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Focus:
Modern technology changes gender equation
By Kallada Hamza, Calicut

In recent years, there has been alarming disparity in the sex ratio of newborn children in India. The man-woman ratio is quite adverse to females in rural areas. In 1901, the ratio of females was 972 per 1000 men. In 1999 it has plummeted to 927 females. If this trend is not checked, our entire generation of males would strikingly outnumber females, causing serious socio-ecological problems in future. 

The practice of predetermination and termination of gender-based pregnancies is widespread in our metropolitan cities. The modern technology of scanning the pregnant woman tends to identify the gender of the foetus . The clinics, which have specialized in sex selective abortion, are mushrooming in almost all cities. The All India Medical Association (AIMA) and Society of obstetrics and Gynecologists forbid, on ethical ground, to reveal the gender of yet to be born baby. Further, the gender-targeted abortion is taboo in the religious perception. A decade ago, sex selective pregnancy was unheard of in India.

The book on ‘Sex selection’ written by a Japanese author, Sugiyama, has gained wide popularity in Asian and European countries. The methods explained in the book are about 80 per cent effective. The method is based on charting the ovulation cycles and body temperature of woman, along with the use of a pH-altering jelly that enables survival of the sperm of choice. But in Japan, the craze is for female babies, whereas in India it is for boys. Most of the parents want boys, since life is very miserable for girls who are treated as a burden by the society. 

Female infanticide is horribly manifest in the rural communities of Tamil Nadu and some North Indian states. In Devra, a remote village in the Barmer district of Rajasthan, a girl child does not live long. She is killed immediately after delivery - either drowned in a tub of milk or smothered with pillow. In Tamil Nadu, parents kill girls by feeding poison. Astonishingly, even mothers of babies and woman folk in these regions do not raise a voice of protest. Further, this bastardly evil in the Rajput communities is locally known as ‘bai ke doodh pilaya’ (she was fed milk).

The organizations like Child Relief and You (CRY) and Lok Sakthi are working against this heinous practice. When the female infanticide was becoming rampant in Tamil Nadu in early nineties, the state government had been publicizing a cradle scheme to shelter unwanted babies and a penal action for killing babies. The scheme offered cash incentives to families of two without sons where either parent had undergone surgical termination of fertility. But it has not proven effective. Women in rural areas are victims of sharply unbalanced socio-economic system. In a chaotic poverty-ridden community, parents cannot afford a second child, arguably a girl. Prohibitive dowry and other related hardships coerce them to female infanticide. 

In Kerala, women outnumber men. The female sex ratio is higher. It is mainly due to the high literacy rate, 98 per cent. Often girls top the list of rank-holders at school and college levels. In Kerala, the total literacy, low-mortality, lowest infant mortality, nutrition and hygiene, have been globally acclaimed. Even the US President, Bill Clinton appreciated this progress, although he had not been to this State during his recent visit of India. Kerala’s demographic superiority, social status and literacy also well match the West.

In the pre-Islamic era of ignorance (Jahiliya), the female infanticide had been common and. But the male-dominated ancient Arab tribes had at least given a chance to the girl to grow up, albeit she was later buried alive. But modern man kills her in the womb itself at its foetus stage-or embryonic phase.

Some Muslim scholars had been toying with the idea of permitting the medical practitioners to terminate pregnancy if it was inevitable that continued pregnancy would adversely affect the health of the mother or the unborn child. Maybe it is permissible in some exceptional cases, especially on medical ground, but the Muslim intelligentsia has made serious efforts to convince the parents that abortion is nothing but a premeditated murder, homicide clearly mounting to murder. The birth-control is another debatable issue. But gender selection and infanticide could not be justifiable in Islamic perspective. 

The legalization of abortion would lead to large scale misuse of the modern technology. This would lead to commercialization of the medical profession.
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