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Witness – Mitu’s Story

The girls stolen from the streets of India

The death of a student who was gang-raped on a Delhi bus has prompted anguished soul-searching about the place of women in Indian society. The widespread killing of female foetuses and infants is well-documented, but less well-known is the trafficking of girls across the country to make up for the resulting shortages.

Rukhsana was sweeping the floor when police broke into the house.

Wide-eyed and thin, she stood in the middle of a room clutching a broom in her hand. Police officers towered above her, shouting questions: “How old are you? “How did you get here?”

“Fourteen,” she replied softly. “I was kidnapped.”

But just as she began to say more, an older woman broke through the circle of policemen. “She is lying,” she shouted. “She is 18, almost 19. I paid her parents money for her.”

As the police pushed the girl towards the exit, the woman asked them to wait. She leaped over towards the girl and reached for her earrings. “These are mine,” she said, taking them out.

A year ago, Rukhsana was a 13-year-old living with her parents and two younger siblings in a village near India’s border with Bangladesh.

“I used to love going to school and I loved playing with my little sister,” she remembers.

Her childhood ended when one day, on the way home from school, three men pushed her into a car.

“They showed me a knife and said they would cut me into pieces if I resisted,” she said.

After a terrifying three-day journey in cars, buses and on trains, they reached a house in the northern Indian state of Haryana where Rukhsana was sold to a family of four – a mother and her three sons.

For one year she was not allowed to go outside. She says she was humiliated, beaten and routinely raped by the eldest of the three sons – who called himself her “husband”.

Full Story

The ‘genocide’ of India’s daughters

We ask if the patriarchal mindset that runs across castes and class can be changed to prevent foeticide and infanticide.

Supreme Court judges in India have summoned the health secretaries in seven states over a worrying fall in the number of young girls in India.

They are demanding details about clinics flouting the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act – to determine the sex of unborn babies – with potentially fatal consequences.

The judges are blaming what they call rampant foeticide and infanticide, and they say the mindset of parents and society need to change.

The UN children’s charity UNICEF says the culture of favouring males in India is costing the lives of millions of young girls.

The agency says more than 2,000 illegal abortions are being carried out every single day, and it is dramatically altering the balance of the population.

It warns: “Decades of sex determination tests and female foeticide that has acquired proportions are finally catching up with states in India. This is only the tip if the demographic and social problems confronting India in the coming years.”

Speaking in April 2011, Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, called for a crusade against the widespread practice of foeticide and infanticide.

“The people [district medical officers] who are supposed to be enforcing the [Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act] they themselves have the same patriarchal mindset and they don’t feel that it’s wrong to kill a girl child in the desire for a boy, naturally they won’t go and prosecute anybody. Add to it corruption [within the medical profession].”

– Mitu Khurana, a pediatrician and a women’s rights activist

“The falling child sex ratio is an indictment of our social values. Our girls and women have done us proud in classrooms, in boardrooms and on the sports field. It is a national shame for us that despite this, female foeticide and infanticide continues.”

The 1991 Indian census showed there were 945 girls for every 1,000 boys, aged up to six. Ten years later, it dipped even further to just 914 girls for every 1,000 boys.

But that is just the average. The figures are far worse in some states.

The 2011 census found there were 830 girls for every 1,000 boys in the northern state of Haryana. It was 846 in neighbouring Punjab state. And in the national capital territory of Delhi the figure was 866.

Full Story

Why We Won’t Stop Buying Brides

The practice of bride buying is closely tied to many patriarchal conditions of sex selective abortions, dowry and gender discrimination. Are we ready to break all the moulds to really want to put an end to this?

A simple Google search on ‘bride buying India’ gives you a mix of results that indicate the human rights violating practice of bride buying in Northwestern states of India, matrimonial sites as well as links to designer bridal sarees and jewelry. This dichotomy itself explains a lot about how tradition and patriarchy are intertwined with the booming economy in our so-called modern Indian society.

The practice of bride buying is not very recluse from the society today. We know that it’s a vicious cycle and relationship between the gender bias within patriarchy and poverty in our country, although patriarchy does not have a stronger root or causality in poverty. Most of us know the stories and modus operandi to how it happens. The archaic system of patriarchy that propagate heavy dowries to be incurred for daughters’ marriages and desire for a long lineage, even to maintain the caste purity in the line, leads to a strong preference for the male child. Female babies are either killed in the foetus or killed or thrown in the garbage shortly after their birth. This issue was vehemently taken up and investigated from all angles in the launch episode of the social issues show, Satyameva Jayate, hosted by popular actor, Aamir Khan.

Decades of families and communities killing the girl child has resulted in an entire demographic of young girls and women missing in many villages in the Northern states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, which are some of the most key places. Hence, in sexual frustration and desperation and of course, the fear of their family being wiped out of the face of existence (which is what they attempted to save in the first place), they look for brides from poorer states on the Eastern parts of India. This time: caste, religion, ethnicity, color and even age, no bar.

Full Story

Daughters Are Precious: Female Foeticide. Large-scale killing of girls before birth has led to a serious gender imbalance in the Indian population, and severe social problems as a result.

I agree that it’s the mindset of the people that must change. Banning sex determination ultrasounds will in all likelihood increase the incidence of female infanticide. However, doctors who continue to perform them need to be charged.