New Delhi: Dr Ganesh Rakh, the founder of Medicare Hospital Foundation Trust in the suburban area of Pune, does not charge fees if an infant girl is born in the hospital. His initiative is a measure to fight against the social biases and prejudices of the girl child.
Till date, he has done over 144 such deliveries, both natural and caesarean. The hospital not only exempts maternity charges but distributes sweets to celebrate the birth of a girl child.
In the year 2007, he set up a 25-bed maternity hospital in Pune. The hospital is dedicated to helping the underprivileged patients. Today, people are more aware of his initiative and so, the intensity of his work has increased.
He believes that the social norms are suppressive towards the girl child.He also points out the trauma a mother has to go through when a girl child is born.
“Female infanticide is rampant because regressive social norms are not only anti-women but are even an anti-girl child. As a medical professional, I have seen the torture that a mother undergoes when she comes to know that she has delivered a girl,” said Dr Rakh in an interview with Deccan Herald.
This psychological pain of the mother and prejudice against the girl child led him to take the decision to not claim maternity fees if the child born is a girl.
This has inspired a social movement which was not even anticipated by him. “After reading media reports about my work, I was contacted by nearly 17-18-gram panchayats and hundreds of doctors who have not only promised to stop sex determination tests and abortions but welcome girl children by motivating families,” he added in the interview.
His initiative against Female infanticide has trickled out with the help of his batch-mates and doctors working in the surrounding districts. Till now over 3,000 doctors from the peripheries of Maharashtra have united in his cause of ending the hostile social prejudices and impartialities towards the girl child.
A lot of social evils which have disgraced our history are still very much prevalent
Female infanticide is known to be the intentional killing of female just-born owing to people preferring male just-born
In China and India alone, an estimated 2,000,000 baby girls go “missing” each year
Even after so many years of independence, we are not in a position to call our country a superpower. It is not hard to believe this because in an independent country like ours exist horrific acts like the merciless killing of the girl child. A lot of social evils which have disgraced our history are still very much prevalent. The matter of female infanticide is something that has deeply touched our heart and we feel it as our prime agenda to raise our voice against it.
Female infanticide is known to be the intentional killing of female just-born owing to people preferring male just-born. This has been going on for many years and has resulted in the deaths of countless girl foetuses. People are of the opinion that the girl child is inferior to the male child and this is clearly reflected in the fact that in many parts of the world, women are still not given a status equivalent to that of men. This is no doubt the highest level of brutality and the most destructive kind of bias existing in our country and in many other countries.
A direct proof of these facts comes from UNICEF which in its recent report concluded that 50 million girls and women are missing from the population of India because of this bias. As a matter of fact, in most countries for every 100 male births, there are approximately 105 female births. In our country, the 105 comes straight down to 93! This owes itself to 2000 odd abortions which happen illegally all over the country daily. Our people are of the opinion that only sons can provide income for the family. The system of dowry is still prevalent in some parts of the country. All these reasons have their roots in cultural beliefs of families and if female infanticide is to be stopped, then these beliefs have got to be challenged.
In countries with a history of female infanticide, the modern practice of sex-selective abortion is often discussed as a closely related issue. In several nations such as China, India and Pakistan, female infanticide remains to be a major cause of concern. It has been argued that the “low status” in which women are viewed in patriarchal societies creates a bias against females. The practice of female infanticide is found dominant among the indigenous peoples of Australia, Northern Alaska and South Asia, which seems to be “almost universal”, even in the West.
In 1990, Amartya Sen writes in the New York Review of Books estimated that there were 100 million fewer women in Asia that would be expected and that this amount of “missing” women “tells us, quietly, a terrible story of inequality and neglect leading to the excess mortality of women.” Initially, the Sen’s suggestion of gender bias was contested and it was suggested that hepatitis B was the cause of the alteration in the natural sex ratio.
The numerical worldwide deficit in women is widely accepted due to gender-specific abortions, infanticide and neglect. Before Islamic culture became established in Arabic country in the seventh-century, female infanticide was widely practised. According to scholars, the fact was attributed that women were deemed “property” within those societies. Some speculated that some women wanted to prevent their daughters from a life of misery, and thus would kill the child. But with the introduction of Islamic rule, the practice was made illegal.
In India, dowry system is one given reason for female infanticide; over a time period spanning centuries, it has become embedded within Indian culture. Although, there are several steps taken to abolish the dowry system but the practice still persists. For the rural families, female infanticide and gender-selective abortion are attributed to the fear of being unable to raise a suitable dowry and then being socially boycotted.
In 1789, during the time of British colonial rule in India, the Britishers discovered that female infanticide in Uttar Pradesh was openly acknowledged. A study by the scholars shows that the majority of female infanticides in India during the colonial period occurred for the most part in the North West. However, not all the groups were involved in this practice it was widespread. It was only after a thorough investigation by the colonial authorities in 1870 that the practice was made illegal.
Some age-old practices seem to be deeply rooted in the Indian culture and making India undergoing a type of “female genocide”. As per one of the reports of the United Nations, India stands out to be the most deadly country for female children, and that in 2012 female children aged between 1 and 5 were 75 percent more likely to die as opposed to boys. One of the children’s rights group called CRY has acknowledged that of 12 million females born yearly in India 1 million will have died within their first year of life. According to the United Nations, there could be a possibility of such a severe crisis that less number of females will lead to a sharp increase in sexual violence. A consequence of this will be a complete deterioration of social values. This practice of deselecting females is mainly due to factors like religion, economic factors and socio-cultural factors.
The economic factor arises from the belief that sons will provide economic stability to the family by earning wages, providing farm labour for family business and support parents during old age. People tend to think that after marriage, a son brings a female addition to the family who provides help in household work as well as dowry payment brings some sort of an economic advantage.
Coming to the socio-cultural factor, it is believed that having at least one male child is essential to continue the familial line and the respect of a family in the society is proportional to the number of male children in it. According to a certain Hindu tradition, only sons are permitted perform the funeral of their parents which assists in the attainment of salvation for the deceased.
The government has initiated a lot of programmes to bring about a change in the attitude of people and stop these kinds of social evils by introducing various laws, schemes and acts which favour the education of the girl-child, equal rights and equal property share. In spite of all these steps taken, there is much left to be desired.
In China and India alone, an estimated 2,000,000 baby girls go “missing” each year. They are selectively aborted, killed as newborns, or abandoned and left to die. Other countries with similar cultural traditions, who have also faced this problem are South Korea and Nepal. The root causes of female infanticide are similar but not exactly the same in Confucian countries like China and South Korea, versus predominantly Hindu countries such as India and Nepal.