FIGHT FOR THE FOETUS CAMPAIGN
A nation-wide stormy campaign, named #Fight4theFoetus, to stop female foeticide, the selective killing of the girl child in the womb, is to be launched on the 15th of August, the day of India’s independence. The continuing and unprecedented decrease in the number of female children, as clearly shown by the falling Child Sex Ratio figures for children below 6 years, in the Census records of the last few decades, are making all right-thinking citizens of India concerned about the possible and imminent socio-economic consequences of this decrease. Already, the official records of crime are showing a horrifying upward surge in cases of sexual violence against women and children.
Killing a baby girl as soon as it is born, or female infanticide, was not uncommon in almost all parts of the world, especially in stressful situations like continuous failure of crops and resultant famine-like situations. The medical journal ‘Lancet’ had to write an editorial against the practice in England, just a century ago. The practice was widespread in the very backward areas of India due to economic constraints and instability. But now, the advances in technology and medical science are facilitating the pre-determination of sex of the foetus through ultrasound scan, amniocentesis and such other advanced methods and helping people to kill the female foetus.
What is quite appalling is that it is not the poor people, in the rural areas of backward regions, who engage in this horrifying crime now. The practice is more widespread in regions that are socially and economically better off and among people who are more educated. It is not just the traditional preference for the male child, the unbearable burden of dowry or the fact that no income can be expected from the girl child that makes people resort to this crime, though these are, indeed, deciding factors for many. The malady has deeper roots of more complex nature which have to be studied by social scientists. The stark reality is that India is on the verge of a socio-economic catastrophe.
Just look at the Census figures of 2011. While there was, in the ten years preceding, an increase of 181 million in the total population, there was a decrease of 5.05 million in the number of children aged between 0 and 6 years. What is more surprising is that the reduction in the number of male children was just over two million (2.06 to be exact) while the reduction in female children was almost three million (2.99). The crux of the problem is that Child Sex Ratio, the number of girls for every 1000 boys, aged below 6 years, which stood at 976 in 1961 fell to 945 in 1991, 927 in 2001 and 914 in 2011.
It was the Census of 1991 that first sounded the alarm showing that several states in India, especially in the North-West region, were dangerously close to a social disaster. Punjab with 875 girl children for every 1000 boy children in the age group of 0 to 6, Haryana with 879, Chandigarh with 899, Delhi with 915, Uttar Pradesh with 927, Gujarat with 928, Uttarakhand with 949 and Himachal Pradesh with 951 were the States at the bottom of the scale in child sex ratio. Then, the figures for Census of 2001 came to light. Punjab which had 875 girls for every 1000 boys, just a decade ago, had only 798 in 2001. Haryana had lost 60 and stood at 819. Figures for Chandigarh, Delhi, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh were also below 900, having 845,868, 883 and 896 respectively. This Census also shocked social observers by exposing that the child sex ratio in 122,517 villages was less than 800 and that in 690 cities it stood at less than 850.
As has been stated above, rural India was out of bounds for the money-making hospital-lab combination that thrived on this business. But the figures for Census 2011 revealed that, as many field workers and researchers had reported, the scanning centres were reaching into villages with their mobile units and with collaborating doctors to ‘expand their business’. This explains the fact that the drop in Child Sex Ratio in the rural areas, during the ten years preceding the Census, is three times the drop in urban areas. That is why, the figure for rural Child Sex Ratio at 919, though it is 17 above the urban ratio, does not give any comfort to demographic observers and social workers. This is also evident in the number of rural districts in which Child Sex Ratio is going dangerously down. The number of districts with a ratio less than 900, made a quantum jump from 61 of 2001 Census to 188 of 2011 Census. The number of districts with a ratio less than 850 increased from 54 to 74.
The suppressed feelings of the unmarried middle-aged men make them mentally prone to perversions including abuse of children and violence against women. This, in turn, results in a spurt in crimes, especially sexual crimes, making women and children afraid to go out of their homes and move about in the society. According to official crime statistics, rape cases of children rose from 5368 in 2009 to 5484 in 2010 and kidnapping and abduction cases rose from 10670 in 2010 to 15284 in 2011.
There are other consequences of this decreasing trend in child and youth sex ratios. Our traditional values of marriage, family life and morality are forsaken for the exigencies of life. The social institution of marriage is no more a life-long relationship forged between two consenting individuals of matching social and family backgrounds. It has turned into a commercial activity of buying brides from economically backward communities. The purchase of minor girls, classified as ‘Procuration of Minor Girls’ in crime statistics, is increasing by leaps and bounds as shown by crime statistics. The cases registered in this category rose from 237 in 2009 to 679 in 2010 and 862 in 2011.
As the reduction in Child Sex Ratio continues and this ratio turns into Adult Sex Ratio, there will be complete socio-economic chaos within a decade. Female foeticide, which has been termed rightly as demographic terrorism, leading to ‘bride drought’ will be the greatest hurdle in the path of progress for our nation.
#Fight4theFoetus is a campaign to stop this downslide in our socio-economic life. The campaign will make people deeply aware of the consequences of female foeticide through awareness programmes in print and electronic media, using all means of propagation including social sites, films, conventions and such other direct and indirect methods of spreading the message. We have no time to lose. The future of our nation is in peril. No citizen of India can remain a bystander.