A recent BBC News interview showed a doctor in India doing ultrasounds with mothers. Behind him on the wall was a large sign Disclosure of sex of foetus is prohibited under law. But the 2003 law has been largely ignored, with doctors colluding with mothers wanting to identify baby girls before birth so they can abort them.
The report showed a new device called the Silent Observer which records all use of the ultrasound units and uploads it onto a government website where it can be monitored.
Further research yielded a report on this initiative which requires all ultrasound centres in the Indian state of Maharashtra to install and use the Silent Observer and requires online reporting and uploading of the testing done with the ultrasound – a sort of spy in the clinic, to deter doctors from facilitating female foeticide.
The scale of the gender imbalance is highlighted in the fall in the relative number of girls under six years of age. ‘A defining indicator of the grim scenario is the sharp decline over the last decade in the child sex ratio for the age group 0-6 years … from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001. Alarmingly, the urban areas, more literate and therefore perceived as being more modern, have shown a huge 29-point drop from 935 in 1991 to 906 in 2001.’ In the state where the ‘Save the Baby Girl’ pilot project was started, Maharashtra, the female sex-ratio fell from 946 in 1991 to 917 in 2001 and the drop was found to correlate with the number of ultrasound centres.
‘The gender composition in south and East Asian countries has worsened over a period of time. The skewed sex ratio indicates gross violation of women’s rights.’ And they acknowledge exacerbation of the problem by modern technologies – ‘The sex determination of foetus by technologies like ultrasound scanning, amniocentesis and in vitro fertilisation has aggravated the situation to an alarming level’ adding ‘if Asia’s sex-ratio was the same as [the] rest of the world, in 2005 Asia’s population would have included almost 163 million more women and girls.’
The root cause, however, is the social and cultural view of the woman as inferior to the man that leads girls to be seen as a costly burden which families have to pay heavily to get rid of in a dowry so that ‘the birth of a girl is seen as a calamity to be avoided.’
The violence against women that gendercide is described as ‘A pernicious form of violence against females in some parts of India has been - and still is – the elimination of the girl through female infanticide. Various methods have been used to extinguish the girl after birth, such as starving, poisoning or crushing her under the bed, etc. We should note that the task of female infanticide was laid upon the woman/mother, as she was considered responsible for bringing the baby girl into existence.’
This ‘Save the Baby Girl’ project is to be welcomed as a step in right direction towards equality of treatment of baby girls in India before and after birth.
You can watch the 4 minute BBC News report here
You can read the full article about this initiative here