Gendered Dis-preference In Indian Society
By Roli Misra
30 March, 2015
The parameter of gender complicates numerous explanations and analyses of social behaviour that may otherwise hold. Economically as well as socially advanced countries have shown a sex ratio favourable to the female, but in many south and south-east Asian countries this relationship has not been so straightforward.
Neither education nor affluence have brought about any significant change in attitudes towards and value of women (Patel Tulsi 2004). Sex ratio is a powerful index to examine the social response on female children and also a broad indicator revealing the social fabric and cultural ethos of any country. India represents one of the most adverse Child Sex Ratio (CSR) figures amongst the Southeast Asian countries, reflecting a highly undesirable reversal of the norms of nature. The sex differential in mortality at the national level is the result of discriminatory treatment received by girls and women reflecting strong son preference and relatively less preference for daughters. Pravin Visaria (1971) study was the first major effort to understand the phenomenon of skewing sex ratio. He concluded that higher female mortality in different age groups was responsible for low sex ratio.
In present context with the advent of new technology the practice of female infanticide has been replaced by genocide of millions of women known as female foeticide – denying the girl its very right to take birth. The rapid spread of the use of ultrasounds and amniocentesis for sex determination followed by sex selective induced abortions has created a situation of daughter drought with tragic consequences. The decreasing child sex ratio (0-6 years) has been a concern in India’s demography in recent times as this ratio has decreased markedly from 927 in 2001 to 914 in 2011 for the country as a whole. This decline is more for rural areas from 934 in 2001 to 919 in 2011 and for urban areas it is 906 in 2001 and 902 in 2011. Despite the efforts of the government, civil society organizations, NGOs, UN agencies and the media to keep the issue of female foeticide high on the public and policy agenda, little or no desired results have been forthcoming The census results over the years are indicative of a strong possibility that the traditional methods of neglect of female children are increasingly being replaced by not allowing female children to be born. A new acronym has been coined by Prof. Ashish Bose which is called DEMARU – Daughter Eliminating Male Aspiring Rage by Ultrasound.
There are many states which have come in the category of DEMARU and the obvious reason is strong desirability of having son accompanied by accessibility and affordability of modern technology. Technology facilitates a series of pre-natal diagnostic tools to identify and cure any potential birth defects and associated conditions. In a gross misuse of the scientific tools, female fetuses are selectively aborted after such pre-natal sex determination, in spite of a massive influx of legal regulations banning the same. A number of cultural, social and economic factors influence the relative benefits and costs of sons and daughters. Among the feudal communities property/assets are considered to be the reason behind female foeticide. These families with feudal set up and agriculture base do not want their property to get transferred to their son-in-law (under right to Property Act) hence, prefer to get rid of the girl child at the first instance. It is indeed an irony that physicians in India have been strong supporters of sex selective abortions since their inception. Their argument include that it is the family’s right to make this personal decision that the mother will suffer if she has too many daughters. It is better to get rid of an unwanted child man to make it suffer all its life. For supporters of female foeticide the test appears to be the solution to a number of problems like population control, dowry deaths, bride burning, sexual violence, physical abuse etc. They believe that the reduced sex ratio will lead to an improvement in the status of women and dowry can be replaced by bride price. This kind of bigotry treatment is being practiced since ages and is known to all of us.
There may be a good amount of literature which has been written but all have not come in public notice. Many such girls/women have vanished unheard, unnoticed or are struggling and suffering somewhere on this earth. It needs to be pondered more seriously that how can we transform the mind set of people in a positive way? It is indeed a perplexed situation that how the policies and programmes initiated by the government to control this menace are going to work in communities. To conclude it can only be suggested that sensitization is the most important thing which needs to be done. Campaigns at the grassroots level should be designed to sensitize people to change their deep rooted mindsets about son preference and generate mass awareness on the issue of female foeticide and its consequences.
It is necessary that societal forums need to be engaged more to discuss and dialogue these socio cultural repercussions, bringing them to public domain else it may take generations and centuries to take people out of the son complex situation. People should be made aware of this genocide and they must join hands to save our daughters from their journey from womb to tomb otherwise we shall land into ‘No girl zone’ one day. Lets stop this gendered violence and cruelty and allow the girls to take birth, thus protecting their rights, dignity and position in the society, maintaining the natural order.
Roli Misra is Assistant Professor of Economics in D.B.S College, Kanpur. She specializes in Gender and Developmental issues. She has presented papers in national and International conferences and have number of publications including a book on Gender to her credit. Emailemail@example.com
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