Friday, March 28, 2008

On female foeticide

I came across this very interesting, and moving blog recently, thanks to a comment its author left on my blog. It contains many things, personal experiences, horror stories, and plain and simple logic. In short, it raises awareness on an issue that must be spoken about and discussed if we really want to make a difference. One post that left me particularly angry was about an upper middle class family from Eastern UP that forced its daughter-in-law to abort because she was carrying a girl. I find it extremely hard to digest that fact that a mother is forced to destroy her child because it happens to be a girl.

There are two issues involved in this story. The first, and in my opinion, the most important is this obsession with having a son. I grew up in a female-dominated household. My mother has four sisters. One is not married, and the other lived with us for many years, in blocs of a few years, thanks to the transferable Air Force job her husband had. In short, I grew up with two aunts, a grandmum, occasionally a great grandmother and my mother. All women. My dad and grandfather were present, and so was my grandfather's younger brother. But the women outnumbered the men two to one. Add to this the fact that I was an only grandchild for ten long years, at least until Vidyesh was born in 1992. My grandfather has no sons. Nor do my parents. Not one day have I felt bad about it. Or regretted being born a girl. In fact, being an only grandchild for ten years spoilt me to the extent that I am still given preferential treatment over my cousins sometimes. I am the first, and so I am treated as special by everyone. Including my two aunts who have a son each. Given the background and family in which I grew up, I will never understand why women want sons. In fact, the situation was sort of reversed in my family. My aunt's first child was a boy. She prayed practically every day during her second pregnancy for a girl. Girls are precious in our family. And will always be.

But, when I step back from this situation and examine the issue objectively, it all adds up. It still does not make sense though. Some time back, I had written about dowry. That's the issue. Dowry. Girls are considered a financial liability. Not because they must be educated or fed. But because they must be married away. To put it crudely, they are often treated like a piece of unwanted furniture to be sold to the lowest bidder. In this case, lowest bidder because its the girl's parents who pay the bidder to take her away. So, whoever agrees to take her away at the lowest cost gets her. Have we no shame? How can any self-respecting man ask his wife's parents to pay him? A car, a house, a couple of lakhs in cash, a few hundred sovereigns of gold, a diamond jewel or two... the list is endless. I am disheartened to see that this trend shows no signs of ending. In fact, it gets more and more fashionable to demand dowry. Even in previously matrilineal systems like the Nairs and Menons of Kerala, dowry is becoming an accepted practice. When will we change, if we ever will...?


The second issue is that of abortion in general. I have come across three cases of abortion in the past two years. All three women belong to the upper middle class. All are well-educated and well-settled. They have the proverbial house, car and dog. They have a decent income. All three are housewives. I refuse to call these people home-makers because the term housewife seems more appropriate. All three have ambitions, not for themselves, but for their husbands. They want to go abroad, settle down there, build a house, buy a car and be generally successful. But none of them want kids. Well, that's fine by me. If you don't want kids use contraception. But no, all three got pregnant within six months of marriage. And all three aborted the foetus. To me, that's cold-blooded murder. There is nothing wrong in not wanting a kid right away. There are a dozen different ways to prevent conception. These women are educated right? Should they not take responsibility for their lapses? I find it impossible to accept that abortion can be used to get rid of a child you don't want. A child is precious. There are millions of infertile couples trying desperately to have a baby. And these women throw away what they get because they claim children are too expensive to take care of. One husband actually told me that the cost of a child diapers would be too expensive for him to sustain. The said husband is in a good job earning more than 40,000 rupees a month. He does not think twice about taking his wife out to the Taj for dinner but calculates the cost of a child's diaper? Its simply selfish. On second thoughts, I would rather such people not have kids. At least, the kid won't suffer.

6 comments:

Sudhanthira said...

"These women are educated right? Should they not take responsibility for their lapses? I find it impossible to accept that abortion can be used to get rid of a child you don't want."

I noticed amrutha that the point seems to be only about women and 'their' responsibility towards the child. Why? what about the man involved? Isn't he responsible for the kid as well? after all can't contraception happen both ways? Does it make the woman more responsible because she would be the one carrying the child? Not that i am pro-choice, but i see this trend everytime people cricticise abortion. It is always the women who is got be responsible, who's got to feel guilty, who's got carry the blame for years together. Procreation obviously took the two and how can u be so sure that these abortions took place with only the woman making the decision?

Amrutha said...

Christina, if you read the whole post, you would know that I am also talking about a potential father who calculates the cost of a diaper. Everyone is responsible. Including the extended family that supports and endorses the act. But, it is equally true that a woman feels more attached to a foetus than a man simply because she is deeply connected to it in a purely biological sense. I felt that in these case I came across, the women must have at least tried to tell their husbands that it was wrong. But, they chose not to. Because it was inconvenient for them to abort at that point. That's my problem with these women.

Alankrita said...

Amrutha, my story, the one you mentioned here, is not about a Punjabi family- the family is an East UP family- all very well-placed and "educated".
However, region or not.... It is the most heinous thing I ever know... a crime a "sin"( if I were a non-atheist)

These women have a responsibility, their men do too... but you know what, they all do not care.. it does not bother them at all....

Roop Rai said...

the mentality that 'if she's doing it, why shouldn't i?' is also killing us. pun intended.

the more i read into this practice, the more complex it seems to get. dowry is one of the many underlying reasons. religion definitely serves a part as well. women being the carriers of honor, their financial dependence, being physically weaker et al cater towards women being discriminated against at all ages (including fetal) and all economic and literate levels.

unfortunate ... but hey, we're working to better the future. thanks for the mention, Amrutha. :) cheers.

Amrutha said...

Alankrita: Sorry for the mix-up. It's been corrected. That's exactly what I mean. They don't care. If the women cared enough, they would at least try to stop it. I can understand if they belong to the lower classes, don't have enough money to survive on their own, or are ignorant. But the women we are talking about are well-educated, and sometimes even rich. It's simply unforgivable. They can't be absolved of their responsibility simply because they are women.

Roop: You are welcome. It definitely needs to be stopped. One way or the other. If I can contribute, I am happy.

Ms Cris said...

I am as much against girl-child killing as any self-respecting woman. But when it comes to deciding if a married couple should have a child or not, I think its completely upto them.

True, abortion could be avoided if they planned it before. But once that stage is crossed, and they are not ready to have a child, it is upto them to decide what they should do about it.

For that matter, even the female-foeticide killing is a personal matter. But there somehow, my sentiments are hurt. Decision to have a child or not is different; but decision to kill it because its a girl hurts a lot.

Well I didnt come to disagree, just telling what I thought about it.