A high-pitched scream pierces the silence of the night. It stirs up the monotonous silence of the corridors. Birds in the tree across the window are stirred. Footsteps sound heavier and faster now. Breaths become louder. The beeps of machines seem louder. Suddenly, a wail overpowers the environment. Smiles take over the army of tension and anxiety. “Congratulations!” the doctor says, “it’s a girl”. No sooner are the results known, than the smiles fade away. Dreadful looks are exchanged. Hushed whispers now decide the fate of the newly born.
The decision is unanimous. Abandon the child.
Female infanticide, the intentional killing of girl infants due to preference for the male child, has spread its roots into the entire social structure of the nation. People associate more value with the male child. Statistics reveal that five million girls were eliminated between 1986 and 2001. The fact that I am writing this article proves that I am one of the lucky few who did not fall prey to this horrendous crime.
Ironically, in a country where female goddesses are worshipped for knowledge, wealth and prosperity, we all stand witnesses to this practice. Every morning we remember to bow our heads in reverence to Goddess Saraswati to grant us knowledge but we forget that in a hospital somewhere, a newly-born girl’s future is hanging in the balance. Girls have even disproved the belief that boys are more capable than them. Then what is the need for this incessant killing? Narrow mindedness and lack of awareness has led to this situation. Age-old customs and traditions have shackled us. At the end of the 20th century, people were promised that the 21st century would be the harbinger of development and equality. But stories of female foetuses being found abandoned in drains, wells and hospitals still make front-page news.
Although Parliament enacted the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act to curb this illegal practice, it is not strict enough. Stringent laws need to be implemented. Abuse of power and money to kill a child has to be curbed. Awareness about the benefits of a girl child should be broadcast far and wide. The government should collaborate with different organisations and eliminate this horrific practice. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. Female infanticide can only be obstructed when we fight with an army of awareness and strict rules and procedures.
(The author is in final year B.E. Computer Science at Vemana Institute of Technology, Bangalore)