No graves for millions of aborted baby girls

23 03 2011

Female foeticide awareness movement

If I lived in India, I wouldn’t know my name. If I lived in India, I wouldn’t know what my father looked like or hear the sound of my mother’s voice. If I lived in India, I wouldn’t see the color of the sky or feel the coolness of the rain – because, if I lived in India, I probably would have never been born.

Although the killing of women exists in many different manifestations in societies across the world, Indian society has created some unique and particularly cruel versions. One of the most extreme forms is female foeticide, where female fetuses are selectively aborted after pre-natal sex determination, in order to avoid the birth of girls. As a result of these abortions, between 35 and 40 million girls and women are missing from the Indian population, according to Indu Grewal and J. Kishore. In some parts of the country, the sex ratio of girls to boys has dropped significantly, with less than 800 girls for every 1,000 boys (International Humanist and Ethical Union).

The practice of female foeticide is derived from the Indian dowry system, where women are viewed as financial burdens. When a woman marries, her family must pay the groom’s family a significant sum as a gift for the groom accepting the woman as his bride. Thus, a man is seen as a moneymaker for his family, while a woman is condemned as a costly investment with no reward. Additionally, the Hindu religion, practiced by a vast majority of Indians, greatly favors men over women. “The birth of a son is regarded as essential in Hinduism and many prayers and lavish offerings are made in temples in the hope of having a male child,” said Grewal and Kishore. “Modern medical technology is used in the service of this religion-driven devaluing of women and girls.”

The advent of new medical technologies has greatly aided in this barbaric ritual. In the 1970’s private fetus determination clinics began to pop up all over India as ultrasound equipment became more advanced. With this trend came the process of selective abortion, and it has only grown in popularity, especially with more affluent women.“Worryingly, the trend is far stronger in urban rather than rural areas, and among literate rather than illiterate women, exploding the myth that growing affluence and spread of basic education alone will result in the erosion of gender bias,” said Grewal and Kishore.

Medical professionals are not immune to this detrimental thinking. They encourage their patients to undergo selective abortions and will risk malpractice claims to perform the operation. A woman who chooses not to proceed is not only shunned by her doctor, but by all of society.

While Indian culture perpetuates this practice, the impact on society cannot be overlooked. Though this practice should be banned for many reasons related to violations of women’s rights, there are also practical implications. China, another country that has a prevalence of selective abortions has begun to calculate the risks of this practice. According to Chinese estimates, by 2020 there are likely to be 40 million unmarried young men in China, because of the adverse sex ratio.” A society with a preponderance of unmarried young men is prone to particular dangers,” said Grewal and Kishore. “More women are likely to be exploited as sex workers. Increases in molestations and rape are an obvious result. The sharp rise in sex crimes in Delhi have been attributed to the unequal sex ratio.”

India's current president, Pratibha Patil. Photo Courtesy of topnews.in

Though there have been attempts at legislation against female feticide, there has been little success in eliminating this practice, as Indian society is deeply steeped in beliefs of female inferiority. However, hope lies in the current president of India, Pratibha Patil.

“Today, there are fewer women in India than men, and if this trend continues it would have negative impact on the society itself,” said Patil in a recent speech. “Women, particularly already those empowered, can be an effective voice for articulating women related causes, including in the fight against social evils like female foeticide, child marriage, dowry and addictions as well as against the discrimination and biases that exist in society against women,” said Patil.

Patil is aiming to make female empowerment through the destruction of practices like female feticide a priority in her service to the country. To do this, she must first convince women that they have a place in society and that they have a choice against selective abortions. Then comes the biggest challenge – changing views that have been present since the founding of the country. Hopefully she can prevail where others have been unsuccessful. Though many are fighting against her empowerment platform, I believe that this woman can do what a man couldn’t: inspire a nation of women to unshackle their own chains.

klarge@flagler.edu

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Caste away

21 03 2011

When I was begrudgingly forced to enter the chaotic and cruel world inflicted upon American teenagers known as high school, I immediately recognized a social hierarchy from my first moments in the crowded halls.

Football players and other athletes, also called “jocks” thanks to a slew of 1980s teen angst flicks, were firmly placed at the top rung of the social ladder, right next to their female counterparts – the promiscuous pretty girls. A few rungs down were the sports enthusiasts, endowed with an uncanny sense of school spirit, followed by the socially active overachievers who were constantly clawing for student government positions. Towards the bottom of the barrel lurked the social misfits, who would rather not have any label attached to them, as labels upset their desire for “anarchy.”

Stereotypical, yes, but this social order was as real as any other. Throughout my four years in high school I tried my best to avoid being assigned to any group, determined to carve my own social patterns without any labels destructing my path. I had a choice as to whether or not I would be a featured member in one of the cliques. People in India do not have choice.

Caste systems are as fundamental to India’s culture as curry spices or Bollywood films, but far more destructive. Derived from Hinduism, this twisted hierarchy has been embedded in the culture for over 1500 years and thrives on the belief that mankind are not created equally. According to National Geographic, “The ranks…come from a legend in which the main groupings, or varnas, emerge from a primordial being. From the mouth come the Brahmans—the priests and teachers. From the arms come the Kshatriyas—the rulers and soldiers. From the thighs come the Vaisyas—merchants and traders. From the feet come the Sudras—laborers…A fifth group describes the people who are achuta, or untouchable. The primordial being does not claim them.”

To be born an untouchable is to be cast into a sea of hatred. Untouchables are outcasts in Indian culture and must live separately from all other castes and hope to be spared from the tortuous tormenting that accompanies being born into such unfortunate circumstance. According to National Geographic one out of six Indians must suffer from this fate, with no way to escape the physical and emotional tolls of being an untouchable. They are beaten, raped, forced into slavery, and discriminated against in every way possible.

Though the persecution of the untouchables is one of the worst aspects of the caste system, there are many other less dangerous, but equally severe consequences. One from a lower caste cannot ever be accepted by one of a higher caste – friendships and marriages must be of the same ranking. Furthermore, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for one born to a low caste to become successful in business or politics. Lower castes are resigned to a life of low work – manual labor or cleaning services.

Activists around the globe have been trying to fight this ancient system for years. The European Union has had hearings on the issue recently, and European Parliament has passed a resolution on this human rights situation, noting with concern “the lack of substantive EU engagement with the Indian Government on the vast problem of caste-based discrimination,“ according to Peter van Dalen.

However, very little has been done by the EU system to implement the recommendations made. Furthermore, India’s repeated attempts to silence international debate on this issue, deeming it an internal matter, have deterred other parties from stepping in on the matter. For now, the caste system stays, caging the Indian people with no chance of escaping.

Somehow, after discovering the horrors of the Indian caste system, the American social ladder wrought with jocks, preps, nerds, and misfits doesn’t seem so despicable.

klarge@flagler.edu





Into the blogosphere

17 03 2011

Indian flag

Humans are hunters and gatherers – we have been from the time of the first man, drifting out into the wilderness in search of vital nutrients. Modern man still exhibits this intuitive hunting and gathering behavior in all aspects of life. When first creating this blog, I too felt compelled by ancestral thinking to hunt and gather other blogs and websites to inspire and inform my own writing.

As I waded through the blogosphere seeking my prey, I had difficulty finding content that was relatable to my own goals. India is one of the technology capitals of the world and this position is greatly reflected in the blogs produced by its countrymen. Though these blogs were flashy and filled with facts that would awe the geeksquad, I found little excitement within their macromedia presentations and continued my hunt elsewhere.

What I eventually gathered may not be visually stimulating or complicated in design, but the content relates to my area of interest and has provided me with relevant supplement information to my own musings.

DailyIndia.com
Completely user friendly, DailyIndia.com offers India-centric news story in a quick, easy to read format. I try to visit the site on a daily basis (pun intended) in order to digest the latest happenings in India without getting bogged down with excessive content. The site may lack flashy structure, but its simplicity is what I find appealing.

The India Daily
Not to be confused with the aforementioned site, The India Daily is an excellent news source with much more visually appealing organization. The India Daily is also much more comprehensive, offering a range of news topics and stories. I credit this site with helping me get a grasp on the Indian political system and I enjoy perusing its archives for insight into recent happenings in the country.

The India Post
Though The India Post masks itself as a general news blog, its articles often center around the issues facing the nation, including human trafficking and child abuse. Because of its humanitarian heart, I have found The India Post to be a great asset in my quest to learn about the trials of India, as well as an excellent resource for news that is often left out of the more established Indian news sites.

Think Change India
A country with much social disrupt, India is home to generations of contempt and unrest. Fortunately, there are strong-minded individuals in the country who have banded together to work on the social challenges present in India. Think Change India tracks progress in social change and innovation in the country and compiles all relevant information in a blog format. Updated regularly, this blog provides hope for the ever-changing social dynamics in India.


Trafficking in India

A blog close to my own heart, Trafficking in India focuses not only on its namesake, but also on other issues related to the abuse of women in the country, including female infanticide. I enjoy the blog’s colloquialisms, which have inspired me to learn more about different regions and cultures present in the nation. Updated regularly with instances of trafficking, rescue reports, and ways to become an abolitionist against this modern day slavery cast by sex, I have found this blog to be the most frequented authority in my arsenal of resources.

klarge@flagler.edu