Have you ever seen the Grafitti on the walls of Kolkata where there is a silhouette of a girl with the #MissingGirls 1098? We all have come across the graffiti. But how many of us tried to find what does that mean? Actually it was the brainchild of a Calcutta based artist, who hopes to find and retain these missing girls in the minds of the common man.
In today’s world being a girl is more difficult than anything else, especially in the rural areas. A girl has to deal with many things right from her birth. Conservative mindset is one of the main factors along with societal pressure for not letting her dreams come true, fear of abuse, restrictions to go for higher education and more.
Though we have advanced a lot as ‘Gen – Y’, yet even today we are still in the clutches of societal truculence. One of the worst issues is female foeticide, an extremely worst and cruel crime in this generation. Female foeticide is the illegal abortion of a female foetus inside the mother’s womb. The frequency of female foeticide in India is increasing day by day. The desire to have a male child is still largely prevalent in this modern society. A girl child is considered as a burden in one’s life and providing them education is thought to be a wastage of money as they won’t look after them or carry on the family business.
In most societies, a woman can barely decide on how many children she can have or when she can have them or whether she can abort if she wishes so. Women around the world are still fighting to establish their right in such decision making. Female foeticide is done also because of the dowry system. Even though the dowry system legally ended with the dowry prohibition act, 1961 the impossibility of monitoring families and the prevalence of corruption have led to its continuance all over India. A dowry is a payment from the bride’s family to the groom’s family at the time of marriage. Dowry includes money, costly cars and types of furniture and other costly things. In Indian society, the rise of economic growth has allowed men to work in ‘productive’ jobs and gain an income, but many women are not afforded these opportunities. Therefore, women and their families have to compete for men and pay a dowry as a transaction payment to make up for the lack of productive inputs they bring into a marriage Dowries have been rising in India for the last six decades and increased 15 per cent annually between 1921 and 1981. The power hierarchy and financial obligation created through this system help perpetuate acts like female foeticide and high son preference.
Another reason for female foeticide is India’s weak social security system. In India, there is a very limited social security system so parents look to their sons to ensure their futures and care for them in old age. Daughters are liabilities because they have to leave to another family once they are married and cannot take care of their parents. Additionally, they do not contribute economically to the family wealth and are costly because of the dowry system people in India usually see men’s work as ‘productive’ and contributing the family, while the social perception of female labour does not have that connotation. This also ties to the fact that it is easier for men in India to get high paying jobs and provide financially for their families Women need increased access to education and economic resources in order to reach that level of gainful employment and change people’s perceptions of daughters being financial liabilities. With this cost and benefit analysis, many families come to the conclusion that they must prioritize male children’s lives over female lives in order to ensure their financial future.
There are several laws and regulations regarding female foeticide in the Indian Penal Code. Laws passed in India to alleviate female foeticide is the Dowry Prohibition Act passed in the year 1961 which prohibits families from taking a dowry, punishable with imprisonment. Next, is the Hindu Marriage Act passed in the year 1955 that established rules around marriage and divorce for Hindus? Thirdly is the Hindu adoption and maintenance act passed in the year 1956 which deals with the legal process of adopting children and the legal obligation to provide ‘maintenance‘ for other family members. Fourthly the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act passed in the year 1986 which stops sex trafficking and exploitation. Fifthly, the Equal Remuneration Act passed in the year 1976, Prevents monetary discrimination between men and women in the workforce. Sixthly, the female Infanticide Act passed in the year 1870, prevents female infanticide (Act passed in British India). Lastly, the ban on ultrasound testing passed in the year 1996 and it bans the cruel practice of prenatal sex determination.
In this caste-ridden patriarchial society, the highest status for women was that of the Saibhagyavati or a blessed woman whose husband is alive and she is the mother of a son rather than a daughter. A woman should have equal status and opportunities and a chance to prove them and to stop this cruel practice of exchange of babies and female foeticide.