious

Female feticide is the selective abortion/elimination of the girl child in the womb itself, done deliberately by the mother, after the detection of the child’s gender through medical means. This is usually done under familial pressure from the husband or the in-laws or even the woman’s parents.

Unplanned pregnancy is generally the reason behind abortion. However, female feticide is a far more heinous sin than the age old practice of killing an unwanted child, even before it’s born.

Like many societies around the world, India too is patriarchal in nature. A set hierarchical system prevails in all tiers of the social order. The fanatic obsession with the male sex, though, is one of a kind. Right from the ancient scriptures, one finds instances where men are glowingly praised as the key to continue the family lineage. A girl is forced to undergo multiple pregnancies and (or) abortions, until she fulfills her lifelong goal of being a breeding machine that produces male offspring as per the needs of the family.

Sadly, a majority of female feticide cases involve an enthusiastic participation of women, both old and young.

To add fuel to the fire, unethical sex determination and selective abortion of female infants has become a booming US $224 million industry- a dangerous incentive for this transgression to prosper further in the near future. Source: Vivek Chaudhary

Every unethical act, like this one, has some age-old lame reasoning behind it, which is used as genuine justification by its staunch supporters. The root cause for female feticide lies within the cultural norms as well as the socio-economic policies of the country where this practice prevails. The most infected (I use the verb, for it precisely depicts the malady that has affected our world) are the South Asian countries like China, India, Vietnam, Korea etc. from where this social evil has mushroomed today to the western nations like the USA and Canada. This is the end result of immigration that has brought along female feticide across the pond. What is the rationale, one may wonder. Surprisingly, the reasons aren’t quite as diverse for these nations as one may perceive.

Preference for the male child: Elimination/removal of girls from the family tree even before they are born clearly indicates the vehement desire for a boy child. In the countries where female feticide has become unbridled, the core factor is the need to continue the family line through the male born into it. Sons are seen as the main source of income. Even though women today can easily rub shoulders with men, almost in every field they set their mind to, the common misconception still remains that it is the male who will help run the house, and look after his parents. Once married, women are like cargo, ready to be shipped off to another household, while parents breathe a sigh of relief for a job well done in getting their ‘daughter’ settled.

In India, the age old custom of dowry system puts a damper on the parents’ spirits who are ‘blessed’ with a girl child. Right then and there, begin the calculations associated with marriage expenses, which may happen after a couple of decades, following the child’s first breath. A lump sum paid to the daughter in twenty years when the currency value may depreciate and inflation may skyrocket is seen as a tragedy waiting to happen. It would be so much better to get rid of them with just a fraction of the amount.

Deteriorated Status of Women: I’m not a rabid feminist who would shout herself hoarse about the domination of men in any society. Sure, males are the stronger sex when it comes to the pecking order in a country, but that does not entail a curbing of rights for women. Rather than whining about the denied opportunities, women should stand up and try to grasp the chances they want for themselves.

However, this Utopian scenario is not quite easily achieved in practice. Centuries of repression has made inferiority second nature to most women. They willingly embrace the role of the meek, submissive, docile wife who works relentlessly to cater to the whims of her husband. The worst enemy of a woman is the woman herself. Female feticide happens with the explicit consent of the mother. While most mothers-to be agree to this misdeed out of a sense of duty to the family, there are many who take the initiative themselves.

Foul Medical Ethics: The opening conversation to this hub satisfactorily covers this point. With the legalization of abortion in India, illegal sex determination and termination of pregnancies has become an everyday reality. The professionals in the medical field are only too glad to help parents realize their dream of a healthy baby boy. Female feticide is openly discussed amongst many in the healing fraternity and even pin boards outside certain clinics read, ‘Pay Rs.500 ($ 10) today to save the expense of Rs. 500 000 ($ 10 000) in the future’. The initial meager sum is the cost of a pregnancy termination, while the bigger amount specified in comparison, is the expense that the family will be burdened with in the form of dowry for the girl.

Industrial Growth: Industrialization of the health sector has further strengthened the selective sex abortion quarter. With the advent of CVS, amniocentesis and Ultrasound, sex determination of the fetus has become much easier than it was earlier. This goes on to show how the manufacturers of high-tech equipments and gadgets, used to run these tests, benefit from the woes of future parents and their unborn child. Many hospitals are known to sign long term contracts with the firms involved in the production of these types of medical machinery. Often, a healthy percentage of the profit is shared with the hospital and both parties enjoy the fruits of rewarding a death sentence.