Killed Before Birth

An alarming decrease in gender ratio in the state with only 859 females per 1000 males, experts warn of an impending social disaster. Syed Asma reports.

Jammu and Kashmir in 1994-1996 according to UNICEF’s report was a foeticide-free zone where not a single case of foeticide had taken place. However, things have changed with the Census 2011 showing a dip in female to male ratio including in the age group of zero to six years.

The provisional figures of the latest decadal census have shown a disturbing trend with a decline in gender ratio. “There are 883 females for 1000 males,” Census commissioner Farooq Ahmad Faktoo said.

According to 2001 census the ratio was 892 females to 1000 males and in the ten years since then it has gone down by nine points, officials said.

The child sex ratio in the age group of zero to six years has also gone down from 941 females per 1000 males in 2001 to 859 females in 2011.

J&K occupies second place in showing a decrease in the number of females per 1000 males, while Haryana is topping the list for now.

The decrease in female child population suggests that girls are not being allowed to be born, say experts.
A research done by Gul Afroz Jan, a teacher in law department of University of Kashmir claims that female foeticide takes place in the state.

Jan’s socio-legal survey on the Female Foeticide with Special Reference to J&K says that 13 per cent of the diagnostic centres in the valley carry out gender determination tests despite it being illegal. About 10 percent of respondents said that they have gone for gender determination tests. While 50 per cent of those going for the illegal test were doing it for the first time and 30 per cent for the second time. All those going for the test second time had already aborted a girl child.

The reason for aborting the girl child, the study says, were pressure from the husband (30%), pressure from in-laws (40%), joint decision of the couple (20%) and self choice of the woman (10%).

While 40 percent of the abortions had been carried out outside the state, 30 per cent were done in local nursing homes and 20 percent in government hospitals, the study said.

“This practice is done quite secretly and silently in private hospitals and in government hospitals it is given the name of abortion for medical reasons by paying more money to medical and paramedical staff,” says Gulafroz, “The people mostly involved in this illegal act is the moneyed class, which has enough money and means to do this rather than poor who  have their children starving”.

However, gynaecologists and obstetricians completely deny any involvement in what they term as ‘criminal abortions’. “I think non-medicos and paramedics are involved in these unprofessional and unethical crimes but none of the gynaecologists as far as I know is involved in this type of crime,” says Dr Mehraj, Registrar at Lalla Ded Hospital, valley’s biggest maternity hospital. “Yes I have met many patients who had done gender determination (test) and after coming to know that they were expecting a girl child, they wanted to go for abortion but as we do not do these criminal activities they might have approached some agency involved in this unlawful activity”.

The declining number of females shows that daughters are not preferred in the state. “We have a lot of unclaimed babies in the hospital whom their parents leave in the premises of the hospital after they are born, most of these are girl babies,” says Tasleema, a senior nurse in Lalla Ded Hospital, valley’s biggest maternity hospital.
There are medical emergencies where an abortion is necessary but, doctors say, such cases are rare.
“If there is a risk to the life of the mother or the child, we have to resort to abortion as a last option,” Dr Mehraj adds.

Experts say that there is an inherent bias against the girl child in the society.

“We actually belong to the society where we have cultural gender bias existing since years. We may verbally deny it but actually it is happening and the data is showing the same,” says Dr Arshad Hussain, Consultant, Department of Psychiatry. “Here in our society, boys are treated as princes and girls are given second or third preference or even considered as a burden. During my internship in (LD hospital) I would see sulking faces of fathers and grandmothers when they would hear that a girl child is born”.

Psychologists say that some people are wary of having a girl child as they need more care and protection.
“Usually mothers get depressed when they get a girl child because they (girl child) demand more care, as they are more prone to violence,” says Dr Sadaqat Rehman, a clinical psychologist, “You know a boy can sleep on a footpath but a girl cannot. If she does, it raises many questions. So, her parents have to be extra cautious about her upbringing. It can be one of the reasons why parents feel more burdened by a girl child”.

A skewed female to male ratio can have serious repercussions for the society in the long run.
“It is a dangerous trend, which if continued can lead to problems like gender bias and gender survival. These gender biases can be the basis of another war,” warns Dr Bashir A Dabla, Head Department of Sociology at University of Kashmir.

Experts say that the government should enforce the already existing laws strictly to keep a tab on such illegal activities besides the religious leaders should make people aware about the place of women in Islam.

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