Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gender Bender

Found a link this and this through this.

Police in Orissa found an abandoned well with fetuses and baby body parts that point to female infanticide and gender based abortion. Before you read further, here are the disclaimers:

1. If these are female infanticides, these are despicable acts. And Criminal too.
2. If these are forced abortions, ditto.
3. This is not a troll post.
4. If you don’t believe in certain inalienable rights, don’t read more.

I will not deal with female infanticide and forced abortions, since legally, morally and ethically speaking, those are easy to resolve. The trickier issue is to understand and deal with female fetus abortions permitted by the mother. What mother would do that to her child, we ask in shock. Looking from the mother’s perspective, we get a different view altogether. What sort of life will her unborn daughter lead, she asks herself. A life of constant hunger, hard work, zero dignity, unhappiness, hopelessness and despair. A life in hell that she is living right now.

What mother would want that for a child? The mother thinks she is saving a child from all this. And she would not be wrong. This will prolly shock many, but I don’t see anything wrong with it. Abortions are legal in India, and demographic aspects aside, the mother has made the decision for entirely rational and practical reasons. From her point of view, she is doing the right thing.

But, surely a child is more than banal practicalities, I hear you reprimand me. They give us joy and all we need to do is to educate the mothers and fathers and grandpas and grandmas and the aunts and sisters and the brothers-in-law till they see what we see. A girl is just as much treasure as a boy. But it isn’t. For a whole host of reasons cited else where and those we already now. This is where they have drawn the line. Accept Boy, reject Girl. It’s that simple.

By now, I suppose I am completely black listed. But wait. We all draw lines. The question is where. Let me give you an example. A majority of the abortions done in the US are the result of a fetal abnormality such as Neural Tube defect or Down’s syndrome. Your routine prenatal visits cover these tests, typically in the 20th week. BigGeek and I had decided to have the child, no matter what. There are tons of parents who will tell you what a joy their Down’s child brings them. That they can lead fairly normal lives. But nobody listens. Most choose to terminate. Why? Because this is not what they wanted for a child or for themselves. They keep telling themselves it is the right thing to do, the child will be miserable and so on and so forth, justifying their decision.

And then there are those, to whom having a child at that point in time is just inconvenient- career wise, lifestyle wise. “We want to enjoy life as a couple for a little more time.” We have all heard that. How is this any less despicable than willfully terminating a girl fetus?

I think the only true solution to female infanticide and female fetus abortion is to give practical solutions. Let’s start by changing the International Adoption laws in India. It is nearly impossible for international parents (who are not Indian citizens) to adopt an Indian child today. I know in the US alone there are long lines at adoption agencies to get a baby. The adoptive families will be happy to give a sum of money to the mother of the girl child for her routine medical care, food etc, along with footing any other medical bills and then some. Isn’t this a sensible solution?

Look at the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram link in the sidebar of this blog. BigGeek and I “adopted” a girl from there when Chip was born. We pay a yearly sum for all her expenses. Food, medical care, clothes, books, school. Everything. She lives with her biological parents, but they don’t have to spend a dime on her. The institute send us a report on how she is doing etc. More organizations like these would help too. Don't you think? Do you have other practical solutions to share?

I often wonder if there were in-utero tests to detect stupidity, homosexuality, depression, terminal childhood disease, what would you do? Where will you draw the line?

Updated: Watch Gattaca


the mad momma said...

oh I dont think you played devil's advocate. i think you fitted right in with your point. yes... those women dont want a sad life for their daughters. i guess we are trying to say - give women a better life so that other mothers dont agree to such abortions. here of course we are not talking abt those who were forced into it.

Kodi's Mom said...

point well raised. and thanks for the vanvasi link.
are you sure non-indian citizens can't adopt? do you mean that the procedure is so elaborate that it is practically impossible? I personally know of two different non-citizen families - both adopted boys - but this was couple of years ago.

The Rational Fool said...

Female infanticide and forced abortions may be easy to deal with conceptually, but not in practice.

What is "forced"? Not necessarily your husband or an in-law putting a knife to your throat. Your example of the mother's desire to save the fetus/child from the dreary life that she herself has - is it "forced" or not "forced"? Is she being forced to live a life in hell or did she choose that voluntarily? If it's the latter, then, whether the fetus is a boy or a girl should not matter, should it? Career, lifestyle, birth defects - these should not skew the gender distribution of abortions, either. Do you have any reason to believe that abortion statistics in the US are skewed towards females?

Reforming the adoption laws in India is a fix that would work to mitigate the problem of female infanticide, but only in the short-term, and among the abject poor. I am not very hopeful about it among the rest of the income classes. Pregnancy, in particular, advanced pregnancy, is a very public information in the tightly knit communities of India. An abortion or a still birth is a more "honorable" solution than adoption. There are less visible methods to solve the "girl baby problem" than tell-tale blue lines around the neck.

We have to come to grips with the fundamental causes, which are religious and economic, and they are correlated to a large extent. Changing the mindset that has been entrenched for millenniums is an uphill task, I admit, but with persistence and will, can be done. Of course, I'd like to begin with a campaign to throw the misogynist gods and their agents off their pedestal!

noon said...

There are several sides to this issue. You have presented your point of view well. One is the case where abortions are done (like you have said) because the girl will have a miserable life as an adult. But there is a general attitude amongst all classes (not every one but some people in every class) of society that have this attitude that a boy baby is better than a girl. I know a friend who recently had two boys - she told me, "my MIL was always lamenting that her other son only has a daughter, she kept wishing for a son in the family - I have given her two sons - why should she complain about me!" I was embarassed to hear this coming from her - she was buying into the superiority of the male child and was subtly bragging about how she produced not one but two male children. If in this day and age even educated people have this atittude then we have a long way to go for this to change...deep seated attitudes. In Tamil there is this popular phrase "Aasthikku oru Aan, Asaikku oru penn" meaning - have a son to carry your line and inherit your property and have a daughter to love and be loved (sort of) for life. Even today when I had a daughter someone told me this rather plainly. But somehow it's implications are strong and rather upsetting. The inequality is implied strongly in that phrase. Adopting these unwanted baby girls is one part of the solutoin. But deep rooted ideas about the girl child wil take a long time and lot of effort to change. Even in the US though they don't seem to obviously complain about the girl child (in middle class famlies0 - the status of women is not equal to that of men. Esp at the top. It is much harder for women at al levels...
ok will stop here fo rnow.

Shyam said...

Am in complete agreement with your views.

Usha said...

Adoption is one solution. In fact the enormity of the problem will strike home only when the state itself adopts these "unwanted" children as in the "cradle" scheme launched in Tamilnadu by Jayalalitha in early '90s. The state places them in homes which have passsive adoption schemes and the children are alive, going to school and healthy. The present government at the center is planning a similar scheme.
It still does not solve the problem of why a girl has to face misery and suffering in the society which is something that can be attacked only by a change in mindset - that both sexes are equal in every way.
As The Rational Fool has pointed out these foeticides are not happening only in poorer sections of society.

Life should not be miserable for a girl - she must have an equal chanvce at every thing her brother has. That is what we must work on.

Other reasons for abortion are personal and not as heinous as gender selective ones.

Vidhur said...

Agree with your viewpoint. And ours is not the only country, wanting boy babies. I also agree with Usha, that adoption is a solution. But I also think, that there is a limit to what, the 'state' can do or manage. Like Gandhiji said "Be the change you want'. I believe, we (those who feel strongly about it) must adopt.

karmickids said...

Couldnt agree more...am mortified with the way the gender inequality is states like Haryana is skewing the entire populace to have to import brides from other states and yet the people dont learn their lesson. And while I am no one to comment on anyone;s decision to terminate their pregnancy, I know I would give anything to have a baby girl of my own right now...if I can convince the husband to adopt an angel.