Gender Inequality, Girl Child Abuse, and Practices like Jogini against Dalit girls. ‘Issues are different but the victim remains same’ - A Girl!


They go to study, look after their younger siblings, work for their elders and household chores. In the countryside, they are counted as inoperable for eminent and dignified work. In India, beti bachao beti padhao is actually a phrase and nothing else. It’s been decades since we got independence from the despotism and cruelty of social conflicts emerging from religious sentiments. Some were croaked by British India government and other by fellow Indian heroes. 

 

But still rituals like Jogini  forces Telangana’ Dalit women into sex slavery. Girl Child day, makes no sense for me if practices like  jogini still prevails in the society under the veil of faith and religious sentiments. There are many more practices still observed in the countryside other than Jogini abusing and maltreating girl child. A few ancient practices are still popular in the countryside and even in the town. 

So, take a look at the cited ones:- 

 

 

Female Foeticide and Infanticide

Female foeticide is an act of destruction that causes death of a foetus. This is not a natural act but a deliberate one. This is called as sex-selective abortion, as the sex of an unborn baby is determined through medical techniques and the same is aborted if the sex turns out to be a female one.

Female infanticide has been against the law even before the country acquired its independence. But the law has not been enforced well even after the Indian Penal Code (1860) added provisions against forced miscarriage. It is feared that close to 8 million foetuses have been killed in India since the census in 2001. (India's unwanted girls, 2011). The practise of female foeticide and infanticide spans centuries in the rural India. However the practise over the decades has spread to the educated urban India as well. Despite of rising income, education and standard of living, preference for male child exists. Sex determination techniques have made it possible formalise to fulfil their deep-rooted traditional desire for male child. A mix of deep rooted traditional practises, beliefs and rampant technology advancement along with poor governance are causing this menace to sustain.

 

Traditional Dowry System

Multiple reasons are sited for this gruesome crime in a country where the girl child is also called a version of Goddess Laxmi on birth. Traditional dowry system has been made illegal since 1961 (The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961). Despite that it appears to be one of the prime reasons for female foeticide. Birth of a female child brings along with her worries of all the expenses of her marriage. She is perceived as a high maintenance liability right from her birth. Investing on her for her upbringing, education is equated to a zero return on investment as she will take away all that to another family once she is married. Male child on the other hand will bring all of this once he is married. A country obsessed with marriages kills the female foetus for the very same reason. Inspite of having so many laws against dowry in our country, this tradition is still going on in almost each and every part of our country.

 

Patriarchal Set up

Families set up in India continues to be a patriarchal where status of male members is higher to the female members. And a mother on giving birth to a male child automatically rises in status. Traditionally only a male heir can carry forward the family's name. In the absence of a male heir it is perceived that the family name is lost forever, hence preference for a male child is deeply rooted.

 

Efforts of Family Planning

Interestingly, it is observed not only in India but also in a few other countries that the efforts of family planning and desire for smaller families by the educated mass leading to rise in female foeticide. In earlier times a minimum or 4 to 5 children were born and probability of eventually giving birth to a male child was high. There was no government restriction or desire for smaller family hence lesser female foeticide.

 

Erroneous Diffusion of Innovation

Finally the last nail on the block is the ever increasing and easy availability of technology. There are more than 42190 registered ultrasound clinics across the country and many more are not even registered (MCI asked to check selective abortions, 2011). Sex determination technique has penetrated fast into the country as it allows information much in sync with the traditional values of Indian families. Law allows abortion up till 12th( and on exceptional cases up to 20th week) of pregnancy and technology enables determination of sex by the 14th week. On finding out the sex, the foetus is aborted if it is a female one. Ultra sound centres have found7innovative ways of executing the illegal act. 

 

The Joint family Setup

In India, family is the most important institution. Many families, even in urban cities, are joint, comprising of grandparents, uncles, aunts and children. Family system comprise of members who care for each other, who help in building a secured and healthy environment. One of the core values of the Indian culture is respect for elder members of the family and all vital decisions are not taken without their consent. Growth through procreation is a vital purpose of a family even then often-family members only are a threat to the girl child. Women are forced into abortion by relatives, elders of the family sometimes even husband.


 

The Act of Abortion and the Inaction of Laws

Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1971)abortions have been made legal in India since 1971. The act allows termination of pregnancy by authorised/ registered medical professionals possessing recognised medical qualifications as mentioned in the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956. The Act does not allow pregnancy to be terminated beyond 12 weeks or a maximum of 20 weeks. It can be done only on medical and legal grounds and a second opinion from another medical doctor is mandatory.

Despite the clear checks and mechanisms provided under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, illegal aborting in India is very high. It is estimated that maternal death due to abortion is as high as 12-18% mainly attributed to illegal abortions (National Institute of Research in Reproductive Health, 2008). Ironically number of legal and reported abortions over the years have been reducing. According to a data in 1999 legal reported abortions were 7,39,975 whereas the same data for 2005 was 1,63,205 (Johnston, 2012). Many cases of corrupt practices by medical doctors are revealed by media. With the support of medical doctors from small as well as big cities execution of illegal abortion is rampant (Female foeticide crackdown, 2012). On determination of the sex of the foetus they pocket a heavy sum of money. The act is performed quite cautiously, the patient is deliberately made not to fill any registration form and very swiftly the act is done.

 

 

STEPS TAKEN BY GOVERNMENT TO SAVE GIRL CHILD. 

It is said Indian government was one of the first few that woke up to the need of saving the girl child. Over the past few decades the Government has established laws for prevention of female foeticide, it has incorporated special schemes that encourage families to have girl child and it has also sporadically undertaken campaign called Save the Girl Child.

 

Direct law preventing female foeticide

Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques Act 1994 - India pioneered in legalisation of abortion through the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971. In 1970s All India Institute of Medical Sciences, one of the most prestigious hospitals in the country claimed that Indians no longer need to go through many pregnancies to fulfil their desire for a male child. They introduced pre-natal sex determination technology and claimed it to be advantageous for the over populated country. Ultrasounds for sex determination followed by abortions were rampant by 1980s. 

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The Dowry Prohibition Act (1961): This act tries to address the problem at the root itself. It prevents giving and taking of any kind of dowry. On doing so it will be considered as a punishable offence leading to imprisonment.

 

Hindu Marriage Act (1955): It regulates married lives among Hindus and defines its conditions for validity conditions for in-validity, and applicability. It acts to prevent the interest of valid marriages for both men and women.

 

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005):

This act has been passed to protect women lives in marriages or in relationships.

 

Equal Remuneration Act (1976): The act stands to provide equal remuneration to both men and women and prevent all instances of gender discrimination at work places

 

Hindu Succession Act (1956): This act was amended in 2005 and it gives equal rights to daughters to inherit property as much as sons.

 

Save the Girl Child - Schemes and Policies

Schemes and policies by both central and state government have been developed specially to encourage families to have girls and to bring them up well. Some of the key objectives of these schemes are provided below:

• Stricter implementation of PC & PNDT Act

• Directly reduce instances of female foeticide by

increasing preference for girl child

• Increase the status of girl child in the family

• Protect the future of girl child and improve the

quality of her life

• Educating and spreading awareness to change beliefs

and attitude

• Extending support to the weak and manipulated

 

Conclusion

Although efforts and resources have been invested by different change agents and little awareness has been generated about the social evil, a lot is still to be done. First of all, there is a lack of a nationalised awareness campaign that can bring about sustained behavioural change. Sporadic awareness campaigns have been undertaken but they are disconnected. There is a burning need for a systematic social change campaign. A social change campaign can help modify and abandon attitudes, beliefs and practises of preference for a son at the time of birth. For a focused approach it is important to  identify all bodies involved as the change agents and target adopters.

Effectiveness and appropriateness is a major concern regarding all central and state government schemes. Most of these schemes are targeted towards the rural and the urban population. Urban middle and rich classes stand to gain little from these schemes and therefore they fail to address the objective. Effectiveness of the scheme with respect to the benefit of the scheme reaching the targeted population is an issue. Taking example of the two central schemes, BalikaSamriddhi Yojana and Dan Laxmi Scheme, data reveals that the utilisation The implementation and the impact of the campaign must be felt at the grass root level both urban and rural areas. The role of Anaganwadi's in the villages play critical role in monitoring each and every pregnancy of the village. Sporadic state and central governmental may not lead to a sustained behaviour change.

 

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