A Boy, `Barfi' A Girl
By Gargi Parsai
27 September, 2003
`V' sign would normally mean `victory'. But in some northern States
of the country, a doctor uses this sign after ultrasonograhpy of a pregnant
woman to indicate, "Voila, it's a son!''
The other sign language
that is used is "laddu'' for a son and "barfi'' for a daughter.
If the doctor asks the patient to come back on a Friday, it means it
is a girl she is carrying and she should return for an abortion. And
if he says, "Let's meet on Monday'', it means its going to be a
This sign language
is the latest manner devised by unscrupulous doctors to circumvent the
law which bans sex determination of an unborn child under the Pre-natal
Diagnostic Tests (PNDT) Act to prevent female foeticide, which has the
Government worried with declining female sex ratio.
"Just by registering
sonography machines, as the Supreme Court has directed in its latest
order, this problem is not going to go. Unless the State makes some
examples by taking severe action against erring doctors, nothing will
happen,'' demographer Ashish Bose told The Hindu here on Wednesday.
Dr. Bose recently
conducted a study on female foeticide with Mira Shiva of the Voluntary
Health Association of India (VHAI) in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana,
funded by the Department of Family Welfare.
The study, `Darkness
at Noon', shows that "demographic fundamentalism" i.e. preference
for a boy-child is on the rise in the country, particularly in North
India resulting in declining sex ratio. "Our planners and policy
makers have not understood the grip of the son complex in Indian society,
nor have our sociologists and behavioural scientists done enough research
on the subject,'' the study notes.
The study, which
covered Kurukshetra in Haryana, Fateh Saheb in Punjab and Kangra district
in Himachal Pradesh, categorically states that female foeticide was
the result of an unholy alliance between the traditional preference
for a son and modern medical technology, increasing greed of doctors
and rising the demand for dowry that makes daughters financial burdens.
It also shows up the ineffectiveness of the PNDT Act and the liberal
Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and the lack of any serious involvement
of civil society in fighting this social menace.
It says that the
force of the son complex cuts across religion, caste, socioeconomic
group and place of residence. It increases with the rise of consumerism
propagated by television advertising. "Female foeticide must be
comprehended in the wider context of increasing violence against women
and vigilance must be at the local level,'' it notes.
It suggests that
one way to restore the gender imbalance is by giving 33 per cent reservation
in jobs to women, both in private and public sectors. "Political
empowerment is not enough without economic empowerment.''
The study stresses
the need for redefining antenatal needs and educating public on the
XY/XX chromosomes, which come from the father and are responsible for
determining the sex of the child. Gender violence, sex determination,
female foeticide, female infanticide and homicide and even forced suicides
by women, must be addressed as a major public health concern.