TAMIL NADU

Parents reclaiming abandoned female children

DHARMAPURI, JUNE 28. In a reversal of trend, parents who abandoned female infants at the Cradle Baby Centre are now reclaiming them. Counselling sessions and the pro-active approach by senior government officials are beginning to make a difference. Dhramapuri recently recorded two cases of couples deciding to take back their female infants after having abandoned them at the centre in Dharmapuri General Hospital.

In one case, the parents agreed to take back the child, without participating in any counselling session, following a request by the Collector, Ashish Vachhani. "We couldn't bear the grief of being separated from our daughter, so we decided to bring her up with all our love and affection in spite of the suffering we underwent," Tamilselvi and Murugesan say about their change of heart.

In the second case, the couple reclaimed their child after it had been sent to an adoption agency. Shanmugam and Muniammal, who already have two daughters, said they surrendered the girl child because they were illiterate and could not afford to bring up another girl. They were however keen on having a male child. But, after the counselling, they said they were convinced that they could bring up their child better than anyone else.

Many parents say they surrender their girl child mainly due to socio-economic conditions. Most of them cite the prospect of dowry payment at the time of the girl's wedding as a forbidding factor. Counselling about the government's efforts to extend loans and other facilities at the time of the girl's marriage is however beginning to have some effect.

The Cradle Baby Centre was started on April 13, 2002 to safeguard the girl child and stop the alarming levels of female infanticide. Since its inception, the centre has received 457 infants, of whom 436 are girls.

Parents either abandon their infants at the centre or hand them over to the authorities after filling in details of their background and socio-economic situation. Cases of formal handing over of the infants are now on the rise.

In the new restructured form of counselling, staff members of the Social Welfare department advise parents by regularly visiting them. Awareness programmes are regularly conducted through extension workers at the block level and they, through mass contact programmes, stress the importance of the girl child. These programmes have helped change the parents' attitude in several cases.

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