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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.

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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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Caste of Shadows: Love, Sacrifice and Hinduism
David Pambianchi

Moral Code defines the core of most religion, its cement and social bonding power. To love, avoid aggression, seek truth, be just, believe and act what the heart and conscience tells us is right, such thoughts can lift the spirit, and for most religions serve as a guide to help mold a believer’s spirituality and sustain a stable and productive lifestyle. Yet too often through perverse or selective interpretation, followers take actions contrary to their religion’s fundamental doctrines. To discriminate, be hurtful, harm, murder and even use religion as a way to justify barbarous behaviors becomes acceptable.

For the past ten years, Sujit Dhakal (Sam) resides with his wife in Queens, New York, a U.S. resident raising two children. Once a privileged member of the Nepal “Bramhan” upper Caste, as a young journalist, Sam fell in love with a fellow writer and decided to Inter-Caste marry Ranu. But born into the Newar “Shrestha” Caste, Ranu sat two levels lower within the rigid system. The repercussions include death threats and expulsion from family and society.

For defying tradition, Sam’s father Kanhaiya Upadhyaay, president of a Hindu religious organization (Dhakal Kuldewata Sewa Samiti), in Janakpur Dham, Nepal, disowned his son, removing Sam and his daughter-in-law from the family lineage, “I’ll not see your face again until after I’m dead.”

After some years, the attitude remains unchanged. When Sam planned a trip to Nepal with his son, Samarpan, for Bratabandha, (a ritual after a child reaches age 7 and above that essentially carries the weight of a Catholic Confirmation or Jewish Bar Mitzvah), a meeting was held to revoke Samarpan’s Hindu rite of passage, and in the event of a confrontation, the grandfather and the organization threatened “unto death” to stop the ritual. Sam cancelled the trip. Full Story

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More on the Love Commandos – Bravo!

Love Commandos: Secret service helps Romeo & Juliets in India

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In India, Castes, Honor and Killings Intertwine

When Nirupama Pathak left this remote mining region for graduate school in New Delhi, she seemed to be leaving the old India for the new. Her parents paid her tuition and did not resist when she wanted to choose her own career. But choosing a husband was another matter.

Her family was Brahmin, the highest Hindu caste, and when Ms. Pathak, 22, announced she was secretly engaged to a young man from a caste lower than hers, her family began pressing her to change her mind. They warned of social ostracism and accused her of defiling their religion.

Days after Ms. Pathak returned home in late April, she was found dead in her bedroom. The police have arrested her mother, Sudha Pathak, on suspicion of murder, while the family contends that the death was a suicide.

The postmortem report revealed another unexpected element to the case: Ms. Pathak was pregnant.

“One thing is absolutely clear,” said Prashant Bhushan, a social activist and lawyer now advising Ms. Pathak’s fiancé. “Her family was trying their level best to prevent her from marrying that boy. The pressure was such that either she was driven to suicide or she was killed.”

In India, where the tension between traditional and modern mores reverberates throughout society, Ms. Pathak’s death comes amid an apparent resurgence of so-called honor killings against couples who breach Hindu marriage traditions.

This week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ordered a cabinet-level commission to consider tougher penalties in honor killings.

In June, India’s Supreme Court sent notices to seven Indian states, as well as to the national government, seeking responses about what was being done to address the problem.

The phenomenon of honor killings is most prevalent in some northern states, especially Haryana, where village caste councils, or khap panchayats, often operate as an extralegal morals police force, issuing edicts against couples who marry outside their caste or who marry within the same village — considered a religious violation since villages are often regarded as extended families.

Even as the court system has sought to curb these councils, politicians have hesitated, since the councils often control significant vote blocs in local elections.

New cases of killings or harassment appear in the Indian news media almost every week. Last month, the police arrested three men for the honor killings of a couple in New Delhi who had married outside their castes, as well as the murder of a woman who eloped with a man from another caste.

Two of the suspects are accused of murdering their sisters, and an uncle of the slain couple spoke of their murders as justifiable.

“What is wrong in it?” the uncle, Dharmaveer Nagar, told the Indian news media. “Murder is wrong, but this is socially the best thing that has been done.”

Intercaste marriages are protected under Indian law, yet social attitudes remain largely resistant. In a 2006 survey cited in a United Nations report, 76 percent of respondents deemed the practice unacceptable. An overwhelming majority of Hindu couples continue to marry within their castes, and newspapers are filled with marital advertisements in which parents, seeking to arrange a marriage for a son or daughter, specify caste among lists of desired attributes like profession and educational achievement.

“This is part and parcel of our culture, that you marry into your own caste,” said Dharmendra Pathak, the father of Ms. Pathak, during an interview in his home. “Every society has its own culture. Every society has its own traditions.”
Full Story

See: Two taken into custody for justifying honour killings

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