Thursday, July 26, 2012

How does change happen? Cultural implications of female foetacide

I read a few online magazines and get a Kindle delivered newspaper to try to help me keep up to date with the happening in India. One of the constant considerations is the plight of "the girl child."

I've read stories of women who are "childless" because, they've buried alive girl children at birth, due to the desire for a boy child... one lady (I fail to call her mom, because I don't know how anyone, no matter how strong the cultural preference for a boy may be) had more than 5 girl children and remained childless...

In some areas of India, especially in URBAN areas and among the educated, there are only 850 girls for every 1000 boys. This is worse than it was 20 years ago. In spite of sex selective abortion being illegal (and even the sonographer telling you the child's sex being illegal), families find ways to ensure that the burden of a girl child is not there. A close friend is waiting on her adoption from a girl from India who happens to have spina bifida - it really is a gift of life!!

Anyway, the point of this post is that with the taboo topics in a culture, or even a family, change cannot happen without first admitting and being open about the problem.

We also need to define the problem. The problem is often systemic and deeply rooted. Though dowry is illegal in India, it still happens and is common and women who saw their family of origin become subject to dowry abuse probably do not want to see their own children face the same thing... and thus, their feeling of being trapped as a woman, probably makes them dread having girl children of their own. I saw this personally with a nanny we had - As much as I'd loved to have helped her through this emotionally, pregnant at the time with my son, I really had a hard time dealing with the emotions I had when she would tell me how her family used all their savings for her to go to a good university and get a master's degree, and pay that illegal dowry... only to be told by her inlaws that she was forbidden from working. Her parents couldn't afford the few rupees to pay for their medications, so she felt bad and her brother also made sure she knew how much of a burden she was.

What's the problem here?

Is the problem that women aren't valued?

Is the problem that men feel too superior?

Is the problem that women don't feel empowered?

These are all probably part of that bigger problem, deeply-rooted, woven into stories and folklore, ingrained in children from early on, both from these stories and by what they see in their daily life.

If your child was in school would you want these sad facts to be taught along side biology and calculus?

Can a change be made by educating most of Indian children about the problem? A current proposal is to ensure that all state-board schools (in India, schools are known by which syllabus they use) teach about the issue of female foeticide.

Many say, just out-law abortion (and I'm 100% pro life), but that doesn't fix this - female infanticide still exists. Laws won't change attitudes, awareness and sensitivity can change it.

It happens in many places in the world and it is sad. Whether it is lack of education for our girls, or any group of people, or any other form of discrimination, it is important to talk about the issue, open it up to others to make change. The thing is, while in the US we may not have THIS issue, we've had other issues and we have issues today still with inequality.

We cannot make change by just turning our eyes to the issue. We need to speak up to the wrongs and build up those being discriminated today while change happens. To lose a life to a doctor, a mom or suicide just shouldn't happen anywhere in the world.

1 comment:

Meleakua said...

How heartbreaking!! I didn't know about this~ my husband and I have talked about adoption in the past, I will have to look into adopting an Indian girl. I really do hope that education helps to change this- education is a powerful tool for transformation, and I will be praying for this. Please let us know if you come up with any other ways we can help from across the seas!