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By Aasawari Shenolikar,

The skewed sex ratios in our country prove how we suffer at various levels. The latest available figures put it at 919 females per 1000 boys. And with rampant killing of females in nooks and corners of the country, surveys reveal that the figures are set to take a downward plunge. Less number of females means more crimes against women.

March 8, when the entire world is celebrating International Woman’s Day - a day on which numerous women will be felicitated, there are going to be talks on women empowerment, the media - both print and electronic will go overboard with ‘women and their achievements’ - so in short the entire world will be ‘celebrating womanhood.’

As the preparations for the celebrations are going on, a news item made headlines and acted as a huge dampener in the celebratory spirit. It was about the discovery of nineteen foetuses found in a village near Sangli, Maharashtra. Not one, not two - but nineteen little lives!!

NINETEEN little lives were snuffed because they bore the ‘XX’ chromosome. NINETEEN little lives were killed because the parents did not want to be burdened with a girl child. NINETEEN is the number that we have with us today. God alone knows how many more foetuses met with the same fate. In Sangli, or elsewhere.

The present case in the news is not a lone case. Cases of female foeticide have been happening on a regular basis in our country. It is only when something like the Sangli incident - of a barbaric proportion is unearthed that everyone jumps into an action mode.
Arrests are made, a couple of clinics are shut down. And when the lull dies down, the perpetrators, resume - very nonchalantly - what they were doing before. So it’s back to square one.

Years ago, a similar racket was unearthed in a remote village in Gujarat. Dr Bharat Bhate from Rajkot was arrested in a sting operation - he would conduct sex determination tests, and help in aborting female foetuses which were then wrapped in plastic bags and disposed off in dustbins or streams. This heart-rending episode was aired on Crime Patrol Dial 100, sometime back.

Fervent appeals were made by the anchor Anup Soni to take concrete steps to put a stop to this. While talking to this scribe, Anup had then said, “Television is the most potent medium to get a right point across. This show is watched by millions, it is bound to touch the lives of people in remote villages and through this we want to educate the rural women that female foeticide is not only illegal, it is inhuman!”

The show might have helped educate a few, but a constant hammering needs to be done at all levels to bring home the point that in the race for our own survival, females play the most important part - that of procreation and that it is female alone who can give birth to the male offspring, the heir that majority hanker for. So the minute one female is killed, the ultimate sufferer is mankind.

The skewed sex ratios in our country prove how we suffer at various levels. The latest available figures put it at 919 females per 1000 boys. And with rampant killing of females in nooks and corners of the country, surveys reveal that the figures are set to take a downward plunge. Less number of females means more crimes against women.

That spells doom for the females. And how!
In the Himachal Pradesh belt we’ve heard of brothers sharing one woman. Why? Because there is a dearth of women. So it is the woman who suffers at the hands of so many men - from the same household. This is inhumanity at its worst! And if she begets a female, the child if not killed in the foetus, is killed immediately after it is born. What a shame!
This is a vicious circle - and it needs to stop! Not only for the betterment of the female, but for the betterment of humanity.

In the present case, the Government is talking of cross- border abortion racket that is in operation and investigations will be done by Maharashtra Government with the Karnataka Government to prevent such cases. How will this help? What does ‘cross-border’ have to do with any of this? The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PCPNDT) is an act that brings under its umbrella all the medical fraternity, including the work done by paramedicals and Homeopathy.
When the act says, determining the sex of a foetus is illegal - it means it is illegal - irrespective of the fact where the mother and doctor reside - whether in Maharashtra or Karnataka - the location doesn’t have any binding on the Act.

When the Act was passed and strict rules were laid down for its implementation, the determination of the sex, decreased in the urban areas. It only decreased - there were many who were and still practice it surreptiously. The action, then, shifted to villages and now such rackets are pretty rampant in remote parts in the country. The present case is proof of this.

Since a lot of money is involved in such cases - which is one of the prime reasons that, despite the law prohibiting them to do so, they still go ahead and practice sex determination. And help abort the foetus, if the need be. We all know that when something illegal is being done, the cost associated with it escalates. So right from the ultrasound till the abortion, close to a lakh of rupees exchange hands.

It’s an irony that the Government will not allow a mother to abort a foetus that has multiple abnormalities only because ‘the test could confirm the abnormalities only after the foetus is 21 weeks old’ - the legal limit prescribed by the law for aborting is 20 weeks. So the application is rejected. (Only in very rare cases a 20-week legal ceiling on abortion is relaxed). But the Government hardly ever brings the perpetrators to book who conduct illegal abortions at the drop of a hat.

The Ministry of Health, under whose purview all this falls, must take strict action against those who break the law. Clinics need to be sealed and doctors and other personnel practicing the illegal acts must be exposed. Above all, educating the family must take priority. Everyone in the family, including the elders must be taught Beti Bachao should be their main concern. They must be told India needs its daughters, just as much as it needs its sons.

Target Communities : All Society

Why it is important: Women are the backbone of society

What is the end objective of the news?: To spread awareness about the importance of the girl child and the menace of female infanticide

What needs to be done to meet the objective?: Societal mindset has to change - promote the girl child at every level

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