Unchaahi: against Female Foeticide in India

Friday, February 22, 2008

Solutions for the problem of Female Foeticide?


My plan for today was to list all the possible reasons for male preference in the Indian society, analyze each reason, and present conclusions drawn from my analyses in an ingenious manner until I spoke to a friend last night. He excused himself by calling himself a 'stupid Indian patriot' at first and then went on to say that he upsets him to see negative things written about his country. He went on to say that he acknowledges that whatever negative that is being written is true to the word but he just doesn't like it. He would rather be interested in solutions and action now rather than knowing that the problem exists. Fair enough, I responded. Solutions it is then. Having promised him that, I delved into the big wide world web to fish for solutions. I came across this very interesting blog that talks about all the reasons that I was meaning to write about today and it asks the same questions I was seeking answers to. The blogger discusses the factual unfavorable sex ratio numbers, its detrimental consequences, the reasons behind such anomaly, and ends the blog with the following questions:
What to do? And are there any effective interventions possible at all? How do you address the issue that is so intimately related with such core social realities as dowry, low social status of women, patriarchic society? The culture that took thousand of years to build does not take short time to change… Do you just opuskat’ ruki and watch worsening sex-ratio?… Who is to be responsible? Who is to intervene? How to intervene?
Exactly the questions I set out to ask.

I have approached a few NGOs working on issues relating to gender inequalities in India. I am in conversation with 3 of them in hopes of them providing me expert advice on what they believe are the best solutions for the posed problems along with informing me of the projects that are currently active and the success rate of these initiatives. I've also asked them to provide me with detailed information in regards to the factors affecting the success and failure rates of their projects. I haven't yet received any information. These things take time, I am told. I had contacted one of these three organizations on February 7 ('08), second on February 8, and third on February 18. I have repeatedly touched base with the first two but with no success of receiving any information yet. Perhaps it does take over two weeks to email information over. Now, either I sit quietly and wait for a response or get on the phones again with some other organizations. I think I'd opt for the latter. Maybe I'd get lucky.

As for my personal view on solutions, like everybody else I've read so far, I also believe that there is no single solution. Addressing the problem of gender inequality and its inevitable consequences that we are faced with cannot only be just addressed by stricter laws and punishment. They require an alteration of majority of the package of cultural norms that have been handed down from generation to generation. Every woman in Indian society needs to start valuing her life and start respecting herself and inculcate the same in her children: both boys and girls. It's with the empowerment of women (through means like education for women, equal job opportunities as men, shunning of dowry system etc.) that the process of overthrowing adverse sex ratios can begin. Women no longer should accept being treated as a burden on society merely born for the purpose of handling domestic chores and being a breeding machine. However, it is easier said than done. My 43 year old aunt was quite literally offended and upset with me when I told her that me and my husband take turns to cook. "How could you allow him to do a lady's job? It's your responsibility as a lady to manage the house!", she said to me in a thoroughly disappointed voice. I managed to wriggle out of the situation by laughing it off although it still bothers me even if it has been a year since. She is an educated lady married to an equally educated gentleman living a rather affluent life in India. If she strongly believes in what she told me despite having received education in a good school, is there any hope for a village girl whose life only pertains to her parents' house's four walls? Sadly, statistics show that education makes no difference in people's perception of the value of a woman. I agree with what one blogger says:
Women and only women can understand the pain, grief, insult and oppression of another women. Until and unless this happens, freedom of women will always remain illusive.

I leave you today with a categorically written report that does provide
suggestions of improvement: Female Foeticide in Punjab: Exploring the socio-economic and cultural dimensions

Eradication might not seem a possibility in the near future, but our attempts might get us closer to the desired result. Understanding the causes and seeking solutions does seem like a fair start.



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