Hindu Mommy

January 18, 2006

No Big Sin? ….Read if you are ready to weep

Filed under: Hinduism,India,Kids — hindumommy @ 8:34 pm

Just Numbers?

About 500,000 fetuses are aborted in India a year. The current running figure is estimated between 35 to 50 MILLION. The fetuses were aborted because they happen to be females as revealed by ultra-sound tests.

The practice of female infanticide has a long history in India. A few years ago millions of baby girls are killed immediately after birth because of the widespread cultural preference for sons.

A popular way of doing away with the unwanted children is to feed them milk laced with yerakkam paal (the poisonous juice of the oleander plant). Within minutes, the baby turned blue and died, a mother stated matter-of-factly, as she, weak after childbirth, helplessly watched her mother-in-law give the poison to her baby.

Yerakkam paal however is more “merciful” than the other method that uses paddy husk. The paddy husk slits the tender gullet with its sharp sides as it slides down the tiny throat.

Most “modern” families use pesticides, sleeping pills or just simply suffocate the infant with a pillow.

However, with the growing popularity of the ultrasound machine to determine the sex of a child, killing them can now be made earlier than birth. Female fetuses, now easily identified, can be aborted fast.

A growing, alarming rate on the practice of female feticide had been noted. Penn sisu kolai, as female infanticide is known in local parlance, is a widespread and socially accepted phenomenon in several parts/states of India like Harvana, Chandigarh, Daman, Diu, Punjab and Nadu.

The female infanticide belt has been identified to stretch through the districts of Salem, Dharmapuri, North Arcot, Periyar, Dindigul and Madurai. Hardcore regions like north Salem, south Dharmapuri, south Dindigul and west Madurai accounted for practically 70 per cent of all female infanticide in the state.

Why females?

According to CBC News writer Jeremy Copeland, a proverb “Raising a girl is like watering the neighbour’s garden” generally sums up the way girls in India are seen – as an economic burden on their parents.

Parents about to marry off their daughters in India usually have to pay for the wedding and give a large dowry to the groom’s family. Though formally outlawed, the practice of dowry is still pervasive in Indian society. This can run ridiculously beyond ones means as an average civil servant earns about 100,000 rupees a year (US$3,500) while the combination of dowry and wedding expenses usually add up to more than a million rupees (US$35,000) – Porras, “Female Infanticide and Foeticide”.

Parents of daughters struggle to earn enough for a dowry, and to make payments once a marriage settlement is reached. Parents are often forced to take out huge loans to cover the costs. After the wedding the girl usually goes to live with her husband’s family.

In cases where they are unable to or unwilling to make the payments they have promised, the dowry problem seems easily resolved as can be seen in the 25,000 young brides who are burned to death every year, and the hundreds of thousands who are emotionally and physically abused by their in-laws, because their parents have not kept up with dowry demands.

One root cause for the trend toward female feticide is the Hindu belief that parents cannot obtain salvation unless they have a son to perform their last rites. The prayer found in a familiar hymn in Atherva Veda, a Hindu scripture, exemplifies the religious sanction for discrimination against women: The birth of a girl, grant elsewhere; here, grant a son.

Women in such areas are second class citizens. Even when daughters are allowed to go to school, they are burdened with household chores, leading to high dropout rates. Across all the religions, the birth of a son is celebrated while the birth of a daughter is mourned.

Girls generally dont survive their growing up years and even when they do they are not as healthy as the males. A recent research revealed that parents are prone to feed their male progeny more and healthier foods than females. It is usual for girls and women to eat less than men and boys and to have their meal after the men and boys had finished eating. Greater mobility outside the home provides boys with the opportunity to eat sweets and fruit from saved-up pocket money or from money given to buy articles for food consumption. In case of illness, it is usually boys who have preference in health care. … More is spent on clothing for boys than for girls[,] which also affects morbidity. – Karlekar, “The girl child in India.”

Whats being done is not enough

Since the Indian government seems to have gone all out in eradicating feticide and infanticide. Those practicing it are now more cautious, more secretive. If someone registers a case of suspected infanticide and the body is exhumed, the ‘old’ methods of killing can be detected and those who committed the crime can be persecuted.

For infanticide, the methods of killing has evolved. From a quick and relatively painless procedure, it had turned into a prolonged and torturous one for the child.

In some cases the newborn is deliberately weakened and dehydrated by her own parents. In one instance it was learned that they did this by wrapping the child in a wet towel or dipping it in cold water soon after delivery or as soon as the child arrives home from hospital. If the child is still alive after a few hours, its taken to a doctor who will promptly diagnose the child with pneumonia and prescribe medicines. The prescription is always carefully preserved, but the medicines are never bought. When the child finally dies, the parents bandy the medical certificate to prove pneumonia with the prescription to boot.

Sometimes, the infant is fed a drop of alcohol to create symptoms similar to diarrhea. Another certifiable ‘disease’.

Those practicing infanticide now prefer to cremate the little bodies but it does raise suspicions as burial is still the popular practice. Before the crackdown, these criminals would bury the dead infants in shallow graves in the fields, putting a stone over the spot to deter animals from digging the bodies. Now it is different.

Snippets to further break your heart

these broke mine further
*An international group which set up a small orphanage went a step further by setting up empty cradles in select communities where unwanted babies. This was the famous ‘cradle baby’ scheme to appeal to mothers to leave their babies in the cradles instead of killing them. The scheme, however, did not generate much response. In one year, only seven girl babies were left in the crib whereas over 700 ‘disappeared’ shortly after birth.

*Social workers who stood outside the house of a woman about to give birth so they can take away the child if shes unwanted was chased by a couple of men, bearing their trademark aruvaals (choppers.) The social workers got intimidated and moved away. By the time they returned, the girl child had been born, killed and buried.

*In 1993, of the 800 female births registered in a hospital (Usilampatti), 600 had ‘disappeared’. No one even spoke of the unregistered births. There was no proper documentation. No real figures.

*At Nalampalli village near Salem, a girl spoke of how her mother-in-law had just killed her sister-in-law’s third daughter. “My husband’s mother wrapped the newborn girl in a wet towel. She threw it on the ground and pushed it with her toe. ‘Who wants this?’ she said and went out of the room. All of us stood there, afraid to pick the baby up. My sister-in-law, who was weak after the delivery, just wept. A few hours later, the child died. They got a doctor’s certificate to say it had pneumonia.” The year was 1999. They had discovered new and ‘better’ methods of killing since then.

*In some hamlets of … Tamil Nadu, murdering girls is still sometimes believed to be a wiser course than raising them. “A daughter is always liabilities. How can I bring up a second?” Lakshmi, 28, answered firmly when asked by a visitor how she could have taken her own child’s life eight years ago. “Instead of her suffering the way I do, I thought it was better to get rid of her.” (All quotes from Dahlburg, “Where killing baby girls ‘is no big sin’.”)



  1. […] It is no secret that girls are not as “prized” as boys in India . In fact, one of my first blog posts was on female feticide in India  (No Big Sin? ….Read if you are ready to weep) but reading this article in Yahoo just gave me the chills. […]

    Pingback by India’s female feticide « The Great Indian Mutiny — September 18, 2006 @ 10:52 pm | Reply

  2. […] After India’s female feticide (No Big Sin? ….Read if you are ready to weep) , and Bridal Burnings, people have changed their mind it seems. […]

    Pingback by What’s Next India!!! « The Great Indian Mutiny — November 2, 2006 @ 2:26 am | Reply

  3. Hey! I’m so glad to have read this, and appreciate your writing it! Just wondering, do you have any of your references available, could you please post them? Thanks!

    Comment by simsimsimma — April 9, 2008 @ 11:21 pm | Reply

  4. Mrs. Kiran Walia
    Honorable minister for health and family welfare
    New Delhi-58

    Respected madam,
    I had filed a complaint against my husband and in laws for cheating me into
    a sex determination test during my pregnancy. The enquiry was conducted by
    C.D.M.O (North West) and later by the team of doctors at Maulana Azad
    Medical College, New Delhi
    I would like to point out certain points
    I am one of the first complainant in whole of India under the act
    The enquiry done by C.D.M.O (North-West) has found that no form F was filled
    when the ultrasound was done on me by radiologist at Jaipur Golden Hospital,
    New Delhi. The law is very very clear on this aspect and says that- Person
    conducting ultrasonography on a pregnant women shall keep complete record
    thereof in the clinic/centre in Form – F and any deficiency or inaccuracy
    found therein shall amount to contravention of provisions of section 5 or
    section 6 of the Act, unless contrary is proved by the person conducting
    such ultrasonography, where section 5 and 6 relates to “5. Written consent
    of pregnant woman and prohibition of communicating the sex of fetus” and
    “Determination of sex prohibited ”respectively
    The enquiry conducted by team of doctors at M.A.M.C has added the facts that
    fetal ultrasound was never advised by the gynecologist, but still it was
    The enquiry committee at M.A.M.C has also mentioned the fact about the
    agreement wherein my husband has agreed that he will in future never force
    me for sex determination or sex selective abortion. (copy of agreement
    The handbook on P.C-P.N.D.T act released by Gov. of India very clearly
    states- “In some cases women may themselves complain that they were forced
    to get the sex of the fetus determined. Then that woman’s statement can be
    recorded and she can also be called as a witness to depose about the doctor,
    the centre and the family members who forced her to get the test done.” In
    other words even if there is no documentary evidence the words of the women
    is enough to file a complaint in court.
    Despite all these evidences the Appropriate Authorities have stated that
    there is no direct/circumstantial evidence of sex determination, and the
    enquiry committee set up at M.A.M.C states that the Appropriate Authorities
    have done a very good and detailed investigation. They are giving a clear
    advantage to all the accused and ensuring that the court does not take
    cognizance in the case. My husband and in laws are getting advantage in all
    the cases because of the above said false lines. Madam, because of these
    false lines I am facing a lot of harassment, and because of all this
    harassment I may be forced to withdraw my complaints to save my daughters.
    If the government does not have power to undo a wrong statement given by its
    own personnel, and also government takes no action against them, while the
    complaint is again and again saying that she is facing lot of harassment
    because of these false statement, that in itself shows the dedication of the
    government in fighting the menace of female feticide.
    Madam as you probably know, my case has been mentioned even in the “2009
    Human Rights Reports: India” released by U.S. department of state (**
    *). I have all documentary evidences of the harassment being faced by me
    after filling the case. First I was tortured by my husband and in laws, than
    by the authorities, and now by judiciary. I have been told very clearly
    (albeit verbally) that in case I do not agree to withdraw my complaints, the
    Honorable Judge will ensure that I will have to produce my little daughters
    (only 4 ½ years old) in every date in the court. If this is the condition of
    our government and judiciary, I am troubled beyond words, and to save my
    daughters from harassment, may be forced to withdraw my complaint if nothing
    is done to rectify the wrong statements given in the enquiry report, quick
    justice is ensured.
    Thanking you in anticipation

    A frustrated mother

    (Dr Mitu Khurana Nee Khosla)

    1. Smt Pratibha Patil, President of India, Fax No- 011-23917920,
    2. Sri Mohammed Hamid Ansari , Vice President Of India, Fax No-
    011-23018124, 23012645
    3. Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, Fax No- 011-23019334
    4. Smt Meira Kumar, Honorable Speaker Lok Sabha , Fax No- 011-23016212
    5. Sri Ghulam Nabi Azad, Honorable Minister for Health and Family
    Welfare- 011-23062358
    6. Sri Veerappa Moily, Honorable Minister for Law and Justice, Fax No-
    7. Sri Mukul Wasnik, Honorable Minister for Social Justice and
    Empowerment Fax No- 011-23381902
    8. Smt Krishna Tirath, Honorable Minister for Women And Child
    Development, Fax No- 011-23074054
    Dr Mitu Khurana

    Comment by savedaughters19 — April 7, 2010 @ 2:21 am | Reply

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