06/19/2012, 00.00
INDIA

Haryana, an all-woman city council fights selective abortions and female foeticide

In Bibipur village, the first all-female local council wants to set up vigilance committees to monitor and control pregnant women. Each group will consist of three women and one man. The state is one of the worst in India, and has a strong imbalance between male and female births: 830 girls for every 1,000 boys.

Mumbai (AsiaNews/Agencies) - About 225 women, members of the first all-female village council (gram sabha) of Haryana, have decided to set up vigilance committees to stop selective abortions and female feoticides. According to their proposal, each of the 14 districts of the village of Bibipur (Jind district) will have its own committee, made up of three women and one man with the task of monitoring and controlling pregnant women. The move is significant because Haryana is one of the Indian states in which the practice of gender selection is most widespread.

The women made their proposal in the presence of the sarpanch (village head), Sunil Jaglan, who gave full approval to the project. "From this moment", he explained, "the anganwadi (a sort of health worker, ed.) must record every woman in the second month of pregnancy. Up to now, the state, by law, already records pregnant women from the fourth month. Our hope is that lowering the limit will serve as a deterrent, and that other villages will follow our example."

The selective female abortions have increased with the improvement and dissemination of tests to determine the sex of the unborn. Indian law considers these exams illegal, but unscrupulous doctors set up abusive private clinics, where at very high prices they practice abortions.

Speaking of these structures, Birmati, a 50 year-old woman, explains: "A family has to pay 5,000 rupees (70 euros) to perform these tests, and then just as much to abort. This, in order not to have the 'economic problem' of a female child. If the same money were instead deposited into a fixed deposit at the birth of the baby, the family would not need to worry about her future. When she grows up, the bank can provide them with sufficient financial support for her studies and for a good marriage."

The scourge of selective abortion and female foeticide is rooted in a cultural background that favors male heirs. India is a patriarchal society that considers female children an economic burden: a girl must be educated and given in marriage, but she can find a husband "only" if she has a substantial dowry. In many communities, even once she is married, the woman will not be respected until she gives birth to a male child.

According to the latest national census (2011 Census), Haryana is one of the worst states in terms of selective female abortions. Over time, this has resulted in an alteration in the composition of the population, which now has 877 women per 1,000 men. But the imbalance between the number of male and femal births (sex ratio) falls even further for children under six years: 830 girls per 1,000 boys.

 

 

 

 

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