A Report : Study Circle on Female Foeticide
Ms. Leila Seth, first woman Chief Justice, delivered the keynote address. She said that female foeticide is a hienous act, and should be treated as murder. She stressed that education is the road to empowerment, and we need to harness all our forces to meet the challenge posed by this evil. She saw the need of strenthening the existing laws. Women must be part of the decision making process. She stressed on the need of challenging and changing the mind-set of the society through awareness building and advocacy on the issue by communities and groups. Also, she elaboarted on the several schemes, which the Government has initiated to meet the need of empowering women. She challenged our attitude towards being passive, and in her concluding remarks quoted Martin Luther King, who said, “Our life begins to end, the day we remain silent on things that matter.”
Keynote speaker, Justice Ms.Leila Seth addressing the gathering.
Earlier, Mr. Vijay Russell, Chairman, Committee on Greater Noida Programme Centre, while extending a warm welcome to the panel and the participants introduced the New Delhi YMCA and its various programmes. He spoke on the facilities and activities of YMCA Greater Noida Programme Centre, and the beginning and revival of Study Circle.
Prof Akhtarul Wasey, Head of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia said that Islam considers female as a complete person, and that husbands and wives are garments for each other to shield, guard and protect. He said that human beings were social animals, but have over the years become socio-economic animals due to changing social values. In our contemporary times, intended religious teachings on meher and dowry have been misinterpreted and dictated by lack of understanding and economics. He challenged the religious gurus to take upon themselves the task of changing the mindset in our contemporary times through their discourse and teachings. He urged the need for a multi-religious forum with a common minimum programme to address this critical issue.
Fr. Dennis D’ Souza, Priest-in-Charge, St Joseph’s Church and Prinicipal, St Joseph’s School, Greater Noida used a presentation depicting plight of girl-child and women in our society. He spoke on the need for socio-economic interventions, and campaign for promoting the rights of women. Sharing an instance of discrimination against a girl-child in our society he quoted Olympic bronze medalist, Ms. Sania Nehewal as saying: “ I was really surprised when I was told that my grandmother did not come to see me till after a month I was born… my birth was a bit disappointment for her.” He urged the society to work towards literacy among both man and women on the issue, and education, equality in opportunities, health, development, safety and protection for women in our country.
Goswami Sushilji Maharaj, Thakur Dwara, Greater Noida said that a girl-child in Sanatan Dharma is compared to a Devi (Goddess). Though women are given more respect than men in religion, yet we see discrimination towards women in our attitude, when it comes to sensitive issues. Expressing his anguish over the contradiction, he said that we believe in God, but do not believe in the norms of righteous-living set by religious teachings. He said that we cannot call ourselves religious, if we do not follow the tenets of our relious leanings. Emphasising on the respect for women, he elaborated on the chantings by pandits at the time of hindu-marriage, where both man and woman are challanged to respect each other. And we soon tend to forget these vows!
Sardar Dharam Bir Singh, Guru Kalgidhar, Singh Sabha, Greater Noida said that the issue is related to our survival and existence. God created the world, and made women to create human beings. Our lives and very existence is dependent on women. He said that lack of moral values and fear of God has landed us in this grave situation. The social-evil of dowry in our culture is the root cause of female foeticide, he stressed. He urged the media, NGOs, and academic institutions to play an important role in addressing this problem.
Col. Dr. S. S. Gulati, Gynaeocologist, Sharda Hospital, Greater Noida shared that female infanticide and female foeticide have been prevalent in all ages including the ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman. He spoke on the Maternal Terminal of Pregnancy or the MTP Act, which came into force in 1971. This was the first law to regulate the termination of pregnancy. Thus otherwise the termination of pregnancy has been legalized. However, he shared that to check the practice of determination of sex before birth of a child is illegal in the eyes of law, according to the Prenatal Diagnostic Test Act, 1994.He said that deep rooted gender bias sadly undermines the right to life of girl-child. He urged that we need to support community based initiatives to counter this evil. And media must play its constructive role in challenging the mind-set.
Dr. Rachana Garg, Radiologist, Greater Noida began her presentation by quoting Vivekanand, who said, “The best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of its women.”
Ms. Aksha Pathak, a college student from Agra said that such is the tragic irony of fate that a beautiful creation such as a girl-child today, the mother of tomorrow, and woman that shapes the destiny of civilisation is one of the greatest concern facing the humanity. She said that female foeticide is spreading like an epidemic in our society. She quoted statistics of 1991-2001, which indicated 800 girls against 1000 boys, a drastic decline in sex ratio in our society. She listed dowry system, financial obligations, socio-economic situation, deep rooted patriarchal system and the current practice of sex determination as some of the reasons responsible for female foeticide.
Ms. Yashika Bhardwaj, Principal, APJ International School, Greater Noida in summing up said that foeticide is murdering a child, who has not yet taken his/her first breath. Pity lies in our insensitivity to things associated with female foeticide that are happening around us. She quoted cases in Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab, where there is ample evidence of gender imbalance so much so that a in a certain village in Rajasthan, there has been no wedding celebrations in the past 40 years. She talked about irony in our country, where we urge and pray to a Goddess so that she will bless us with a son!!
The Study Circle identified value education system, awareness building and advocacy as means to create consciousness and sensitivity among the people. All community based initiatives must be supported in whatever way it is possible, the Study Circle urged. Religious leaders should teach people on virtues such as righteous and ethical living, social sensitivity and responsibility. It was felt that ethically, radiologists in our times have no right to declare sex of the child and indulge in unprofessional conduct. There must be organised watch-groups to monitor the role of unethical medical practitioners, radiologist and the community.