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A Curse on Womanhood

The land of Jats, Haryana, which has been acknowledged by the entire country for the chivalry of its people who have contributed greatly to the Indian armed forces in the past and also in the present day, has much more to itself than just that.

The state of Haryana, despite its golden image, is ironically also known for being a true culprit of the women backwardness in the region. The state suffers from the lowest sex ratio in the entire country, thanks to the female foeticide that has prevailed here despite all bans and policies framed by the government. There are places in the state where the gender ratio is 800 women per 1000 men and then there are places where it is much lower at 600 per thousand men. It is not difficult to imagine what other atrocities follow women in this state.
Putting shame to the rest of the civilised world, this state is much ahead in women trafficking and has adopted despicable customs to fill in the gap. It is hard to believe in the modern day world of today but it is the harsh truth that several regions in state buy women to get married to. Finding a bride through the conventional way has become so difficult in these regions that families find it easy to buy women from helpless families in other areas. These people have also set an average price for the enjoyable commodity-brides. The brides here are generally brought at Rs 4000 per girl. The prices may go up to 5000 or 7000 depending upon the looks and appearance of the girl.
The real problem, however, is much bigger than this. Once brought, these women are treated like slaves and can be sold if the buyer finds them unsatisfactory. There have also been instances where a single woman is bought for multiple male members of a family, making her situation even worse. Women are made to live in dismal conditions and their trade has flourished so well that a supply chain has been established for this. If abandoned by their buyer, these women either have to face a gang rape by entire village community or are forced to other outrages like parading in the public without clothes and harassment. This generally happens mostly in the case when either their buyer has died or has abandoned her.
The main reason behind this shameful custom in Haryana is two-dimensional. One is the demand factor and the other one is the vulnerability and availability of the women due to poverty, lack of education, lack of access to rights, disparities in income and the scope for exploitation of the victim.
Although article 23 of the Indian Constitution prohibits trafficking of any form and there are specific acts as well to stop immoral trafficking, bonded labour, and juvenile justice still the enforcement of the laws in this regard is not up to the mark. Therefore, the general condition of women remains pathetic. This society of male dominance has never accepted women as natural beings but just merely property and commodity to fulfil their needs.
With such exploitation, it would be folly to expect the interference of women in family and social matters. The girls who study and take up some profession are looked down upon and are often killed in due time.
Most girls for bride trafficking are brought from rural areas of the north eastern states like Assam, West Bengal and also from a few places down south. A high percentage of these women come from the poor and uneducated Muslim population of the country. Besides, nearly 20,000 girls from Nepal are brought to the state to get married to their buyer husbands.
Many say that this tradition has been adopted from the Mahabharata but it would be foolish to blame the mythologies for this. If this is just the adoption of what our ancestors did, there are many more things that should have been adopted from that era. Or is it human psyche to pick up only the evil in everything.
This tradition has resulted in a lot of opposition from women groups and NGOs as well. However, due to lack of political will and week enforcement of laws has not changed much in the state. This system has also given rise to several honour killings in the state which are often done when a girl comes forward to choose her husband herself often from a different community.
With such atrocities taking place against womanhood, the day is not far when women would not be found in Haryana at all and even the state may end up becoming mere history in the geographical map of the country.
It is expected from the political and administrative system that it should take active action and think of upliftment of women in this state so that the coming generations are freed from this evil.

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.

Haryana, India – The curse of Women

The land of Jats – Haryana traces its roots to the five thousand years old Mahabharata epic which defines the traditional cry of women empowerment where the mythical Draupti struggled & adjust among her the five husbands of choice. The situation of women in Haryana has remained in the most deplorable state where the womb of humanity feels the fears of superstitious believes where the light of insanity enters the choice of ultras to be born or not. This state has set many excellent examples for the nation & has always raise the national honor in terms of agriculture where green revolution changed the lives of millions, where the world’s best athletes were born & bring home the honors, the community which has remain as inspiration to the nation at large is in real a true culprit of the women backwardness in the region.

Haryana suffers from the lowest sex ration / gender ration in the country where there are 800 females per 1000 males in some places it even goes below then 600 females per 1000 males. Haryana has the highest rates of abortion resulting in the largest cases of infanticide in the country which stood at close to 70000 as per 2001 data rose from the past record of 62000.The practices has lead to acute shortage of marriageable females in the state which has not only contributed in the national girl deficit but also leaded in the loss of births within the past 2 decades caused by abortion & sex selection according to the BBC report of 2006 & Lancet Journal report of 2006.

This has given rise in the bride trafficking where the state has become the center for women trade which has now become so much helpless that now the families find easier to purchase bride for their sons rather finding & spending exorbitant amounts on marriage extravaganza where the average cost of girl is Rs.4000/- depending upon her appearance, age & region. Sonepat district has remained a top buyer & driver of trade the average price of girl ranges between Rs.5000 – Rs.7000.

The problem not only lies here but it has lead to opening of many other criminal activities which are of extreme nature such as the women are treated as the slaves where if the owner gets unsatisfied they sell their property bride to other at negotiable rates. Women are living is such a dismal conditions that their trade has now generated system of supply chain where women are sell, purchase, delivered, resell treated like a mere commodity which if found unsatisfactory can be exchanged or replaced with a better one. The vulnerability & frequency of AIDS in the state where now it is leading the front with greater transparency particularly in younger generation which is being affected most.

Which has made this territory as the state with highest number of rapes annually where women if abandon particularly in village may witness the sexual assault by the whole village or locality. This extremity happens when the owner of the women abandons her or if the husband cum buyer dies early. There have been many cases where women were raped by the whole village repeatedly, harassed or paraded nude in the locality, abducted for a limited period of time.

The cause of trafficking is two-dimensional. One is the demand factor and the other is the vulnerability of the person being victimized, more the demand, and more the crime. The vulnerability of the trafficked victim is another dimension. Vulnerability, as often quoted, is not exactly attributable to poverty. It is a culmination of several factors, including awareness of rights, lack of access to rights, illiteracy, disparities of income , the scope for exploitation of the victim, poor law enforcement, lack of public awareness and the ” culture of silence” to violation of rights of others.

***

Article 23 of the Constitution of India prohibits trafficking in any form. We have special legislations like the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), 1956, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000. The law enforcement scenario, seen from the traditional viewpoint, presents a dismal picture. Research conducted by the National Human Rights Commission during 2002-2004 shows that the major issues in law enforcement are as follows:

1. Lack of priority-The law enforcement agencies and justice delivery agencies, for various reasons, accord lowest or nil priority to human trafficking issues.

2.  Insensitivity-The lack of sensitivity to human trafficking is a major challenge. It is more of an attitudinal issue.

3. Victimisation of the victim-More often, the trafficked women have been arrested and penalized for ‘soliciting’.

4 Improper Investigation-trafficking involves a long trail, starting from the source point, covering several transit points before terminating at the destination. But the investigation is more or less confined to the place where the victim is rescued. Victims remain more often unheard and unrepresented.

5. Organised crime perspective is lacking in investigation- HT involves several offenders like recruiters, transporters, traffickers, harbourers, exploiters and conspirators. But often, investigation is limited to those present at the scene of rescue. Human trafficking being an organized crime requires sharing of intelligence and an in-depth investigation into all linkages but this is rarely done.

6. Lack of co-ordination-The response to human trafficking requires co-ordination among the various government departments, like police, public welfare, health, women and child. The gap in co-ordination is a major challenge to the response system.

7. Lack of coordination with NGO’s- The ITPA and labour laws do assign specific role to NGO’s; however there is no institutionalized system of co-ordination between the law enforcement agencies and NGO’s.

8. Lack of Appreciation-Several instances of good work done by the police officers, researchers, NGO’s, etc, in controlling human trafficking can be cited. However such actions are not acknowledged and disseminated; often good news is no news and bad news is good news.

 9. Lack of Emphasis on Rehabilitation- This is a major challenge which leads to not only victimization of victims but also re-trafficking of the rescued person. Despite the fact that several corporate set aside large funds for social responsibility, lack of synergy with the law enforcement agencies and NGO’s has been an impediment in effective dovetailing of such sources for rehabilitating the victim.

With laws in face & in force, the situation still remains as usual as before with no improvement in reality having no grounds of morality to stand as hurdles in the insane traditions & practices of the citizens which even in this century are not civilized enough to be able to give respect & empowerment to their most vulnerable family members of their society. The state of the women is not only confined to the mere infanticide acts but also too many such more odds which she face throughout her life until her death. The society of male dominance has never accepted women as natural being but as the property of their belongings & needs who is being used as the mere commodity for getting the purpose solved with no regards to the crying souls of the wombs. Women in Haryana are subject to slavery & maltreatment by their sole mates in the very sorry state. Females are not allowed to interfere into the family & social matters. They even have no say about any matter which is of their concern. A girl who work or goes for any profession are treated with disrespect & are considered to be very forward.

This is a common practice in the rural areas where women are still fighting for their very existence. Due to continuous exploitation & infanticide on large scale from thousands of years as a tradition has now resulted into a huge deficit in girl population which has affected the entire gender ration of the state & the country too. Where on a national level according to the 2006 survey girl deficit has crossed 500000 mark which is unsuitable to meet the growing demand of brides across the state & in the country at large. Due to this girls are now being forced to marriage at early age, being forced into sex trade.

Due to the shortage of marriageable girls in the state they are being more vulnerable to rapes where now Haryana has surpassed the national crime rate in terms of rapes, abductions, trafficking while positioning itself at the top.

The most heinous of the crimes which are being carried out in a much organized & sophisticated manner under the hidden roofs is when the woman is being in some cases raped by the whole village where even the leaders of the village communities are also involved or order this heinous act to commit by their people. But the most traditional of them all which is still in practice & is being acceptable by the society due to the high level of girl shortage, poverty & illiteracy among the lower & middle income group is that in many families the girl is being forced or sell for marriage to the multiple males of the single family like for example if in a family there are more than one bachelor males & due to the acute shortage of girls in the vicinity & state they marriage a single girl who marries them as their common bride hence fulfilling the purpose of being a wife for all.

This tradition is as old as 5000 years which has roots traced back to Mahabharata era according to Hindu mythology.  This has resulted into a much outcry from the women empowerment bodies & judiciary but due to lack of political will & week enforcement agencies the whole scenario of women in the Jat land is uncertain & in dismal state. The region which is being most affected by this custom is Mewat which also witness a large involvement of Khap panchayat system which is traditional system of judiciary in Haryana who have always been at the fore front of controversy related to their style of functioning, decisions & their legality under the national legal framework.

This system has been responsible for the honor killings in the state & has still leading the stand of carrying out the tradition in this century. The honor killings are being done in relation to the unacceptable marriages which are being made by the absconding couples belonging to the different social group or community. These inter community or runaway marriages are never accepted in the local society & are being subject to the verdict of these khap panchayat which are respected & treated as the final body in the rural heartlands of this state.

With the dual system of constitutional & traditional rights the society of civilized & uncivilized has remained always at the loggerheads with each other making the society more male centric & dominant in the role of the decider who have till now has remained responsible for the women dismal situation in the state which has now facing the challenge of its survival. The day is not far when the Land of Jats will be a mere name in history whose stories will be told to the children for their sleep if the current status of women is not been lifted & treated with due respect in the society.

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