An Indian females’ life is a minefield laid out even before the natural random allocation of the X and Y chromosomes can take place to determine the sex of the child. Various laboratory techniques already exist to guarantee a male. Though not freely available, these will be supplemented with blood tests to establish the sex of the foetus shortly after fertilisation.
In the Indian context we are preoccupied with a later stage of using ultra sound for the purpose. The PC and PNDT Act is inadequate and the numerous amendments merely confirm its’ inadequacy. The latest amendment seeks to restrict the sonologist to two ultra-sound machines and a designated radius of activity. This has already been challenged in court on the grounds that it violates fundaments rights.
In these times of galloping food inflation, it is the girl child that is most likely to be deprived to make up the shortfall. Besides having the worst infant mortality rates in a group of four neighbouring countries, an analysis reveals that in India the female child mortality is even higher, along with a high maternal mortality; both of which are linked to under nutrition.
If lucky, the girl child may be sent to school, where she runs the risk of being sexually abused by the teacher; the very person who should be a role model. Complaints boomerang and even drive the child to suicide. If she is packed off to work as a “maid”, the prospects are even bleaker.
And God help her, if she develops into a teenager with reasonably good looks. If she is lucky enough to find a job, she now faces the gauntlet of sexual harassment- to the extent that we need a Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill 2010. If she gets married, there is a risk of being done in, for not bringing an adequate dowry.
Remedial measures must be tailored to the various stages of the problem. Female foeticide must be looked upon as murder with serious social impact and therefore with specially prescribed punitive measures. Whilst financial incentives are commendable, they must be aimed at empowerment of the female by way of education. In this respect, the “Laadli Laxmi” scheme is misconceived as it merely propagates the dowry concept. The focus must be on educating her; not providing cosmetic hand-outs. All pregnancies must be registered in the same manner as births and deaths, so that the pregnancy is correlated with the birth or otherwise, and follow up assured. If a professional position is abused, whether at school or at the workplace, the victim must be put out of reach of the perpetrator and the burden of proof put on the accused, who has to prove there was consent.
We cannot have policemen forcing a woman into oral sex and recording it; nor can sexual assaults be permitted in police stations. In such cases, the perpetrator must be suspended and all benefits suspended till he is cleared. Our guardians of the law must appreciate that such actions will have serious consequences. It is regrettable that at present there are sexual offenses registered against four senior policemen, including one offense against a fellow female officer. Obviously the police training manual needs to be reviewed.
One of the major contributors to sex related crimes, particularly rape, is the rapid spread of internet pornography. Like violence, the divide between fantasy and reality gradually gets blurred and worse still, it is not a problem that lends itself to censorship easily. Hence like the campaigns against drugs, tobacco and AIDS, there must be sustained educational drives to prepare the adolescent for the onslaught of pornography that he or she will certainly face, and on how to cope with it. Regrettably, pornography is being given a touch of respectability with the advent of porn stars in Bollywood films.