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Harmful Practices to the female body; Part 4 Female Infanticide

“I lay on my bed weak after childbirth. My mother-in-law picked up the baby and started feeding her milk. I knew what she was doing. I cried and tried to stop her. But she had already given her milk laced with yerakkam paal [the poisonous juice of the oleander plant]. Within minutes, the baby turned blue and died.”

This is just one of thousands of stories told by women giving birth to newborn girls. In the west were the mothers first reaction is to get the baby lied down n her chest so that mother and child bond together, women in India has to witness their baby taking their last breath. One of the popular methods of killing newborn girls is to use the oleander plant looking like a pleasant flower but a milky sap that if ingested, can be a deadly poison.

Female infanticide is the intentional killing of baby girls due to the preference for male babies at or soon after birth. This twisted custom was common in China during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) due to the overpopulation and the second half of the twentieth century due to the one child policy. The practice was so common in Greece of 200 BC that among the 6,000 families living in Delphi, only 1% had two daughters. Arabs before Islam used to kill their newborn daughters but was prohibited when Islam came (“And when the female (infant) buried alive (as the pagan Arabs used to do) shall be questioned; for what sin she was killed?”

Today, this practice is most common in China, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Pakistan, Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia), Artic (Inuit tribes especially) and some sub-Saharan African countries, among the Yanomani in Brazil, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. Some methods used globally vary between starving her to death, suffocating her by wrapping her tightly in a quilt, poisoning her, strangling, drowning, or breaking her spinal cord by snapping it.

In India it made awareness to the international world when in the 19th century, when it was found out that in some villages in India, no girl babies were found at all and in other cities, there were 343 boys to 54 girls.

The reasons behind it are almost always cultural rather than directly religious. It remains as a head ache in the third world countries but two of the most populous countries are notoriously famous for the high number of killing newborn girls, China and India. In India, family and social pressures to produce a son are immense. In most regions, sons are desired for reasons related to kinship, inheritance, marriage, identity, status, economic

  • Earning power: Men are usually the main income-earners, either because they are more employable or earn higher wages for the same work, or because they are able to do more agricultural work in subsistence economies. Since male babies have a greater income potential, they are less likely to be killed.
  • Potential pensions: In many societies, parents depend on their children to look after them in old age. But in many of these cultures a girl leaves her parental family and joins her husband’s family when she marries. The result is that parents with sons gain extra resources for their old age, when their sons marry, while parents with daughters lose their ‘potential pensions’ when they marry and move away.
  • Dowry: Some girl babies are killed so that the family doesn’t have to pay a dowry when they get married. In Indian society it is tradition for the parents of the bride to give a dowry to the groom and his family. The dowry consists of large amounts of money and valuable goods. For families with several daughters this can be a serious financial burden.

Mothers are often helpless to do anything, having no rights over their children while the women on the husband’s side commit the killing. The methods used have been handed down from generation to generation and there is a variety of them. Babies are fed milk laced with the sap from poisonous plants or pesticides, given paddy (rice with its husk) to swallow, which will slit their throats, fed salt to increase their blood pressure, stuffed in clay pots, swallow poisonous powdered fertilizer while others were smothered with a wet towel, strangled or allowed to starve and dehydrate to death.

INDIA

According to census statistics, “From 972 females for every 1,000 males in 1901. The gender imbalance has tilted to 929 females per 1,000 males. These numbers shows a serious imbalance that over time will have serious consequences.

A study of Tamil Nadu by the Community Service Guild of Madras similarly found that “female infanticide was common” in the state, though only among Hindu (rather than Moslem or Christian) families. “Of the 1,250 families covered by the study, 740 had only one girl child and 249 agreed directly that they had done away with the unwanted girl child. More than 213 of the families had more than one male child whereas half the respondents had only one daughter.” (Malavika Karlekar, “The girl child in India: does she have any rights?,” Canadian Woman Studies, March 1995.)

Fetal Murder

The number of female babies killed by feticide is greater than the number killed by infanticide. Abortion is legal in India under certain conditions, but sex-selective abortions or female feticide is a crime.The missing status of innumerable women (more than 100 million women are reported to be missing worldwide) points toward female feticide, infanticide, and other forms of gender discrimination as resulting in the high mortality of females at most stages of life. Abortions are most common among rich couples who can afford ultrasound scans to illegally check their unborn baby’s sex according to a research done by the UNPF. At one point, several clinics have been closed as hundreds of foetuses were found outside.

All medical tests that can be used to determine the sex of the child have been banned in India, due to incidents of these tests being used to get rid of unwanted female children before birth. The selective abortion of female feotuses is most common in areas where cultural norms value male children over female children, especially in parts of People’s Republic of China, Korea, Taiwan, and India. A 2005 study estimated that over 90 million females were “missing” from the expected population in Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, South Korea and Taiwan alone, and suggested that sex-selective abortion plays a role in this deficit.

In order to cope with the problem, the Indian state has taken some measures in Tamil Nadu for families with one or two daughters and no sons; if one of the parents undergoes sterilization, the government will grant the family $160 in aid per child as instalments as the girl goes through school. She will get a small golden ring and on her 20th birthday, $650 will be paid to serve as dowry or to pay the expenses of higher education. Another campaign driven by the Delhi government deposits 5,000 rupees ($202) in the name of a girl at the time of her birth and 25,000 more through her childhood as long as she stays in school.

Indian Girls Bear Dowry Burden

After birth, it is also usual for girls to eat less than boys and to eat when the male has finished his meal. In cases of illness, it is usual for boys to get more healthcare than girls and more money is spent on clothing for them rather than the girls.

2001 census reports show that Punjab and Haryana reported fewer than 900 girls per 1,000 boys. Like China, there is a strong son preference for various socio-economic reasons, such as the son being responsible for carrying on the family name and support in old age.

Families pay large sums in order to marry off their daughters. Although dowry was prohibited in 1961, newspaper reports illustrates that the phenomenon is continuing. There has also been escalation in dowry demands and related offenses such as harassment of the bride’s family, the acid burning of a bride, and even her murder. The advertisements for sex determination in the 1980s bore slogans like, “Pay five hundred now to save fifty thousand later.” The gender-based oppression of women in India starts at birth in the form of infanticide and feticide.

Going by a rough calculation, nearly 6,000 female babies must have been poisoned to death in Usilampatti taluk in the last decade and births are registered only if the deliveries take place in the hospitals. “There is also this widespread belief among the Kallars that if you kill a daughter, your next child will be a son.”

Many Kallar families realise that they are committing a crime, but they are convinced that, given their difficult circumstances, they are taking the only course open to them. A villager woman once said; “How can we poor people rear so many daughters in this painful dowry situation? The village panchayat and the village administrative officer have no right to investigate or interfere in our personal affairs. If I and my husband have the right to have a child, we also have the right to kill it if it happens to be a daughter, and we decide we cannot afford it. Outsiders and the Government have no right to poke their noses into this.” Her husband, Andi, concurred: “we have no money to keep our daughters alive.”

China

A missionary (and naturalist) observer in China the late 19th century interviewed 40 women over age 50 who reported having borne 183 sons and 175 daughters, of whom 126 sons but only 53 daughters survived to age 10; by their account, the women had destroyed 78 of their daughters.” (Coale and Banister, “Five Decades of Missing Females in China,” Demography, 31: 3 [August 1994], p. 472.)

According to Zeng et al., “The practice was largely forsaken in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s but the number of “missing” women showed a sharp upward trend in the 1980s, linked by almost all scholars to the “one-child policy” introduced by the Chinese government in 1979 to control spiralling population growth.

Jonathan Manthorpe reported a study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, claiming that “the imbalance between the sexes is now so distorted that there are 111 million men in China — more than three times the population of Canada — who will not be able to find a wife.” As a result, the kidnapping and slave-trading of women has increased: “Since 1990, say official Chinese figures, 64,000 women — 8,000 a year on average — have been rescued by authorities from forced ‘marriages’. The number who have not been saved can only be guessed at. The thirst for women is so acute that the slave trader gangs are even reaching outside China to find merchandise. There are regular reports of women being abducted in such places as northern Vietnam to feed the demand in China.” (Jonathan Manthorpe, “China battles slave trading in women: Female infanticide fuels a brisk trade in wives,” The Vancouver Sun, January 11, 1999.)

Although the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) created laws to provide equal rights for women and men, female infanticide has increased dramatically since 1989 and the one child policy. This policy was created to prevent the increasing population and children born outside the plan would not be issued residence cards which would deny them education and other benefits. The parents would risk fines, salary cuts and even imprisonment.

The preference for male babies coupled with the “one child per couple” policy has led to an increase in female infanticide, the concealment of female births, sex-selective abortion, and the abandonment of infant girls. If parents choose to hide the birth of a daughter, she will have no legal existence. She will face difficulties receiving healthcare, education, and other state services.

Girls are less likely to be given adequate healthcare and nutrition than their the males. If abandoned or given up for adoption, Chinese infant girls risk horrible neglect and mistreatment in state orphanages. The infant girls spend their days tied to wicker “potty” chairs. They are provided with no toys, physical attention, or mental stimulation. Disease runs rampant in the orphanages, and an estimated one in five children die (Woods, Brian “The Dying Rooms Trust”).

The Chinese government has taken a number of steps to combat the practice of female infanticide, as well as promote and protect women’s rights. The Marriage Law and Women’s Protection Law prohibit female infanticide, and the latter prohibits discrimination against women who give birth to daughters.The Sex Selective Abortion Law and Maternal Health Care Law of 1994 were created to put an end to sex selective abortions, and the latter prohibits the use of medical technology to determine the gender of a fetus but unfortunately, the practice continues in China despite these efforts.

A crime against humanity

  • According to a recent report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
    up to 50 million girls and women are missing from India’ s population as a result of systematic gender discrimination in India.
  • In most countries in the world, there are approximately 105 female births for every 100 males.
  • In India, there are less than 93 women for every 100 men in the population.
  • The United Nations says an estimated 2,000 unborn girls are illegally aborted every day in India.
  • Upon marriage, a son makes a daughter-in-law an addition and asset to the family providing additional assistance in household work and brings an economic reward through dowry payments, while daughters get married off and merit an economic penalty through dowry charges.

The lack of education, low financial productivity and old customs and traditions have played a high role in this crime. Although many young people try to defy this act, you can still find female infanticide in every part of the country. Not only in the villages and poor areas but among rich families who desire a son.

This human rights violation of denying birth to a female child or not allowing her to live because she is a female is a crime. It not only affects the communities it also impacts in many ways on the national and international communities where female infanticide and feticide may not occur. Social unrest as a result of the disproportionate female and male gender ratio may manifest itself as crime in these societies, such as, the kidnapping of young women, forced marriages, sex crimes, wife purchasing, frustration-related psychological problems, and an increase in prostitution. Sadly some of these effects have already been reported in China.

Alarming Facts:

  • In 1992 Amartya Sen calculated that 37 million women were ‘missing’ in India . The UN in 2001 estimated that there were 44 million missing women in India.
  • A report by Palash Kumar published on Dec. 15, 2006 says India Has Killed 10 Million Girls in 20 Years. The report says “Ten million girls have been killed by their parents in India in the past 20 years, either before they were born or immediately after, a government minister said, describing it as a “national crisis”.
  • Punjab loses every fourth girl. “By the 2011 census, we would be killing off 10 lakh (1,000,000) girls a year.” (Stop Murdering The Girl Child, Tribune, Correspondent or Reporter, Sep 26, 2007)
  • Every year in India, an estimated 500,000 female foetuses are aborted because they are female.
  • In Tamil Nadu recent analysis of statistics indicates a shortfall of about 13,000 daughters per year, 67% due to pre-birth deficit which suggests a high rate of female foeticide and 33% due to infanticide, and neglect.
  • Data compiled for 2008 by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) showed that there were 8,172 dowry deaths in the country, and for the same year, there were 81,344 cases of cruelty towards women by husbands and relatives. The actual numbers are probably much higher since many cases go unreported, or are reported as suicide.

What can be done?

Eliminating the practice requires changes in the way girls and women are valued by society. In India, UNFPA supports the Government in a comprehensive approach that includes building media interest, creating community-based networks to advocate against the practice, sensitizing health providers and involving youth and other key stakeholders. In Haryana State, where the sex ratio imbalance is one of the highest, function as women’s social action groups that promote the rights of daughters. These groups have convinced families and doctors not to practice sex selection.

Following a campaign by health and human rights activists, legal measures to ban the use of prenatal diagnostic techniques for sex selection were first passed in the Indian state of Maharashtra in 1986. Among the advocates against female infanticide were United Nations organizations, including UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO, who were working alongside international NGOs and India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

1. Support legislation and organizations that will increase access to education for girls. When more girls become educated there will be more opportunity for them to achieve success and for there to be more value placed on women and girls in society.
2. Outreach to health professionals, young women and men about stopping this practice In rural areas, poverty, lack of education, economic resources and inadequate healthcare facilities lead to the killing of infant girls whereas in urban areas selective abortion is commonly employed by individuals with access to modern technology that allows for early sex detection.

Surrogacy – Womb for rent

What is surrogacy

Many couples consider children as a very important part of their life and for those who have difficulty conceiving one can be a hard obstacle to tackle. Some couples do whatever they can such as various treatments, acupuncture, medicine treatment and IVF treatments while others feels that the pressure becomes too hard and they separate. Infertility primarily refers to the biological inability of a person to contribute to conception. Infertility may also refer to the state of a woman who is unable to carry a pregnancy to full term. There are many biological causes of infertility, some which may be bypassed with medical intervention.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a process by which egg cells are fertilized by sperm outside the body, in vitro. IVF is a major treatment in infertility when other methods of assisted reproductive technology have failed. The process involves hormonally controlling the ovulatory process, removing ova (eggs) from the woman’s ovaries and letting sperm fertilize them in a fluid medium. The fertilized egg (zygote) is then transferred to the patient’s uterus with the intent to establish a successful pregnancy. Robert G. Edwards, the doctor who developed the treatment, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2010.

Some people decide to take the step to adopt a child but the negative aspects of this are that most adoptions take very long time. It’s a paradox if we think of the number of orphan children around the world and that those who apply for adoption have to wait for many years in line before they can add a new family member to their household. Therefore lately there is a rising use of surrogate mothers around the world. Surrogacy was first heard mostly in the media where Hollywood actors and actresses used but now, common people tend to use this method.

Surrogacy can be defined as an arrangement where a woman carries and delivers a baby for another person or a couple. This woman may be the genetic mother of this child (traditional surrogacy) or she may carry the pregnancy to deliver after having an embryo which she has no genetic relationship to (gestational surrogacy). If the pregnant woman receives compensation for carrying and delivering the baby besides medical and other expenses, it is called commercial surrogacy; otherwise the arrangement is called altruistic surrogacy.

The social parents, those that intend to raise the child arrange a surrogate pregnancy because of female infertility, or other medical issues which may make the pregnancy or delivery impossible, risky or otherwise undesirable. The social mother could also be fertile and healthy, and prefer the convenience of someone else undergoing pregnancy, labor, and delivery for her. The intended parent could also be a single man or woman wishing to have his/her own biological child and the legality of surrogacy arrangements vary widely between jurisdictions.

Usually, though, the etiquette is that the biological parents will provide the surrogate mother with any necessities the surrogate needs in the pregnancy such as providing transportation to and from doctor’s appointments; covering the costs of doctor visits, medications, procedures, hospital stay, and delivery fees (emergency and nonemergency) if medical insurance is not available by the surrogate; providing maternal clothing for the surrogate; if the surrogate was working before but quit to do the surrogacy, the biological parents will cover life necessities such as food, bills and etc.

INDIA: New regulation for India’s booming surrogate mother industry

Until recently, the 350 clinics offering surrogate mother services to the hundreds of medical tourists coming to India every week have been unregulated. But legal cases in India and other countries mean that this profitable free-for-all will be replaced by regulated agencies being forced to comply with national and international law. That may soon change. A draft bill to direct assisted reproductive technology (ART) is likely to be introduced this year in Parliament. India’s Supreme Court has demanded urgent new legislation to regulate one of India’s fastest-growing industries as they have become the world capital of outsourced pregnancies, where surrogates are implanted with foreign embryos and paid to carry the resultant babies to term. In 2002, the country legalized commercial surrogacy in an effort to promote medical tourism and Indian surrogate mothers are considered as available and cheap. In 2002 the country legalized commercial surrogacy in an effort to promote medical tourism; a sector the Confederation of Indian Industry predicts will generate $2.3 billion annually by 2012.

Many of the couples using India are from countries where surrogacy is either illegal or unaffordable. Surrogacy costs $12,000 to $20,000 per birth in India, compared to $70,000 to $100,000 in the USA. Indian surrogates are usually paid between 5,000 to $ 7,000 for their services, which is more than many of them would be able to earn after years of work. In some Indian clinics surrogates are recruited from rural villages, with most recruits being poor and illiterate. Surrogacy recruits are also brought to the clinics where they are required to stay in the clinic’s living quarters in a guarded dormitory-like setting for the entire pregnancy where they are being taking care of in case of complications.

There have been several cases in which babies born from Indian surrogacy arrangements were stateless, in which neither India nor the parents’ home countries recognized the babies’ citizenship. “We can only wish them good luck,” India’s Supreme Court told local media. Japan considers the woman who gives birth to a baby, the surrogate, to be the baby’s mother just like Norway does. Until recently, two-year-old twin toddlers were stateless and stranded in India. Their parents are German nationals, but the woman to whom the babies were born is an Indian surrogate. The boys were refused German passports because the country does not recognize surrogacy as a legitimate means of parenthood. And India does not confer citizenship on surrogate-born children conceived by foreigners. Only after a long legal battle did Germany allow the boys German passports.

The new proposed government bill bans in-vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics from brokering surrogacy transactions. It also calls for the establishment of an ART bank that will be responsible for locating surrogate mothers, as well as reproductive donors and fertility clinics will only come into contact with surrogates on the operating table but clinics see this as unworkable as they want to perform medical and background checks. But the new rules seek to protect surrogate mothers with freedom in negotiating their fee and mandatory health insurance from the couple or single employing them. The legislation will only allow a woman to act as a surrogate up to five times, less if she has her own children, and will impose a 35-year age limit. At the same time, the new legislation will also require and make sure that the international couple’s home country guarantees the unborn infant citizenship before a surrogacy can begin. If this stipulation becomes law it could kill the industry as few countries will or legally could guarantee citizenship before birth. Countries accepting surrogate-born children typically rely on DNA tests done post-delivery to determine the parentage of the baby.

How will the legislation affect Indian clinics?

Dr. Patel chooses among the women who appear at the clinic, at least three a day, hoping to hire out their wombs and she pairs the surrogates with infertile couples, catering to an increasingly international clientele from 13 foreign couples in 2006 to 85 in 2009. The entire process costs customers around $23,000 less than 1/5 of the going rate in the U.S. of which the surrogate mother usually receives about $7,500 in installments. Dr. Patel implants the women with embryos, using specimens from sperm or egg donors if necessary. Once pregnant, the surrogates are housed onsite, in a dormitory that was once a local tax office, so that they can be supervised until delivery. But under the new legislation, Patel will be permitted to supervise nothing but surgery.

Surrogate mothers waiting for check up

The proposed bill bans in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics from brokering surrogacy transactions. It also emphasizes for the establishment of an “ART bank” that will be responsible for locating surrogate mothers as well as reproductive donors. Fertility clinics will only come into contact with surrogates on the operating table and the reason for this is to create a safe distance between the clinic and the surrogate to avoid unethical practices according to Dr. R.S. Sharma, deputy director general of the ICMR and member-secretary of the bill’s drafting committee. “IVF clinics should only be concerning themselves with science.”

Dr Patel does not agree with the legislation maintains that ART banks will not have enough experience to determine whether a woman is fit for surrogacy. “The trust the clients and surrogate mothers have with me is what makes the whole thing secure and safe. And at the end, when they want to buy a house or a piece of land for farming, we get them the best deal. With this bill, we will not know what they are going to do with such a big amount of money,” she says.

Stateless children

During nine months, Kari Ann Volden, a Norwegian woman have been battling against the Norwegian government to adopt the twins Adrian and Michael, who was born from a surrogate mother in India January 24, 2010. According to Norwegian rule, the woman who gives birth to the child is the legal mother.

Family Minister Audun Lysbakken promised in May 2010 that the Ministry should take into account the children and make a moral exception in the case even if Kari Ann Volden was not considered to be the mother of the children but when it emerged that she had lied about the eggs being hers the application then was rejected. Therefore she is now caught in India with the two young boys hoping that her adoption application still will be granted.

According to the Norwegian authorities, the children are Indian government’s responsibility. But Indian authorities claim that the children are Norwegian and the twins are therefore now stateless. Norwegian government justifies the refusal on the basis of international conventions and Norwegian law to prevent the purchase and sale of children. This is the first time that such a case is dealt with in Norway. Norway has ratified the Convention on Human Rights, which states that children’s best interests will be emphasized, even when it comes to adoption across national borders. And that’s what this case is all about children’s best interests, not their biological connection.

After the birth of the two boys, the authorities demanded a DNA test to finish up the adoption process, and Volden admitted then that both eggs and sperm was donated and the Norwegian adoption authorities put their foot down for the adoption of the two twins. Volden is sorry that she had told the adoption authorities that the eggs were hers but says she said it to protect the boys and herself. “I did not think that the case would receive such attention. I thought we would be in India for seven weeks, but now we have been here for seven months,” she said.

Labor Party politician has followed the case with great interest for a long period. The case created great interest among the people, expressed both through the Facebook support group and fundraising since Volden is suffering economically. Much indicated that the case was about to resolve it when the family minister Audun Lysbakken opened to domestic adoption, but it was paradoxically this opportunity that led to incorrect information was revealed.

Indian surrogate mother: “We do it for money”

Regina A. Singh has never met the Norwegian father who applied for surrogacy alone and she thinks it’s strange to carry out a child who should not have a mother. “It would never have happened in India. But I do not think about it. This is not my baby,” Regina says. She is 23 years old and has two children from before herself. This is her first time as a surrogate mother. “We needed the money. First, my husband refused, but I managed to persuade him,” she said. For the job, she gets 350,000 rupees, around $7,740 and that is a fortune for the family of four, which until now have lived by the husband’s income of about $ 900 a month. But Regina has chosen to keep the matter secret from the in-laws as they would never understand. In the tradition-bound India, it is often associated with shame to rent out her womb for others especially in rural areas; surrogacy is combined with social stigma, and is seen as dirty and immoral.

Udmala Mansoya (30) and Hema Rawal (34) admittes its hard work but they do it for the money. Both have undergone multiple pregnancies earlier but this is completely different. Both agree that once is enough for them as a surrogate mother. Udmala will use the money to buy a house, while Hema will ensure that her own three children receive education, but none of them get the money in hand, they are managed for them by Akanksha Clinic. “Many of the women can not read or write, so we think it is best that we look after their money for them,” says clinic administrator Himesh Patel who helps the women with house and land purchase. If something were to happen during pregnancy or birth the women have little protection as Indian insurance companies refuse to insure pregnant women, and women are therefore at the mercy of their employers.”We did not know this. But we hope it goes well,” says Hema and Udmala.

Here are a list of countries that performs surrogacy and information about the process. http://www.surrogate-mother.ru/eng/surrogacy/surrogacy_different_countries.html

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