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Witness – Mitu’s Story

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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.

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By Elizabeth Vargas

Six months ago, I traveled to India to see firsthand what the prime minister of that country calls a national shame. It is the systematic, widespread, shocking elimination of India’s baby girls. Some 50,000 female fetuses are aborted every month in India. Baby girls are often killed at birth, either thrown into rivers, or left to die in garbage dumps. Its estimated that one million girls in India “disappear” every year.

I traveled first to Delhi, where I met a woman who is a member of the privileged, educated class. Her name is Mitu and she is a pediatrician, married to a doctor. When she became pregnant, she said her husband’s family pressured her to have an illegal ultrasound to see if her twins were girls or boys.

There are clinics everywhere in India, offering ultrasounds. We walked down street after street and saw signs everywhere advertising ultrasound services. There are even technicians who pack portable ultrasounds and travel to villages offering their services. The dirty little secret is that many couples use the ultrasound to find out the sex of their baby. If they find it’s a girl, hundreds of thousands of mothers-to-be abort the fetus. 50,000 girl fetuses are aborted every month in India. It is a staggering number. And it has created whole villages where there are hardly any women. We went to one such village in the province of Haryana. Everywhere we looked, we saw boys, young men, old men, but very, very few women. It was unsettling, especially because we knew this was not some freak of nature, but a result of the deliberate extermination of girls.

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Undesired
by Walter Astrada

Click on image to go to video

India is a diverse country, separated by class and ethnicity. But all women confront the cultural pressure to bear a son. This preference cuts through every social divide, from geography to economy. No woman is exempt.

This preference originates from the belief that men make money while women, because of their expensive dowry costs, are a financial burden. As a result, there is a near constant disregard for the lives of women and girls. From birth until old age, women face a constant threat of violence and too frequently, death.

The numbers are staggering. Since 1980, an estimated 40 million women are ‘missing,’ by way of abortion, neglect or murder. 7,000 female fetuses are aborted every day according to the U.N., aborted solely because they are girls. One dowry death is reported every 77 minutes. Countless others are never known.

The government has tried to intervene. Dowry and sex selective abortions are illegal. Yet both practices still thrive, in large part because of deep-rooted cultural prejudices.

Today, eighty percent of Indian states are now facing a shortage of women. To compensate for this differential, young, unknowing women are bought from surrounding countries like Bangladesh and sold to young bachelors. Not knowing a word of the language, these trafficked women now face the same kinds of violence as other Indian women.

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From Gender Bytes

Hello friends,

This is an emergency situation! We are rallying public support for Dr. Mitu Khurana’s legal fight to protect her 5-year old twin girls from their father. Her case is outlined below. Please sign her petition and circulate it. A copy will be sent to the appropriate offices in Delhi as evidence of public support for her case.

Click here for the petition

Mitu first posted her story on 50 Million Missing’s discussion/support forum about 2 years ago. This is the link for her case where we kept supporters updated on her situation. The relevance of Mitu’s case is monumental in light of India’s systematic annihilation of millions of its daughters.

Within the first few months of her marriage when Mitu was pregnant with twins, her husband and his family colluded with the hospital to secretly determine the gender of the fetuses. They were told she was expecting girls. Her husband and in-laws thereafter started pressurizing her to have an abortion. While it is routine for pregnant women to undergo ultrasound, it is illegal for doctors and hospitals in India to reveal the sex of the fetus during these tests. Despite this law, called the PC&PNDT (Pre-Conception & Pre-natal Diagnostic Test), it is estimated that in India more than a million potential daughters are selectively eliminated before birth each year, sometimes late in the pregnancy so the family can be sure that they are getting rid of a daughter and not a precious son!

Mitu’s case also challenges the assumption that it is poverty and lack of education that is driving this daughter-annihilation. Like Mitu, her husband too is a medical doctor, from a well-do family, and various other members from his family are also doctors! In deed the largest gender ratio gap in India is among the educated, well-to-do, middle and upper classes. It is not that they cannot afford to raise girls, they just don’t want girls!

Mitu’s case is not unique. Thousands of young, married Indian women are tortured, tormented, and forced into aborting their daughters, often late in the pregnancy, at great risk to their own health and lives. Mitu however refused to submit. Thereupon, her husband and mother-in-law subject her to various forms of abuse to induce an abortion.

Visit Gender Bytes to read the article in it’s entirety.

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Mitu Khurana‘s story published in the Indian magazine Femina – Dec. 30, 2009 issue

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