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‘Toothless’ law fails to curb female foeticide as courts refuse to jail offenders

August 3, 2015

‘Toothless’ law fails to curb female foeticide as courts refuse to jail offenders

Blame it on the unaccountability of the authorities, but the PNDT Act – which was enacted to curb female foeticide and arrest the declining gender ratio in India – has turned into a farce.

In nearly two decades since the law came into force, not a single convict has been imprisoned in the Capital.

Various trial courts in Delhi have shied away from awarding the maximum punishment to offenders and instead let off the convicts with a nominal fine of Rs 1,000.

The PNDT Act provides for a maximum punishment of a three-year jail term and a penalty of up to Rs 50,000.

Despite rulings by the Supreme Court and various high courts to make the existing law a deterrent, the courts have shown reluctance in sending offenders to jail.

In many cases, the convicts have been let off with a mere warning from the judge, prompting a reaction from the legal fraternity as well as social and academic activists.

Lawyers and activists have unanimously demanded deterrent punishment for the guilty while also fixing the accountability of the competent authorities handling the cases of sex detection.

Information provided by Delhi government’s health department in response to an RTI application suggests that 31 out of 52 cases under PNDT Act are pending in various Delhi courts.

However, in the remaining 21 cases disposed of by courts, no convict has been awarded a jail term since 1996, when the Act was enforced.

RTI applicant and activist Dr Mitu Khurana said the police and state government were equally responsible for making the law a “toothless tiger”.

“It is apparent that the prosecuting agencies are not taking these cases seriously, and the fact is well known to offenders. There is no fear of law as it has failed to be a deterrent,” Khurana said.

In the majority of the cases disposed of by the trial courts, the prosecuting agencies chose not to appeal before the higher courts, thus adding to the plight of victims.

To mention a few cases, a magisterial court at Rohini in the national Capital disposed of four cases under PNDT Act in May this year.

In three of these cases, convicts were imposed a meagre fine of Rs 1,000 while in another case the offender walked free with just a warning.

According to the RTI response, three cases in Rohini and Tis Hazari courts were disposed of after the prosecuting agencies withdrew from the case citing inability to establish the charge.

Similarly, the Dwarka district court discharged the accused owing to failure of the prosecution.

The data shows that 20 cases under the PNDT Act have been pending for over a decade despite the facts that the Supreme Court has directed the lower courts to decide such cases within six months.

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Female foeticide, India’s ‘ticking bomb’

July 9, 2015

Female foeticide, India’s ‘ticking bomb’

A deep-seated cultural preference for boys is skewing India’s sex ratio and making slaves of women.

girl_child

Bibipur, India – The jubilant young man’s arrival brought an abrupt halt to the card game contested by the turbaned group sitting under the tree.

He thought he had good news for them: “I’ve been blessed with a baby girl!” he announced proudly.

The response was not what he expected – the group’s shock quickly turned to ridicule.

“Why didn’t you get her killed in the womb?” came the collective cry. “Did you not get a gender determination test done on the foetus?”

Such a test is illegal in India, but this reaction – discovered during an undercover investigation by Al Jazeera in the village of Bibipur – is a reflection of prevailing male-chauvinistic attitudes in the country.

Cycle of imbalance

The deep-seated cultural preference for sons has skewed India’s 1.2 billion population’s gender demographic, particularly in the western states of Haryana, Rajasthan, and Punjab.

In Haryana’s Jind district, where Bibipur is located, the sex ratio is 871 females per 1,000 males, compared with the national average of 940, according to the 2011 census.

It has prompted men from these areas to hunt for brides in impoverished regions such as West Bengal and Bihar, and even as far away as Kerala in the south.

But it hasn’t changed their attitudes: Even the brides brought in are forced to abort their baby girls, thus perpetuating the cycle of imbalance – as in Bibipur.

One of the cardplayers – whose own conservative family had broken strict social norms and bought him a teenage bride from West Bengal due to the scarcity of girls in Haryana – was quick to boast about his experience with female foeticide.

“My wife was already three months pregnant when we got to know about it,” said the 40-year-old, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.

“We immediately got an ultrasonography test done on her. Reports suggested that it was a baby girl, but the doctor refused to abort the baby, saying that it could endanger the life of both the mother and the baby,” the cardplayer said.

Undeterred, the man’s family and friends gave him “a list of doctors and clinics in Haryana and Rajasthan where hassle-free abortions are done”.

The next stage involved fooling the 19-year-old wife into thinking she was going to a distant relative’s wedding in Jaipur.

“We took her to a predesignated clinic in the city,” explained the husband.

“Since it was not possible to abort the baby, the doctors put a pill in her genitals. In the morning, the game was over as my visibly shaken wife confirmed the news that the ‘bits of the baby’s body parts came out while passing urine’,” the man said.

‘Wives are like slaves’

In a 2011 study, British medical journal Lancet found that up to 12 million Indian female foetuses had been aborted in the previous three decades.

Last year, the United Nations said the dwindling number of Indian girls had reached “emergency proportions” and was contributing to crimes against women.

The imported brides, known as “paros”, are treated like domestic slaves who have little or no inheritance rights on the family property, according to Smita Khanijow of anti-poverty agency ActionAid India.

“Women are not a commodity which can be traded as ‘brides’ on demand of the market,” she told Al Jazeera.

“We need to treat women as equal human beings to men, and give them dignity and rights.”

But in many parts of India, the list of unmarried males older than 40 is growing longer – and more desperate for a wife.

During last year’s general elections, Bibipur – which means “Village of Brides” – hit the headlines when a local organisation called Kunwara Union – or “Bachelors’ Union” – told candidates: “Give us brides and win our votes!”

India’s Minister of Women and Child Welfare Maneka Gandhi says sex-selective abortion is a “problem of affluence”.

“Every day around 2,000 girls are killed in the womb or immediately after birth in India,” she told Al Jazeera – though a UN report says the daily number is around 7,000.

“People start planning their family in a rather regressive way – instead of counting their numbers, they start counting the children’s sex. What they want, they want. Anything else becomes collateral damage.”

‘Shame the families’

It is not just poor women who are forced to fight to save their baby girls. Doctor Mitu Khurana, a Delhi-based paediatrician, is hoping to set a legal precedent after taking her husband and in-laws to court for “conspiring to kill her twin daughters in the womb”.

mitu

Khurana said her in-laws sedated her and illegally procured a gender test during her pregnancy, and then pressured her to abort the babies.

She defied them, and returned to her family’s home to give birth in 2005.

“When I returned at my in-laws’ house with the babies, my mother-in-law pushed one of the infants down the stairs. Fortunately, I arrived in time and rescued my baby,” Khurana told Al Jazeera.

As well as being an issue of cultural preference, female foeticide is also an economic issue for families.

Although the long-standing tradition of dowry – a payment to the groom’s family – has been illegal since 1961, it is still practised in many communities.

“We are poor people, somehow making ends meet,” said a three-wheel rickshaw driver in Jaipur, Rajasthan – another state where the sex ratio is under the national average, according to the 2011 census.

“I got my second daughter aborted for fear of paying dowry for her marriage when she grows up,” the 30-year-old told Al Jazeera, under the condition of anonymity. “As it is, I am finding it difficult to save enough money for the dowry of my first daughter.”

Khurana said India needs to change its attitude towards dowry in order to save the lives of female children.

“Dowry is already illegal, but it has to be made shameful,” she said. “You have to shame the families giving and taking dowry.”

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Dr Mitu Khurana is an Epitome of Social Justice when it comes to Killing Daughters

April 25, 2015

mitu-khurana-jumelles

Why I was being harassed ? This statement completely takes away the heart throbs of all the mothers who were being forced to kill their child in the foetal stage on the basis of sex determination test that states that they carrying daughters in their womb.

It was always believed that education makes a human being more civilized than those who are uneducated but is it a civilized behaviour by a doctor who not only threatened his wife for dowry after marriage but also was ready to try every means and efforts to kill his twin daughters in womb.

Is it education where a retired woman vice principal wanted all from her daughter in law to kill her granddaughters and tortured her to the limit that the poor daughter in -law wanted to commit suicide . Most surprising is the fact that it all happened in the capital city of our country Delhi where educated people live.

Dr Mitu Khurana was not only being harassed for a Honda city car as a means of dowry but was also asked to terminate her pregnancy when her in laws forcibly did a sex determination test on her . Getting married to the educated family where each individual is well settled in their professions she was forced to see the face of evil creatures who were wearing the mask of civilized individuals.

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Dr Mitu Khurana felicitated with prestigious ‘Karmaveer Puraskaar’

March 25, 2015

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Dr Mitu Khurana was felicitated with the prestigious ‘Karmaveer Puraskaar’ for her commendable work in the field of social service in New Delhi on 22nd March, 2015 at the exclusive awards function which is a part of “iCONGO’s REX Conclave, being organised on 21st, 22nd & 23rd March 2015.

REX is Latin for KING and REX CONCLiVE is the king of thought leadership and grassroots wisdom forums (with an eclectic mix of “ROCKSTAR SPEAKERS”,  cause related culturetainment performances, short film screenings & awards). At REX we encourage ideas to encourage proactive action to change our  world. REX CONCLiVE is the scaled up new avatar of the RIGHT every WRONG conclave, which was the first wisdom and culturetainment forum that was pivotal for pioneering huge thought leadership for addressing various social issues ranging from Education to Healthcare & Poverty  to Marginalization, Climate Change, Corruption, Electoral Reforms, CSR, Communalism, MDGs and Constitutional rights & duties awareness.

REX CONCLiVE focuses on the  following 3 pillars  of REX:

1. Right every Wrong action
2. Empowering & Entertaining Ideas
3. Xocial Innovation & Entrepreneurs

The common thread the speakers need to stitch in is how the idea can make a difference for the people and the planet. 

The iCONGO promoted KARMAVEER PURASKAAR (KVP) are the Global Awards for Social Justice and Citizen Action instituted by the people sector & civil society with various partner organisations, citizens at large and media supporters. Be the change you want to see in this world is what every KARMAVEER inherently believes and practices. 

The awards are given every year on the 26th day of November, our National Social Justice and Citizen Action Day, the day we adopted our constitutional pledge as a REPUBLIC and Indian Citizens in 1949. This year, they were given out on 22nd March, 2015 on the eve of the day our everyday hero and citizen freedom fighter, Shaheed Bhagat Singh, laid down his life for his motherland. It is the first award of its kind from India, and probably around the globe, that has been held every year for the past 8 years, at a very austere, simple and dignified program in New Delhi. 

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The KARMAVEER PURASKAAR awards ceremony has over the years become a “MELTING POT” where People from India & Global Citizens that comprise individuals ranging from princes and princesses to global bestselling authors, young politicians, statesmen, bureaucrats, ambassadors, actors, singers, captains of industry, media professionals, development workers, young adults, students, school children, homemakers, academicians, slum workers and others who come “TOGETHER as ONE to RIGHT every WRONG

The awards and the Chakra recognize and applaud the social commitment of concerned individuals, who have proactively and voluntarily worked for bringing a positive transformation in the society and the world we live in. In today’s world where there is huge apathy & indifference, we feel a paramount need for being not just a good person but also a good citizen who exercises her/ his rights, duties & responsibilities as a concerned, just and humane citizen. 

Mitu Khurana is a doctor, a trained pediatrician and a qualified hospital administrator. Throughout their childhood, Mitu and her sister were given all the opportunities to grow and flourish. However marriage exposed her to the stark reality of life of a female in India. She was exposed to the realities of daughter hatred, female foeticide, dowry harassment and domestic violence. When pregnant with twins, she was deceived into a sex determination test, followed by pressures to abort her twin daughters. Mitu left her Matrimonial Home and gave birth to her daughters. A doting mother, Mitu fought hard to give her lovely twin daughters their right to take birth and grow in a Just and enabling environment. She holds the distinction of being the first mother to file a court complainant under the PC&PNDT Act in India. Her struggle has not only encouraged other women to come forward and say no to female foeticide, but also continues to expose the extreme patriarchal attitude of the authorities faced by women who fight back abuse. Her dream is to start a Mass Movement –“Mothers against Sex Selection” (MASS) where mothers start refusing to kill their daughters just for being daughters.

We congratulate Dr Mitu Khurana for possessing the conviction and compassion to stand up, speak out and lead the change with her positive attitude! The management of iCONGO, which has selected her nomination after thorough due diligence based on the process created by the international HR audit firm MERCER and Grant Thornton, said that they were glad to have found a true champion of social justice and wish that more and more citizens gave their time, involvement and humane feelings towards addressing social justice issues and being the change and role models for other citizens to follow.

In Delhi, women are still tortured for giving birth to girls

March 11, 2015

In Delhi, women are still tortured for giving birth to girls

Sweets if it’s a boy. But faces hang when a girl is born. That’s how an attendant at a government hospital describes the arrival of a newborn in Delhi.

This lingering stress of bearing girls without giving birth to a boy allegedly drove a 27-year-old woman in Ambedkar Nagar to kill her three daughters and attempt suicide on Monday. Despite social campaigns, stricter laws and welfare schemes, many mothers are still tortured for producing a girl child. And not just domestic violence, women have to go through emotional stress, frequent jibes and insufficient meals as a price for not bearing a son.

“Since I raised my voice against my husband and in-laws, I have come across several women who shared that they had to go through multiple abortions because their families didn’t want girls. One woman was made to abort five or six times. Things have just become worse,” said Dr Mitu Khurana, the first woman to file a case under the PNDT Act in 2008. Her husband’s family tricked her into having a sex determination test when she was carrying twin girls and later forced her to terminate her pregnancy.

“There is no support system for women like me who want to make a choice and bring up their daughters. When I went to the authorities to complain, I was told to go back and give my husband a son. The government says Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. But how can a mother do that?” Khurana asks.

The ministry of Women and Child Development identified five districts of the Capital in 2013 that had a skewed child sex ratio (CSR). Of south-west, west, north, north-west and east, south-west Delhi had the lowest CSR at 845 girls per 1000 boys.

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Girls’ Lives Matter – India Bring Back Our Girls

March 11, 2015

Girls’ Lives Matter – India Bring Back Our Girls

It’s that time of year: between Christmas and New Year’s Eve – when we look back on the year that was. And what a year it was. 2014 was a year of maybe unsurpassed technological advance and progress: for the first time in the history of computing, a machine, based in Russia and pretending to be a 13 year old boy in Ukraine, passed the Turing Test. Technopathy became a real thing when Japanese researchers enabled people to turn their heating on or off, or change their television channels using just their thoughts. Robot waiter staffed restaurant chains opened in China. India sent a mission to Mars. Astronauts in orbit on space stations routinely tweet pictures of sunrise over Earth as seen from space.

But, 2014 gave us plenty of jarring, and painful reminders that humanity is not yet the advanced civilization we may appear to be becoming. It showed us without mercy that huge swathes of our human family are at risk of being buried by archaic ideologies struggling for legitimacy in the modern world. Amongst a sea of violence on an unsteady planet, gender continues to be the site of some of the most brutal primitivism practiced, and sadly it’s practiced by even the most educated and empowered in a society. In 2014 over 1m people were rightly motivated to speak out for 276 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria. How would we have felt if we had known that in India, in 2014 alone, around one million girls were killed by their parents or families for no reason other than that they were girls.

One million girls being disappeared only because they are girls is a gendercide. And it’s an annual occurrence in the world’s largest democracy that will happen again in 2015, and perhaps grow in numbers by 2016 and future years without pressure for change. So here’s a hashtag to start a conversation: #Indiabringbackourgirls

The world is still largely writing science fiction scenarios about a society that selects its children on the basis of their genetics. But in India a terrible version of the future has arrived, and the defining preferred feature of a human baby has been narrowed down to Chromosome 23 specifically. In the last decade alone an XX there has been enough to illegally terminate up to 12m girl fetuses: monied, educated and tech savvy Indians want boy babies, and illegal sex selective terminations are how they make sure they get what they want.

Whilst sex selective terminations are illegal in India, medical staff in clinics break the law by taking the name of God to indicate to expectant parents their future child’s gender: Jai Sri Krishna, the name of the god who wrote Hinduism’s most sacred text, the Bhagavad Gita, means a baby boy; the phrase ‘Jai Mata Ki’, which ironically enough refers in Hinduism’s cosmic lexicon to the Divine Creative Feminine principle that underlies all creation, is used as code for ‘it’s a girl’ – words that signal to expectant mothers that they’ll be visiting the operating theater for an illegal termination.

A 2011 study published in the Lancet found that increasing wealth and education are both contributing to an increase in illegal sex selective termination by India’s relatively privileged. Across India, the report said, in the last two decades, women from ‘higher income, better educated families were far more likely than poorer women to terminate a pregnancy if the child is a girl, especially during a second pregnancy if the firstborn child was a girl.’

But this is not just a story about the illegal extermination of girls before they’re born. It is also a story about violence against women in Indian society. There are strong indicators that vast numbers of these illegal terminations are forcibly performed on women who are reluctant and unwilling to have them. These are women being forced by their husbands and in-laws, often physically beaten, burned or threatened with their life for refusing to terminate their babies that are girls.

Dr. Mitu Khurana’s story reported that after failing to persuade her to abort her girl child pre birth, her in laws tried to kill her four month old daughter; Nirmala Devi said in 2008, ‘My husband beat me a lot and my mother-in-law tortured me’ – she died during a forced illegal termination.

Amisha Bhatt told the Times of India in 2009 ‘In the past nine years, they have coerced me into aborting five female fetuses.’ The Lancet study reported that there were 500,000 illegal sex selective terminations happening a year. Exact numbers of how many women are being coerced into these procedures is not known but they’re unlikely to be low: like Indian culture at large, even educated, qualified, economically secure Indians feel comfortable in violating female agency, in this case producing results that combine violence against women and the eradication of the girl child.

Full Story

Girls’ Lives Matter – India Bring Back Our Girls

January 4, 2015

Girls’ Lives Matter – India Bring Back Our Girls

It’s that time of year: between Christmas and New Year’s Eve – when we look back on the year that was. And what a year it was. 2014 was a year of maybe unsurpassed technological advance and progress: for the first time in the history of computing, a machine, based in Russia and pretending to be a 13 year old boy in Ukraine, passed the Turing Test. Technopathy became a real thing when Japanese researchers enabled people to turn their heating on or off, or change their television channels using just their thoughts. Robot waiter staffed restaurant chains opened in China. India sent a mission to Mars. Astronauts in orbit on space stations routinely tweet pictures of sunrise over Earth as seen from space.

But, 2014 gave us plenty of jarring, and painful reminders that humanity is not yet the advanced civilization we may appear to be becoming. It showed us without mercy that huge swathes of our human family are at risk of being buried by archaic ideologies struggling for legitimacy in the modern world. Amongst a sea of violence on an unsteady planet, gender continues to be the site of some of the most brutal primitivism practiced, and sadly it’s practiced by even the most educated and empowered in a society. In 2014 over 1m people were rightly motivated to speak out for 276 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria. How would we have felt if we had known that in India, in 2014 alone, around one million girls were killed by their parents or families for no reason other than that they were girls.

One million girls being disappeared only because they are girls is a gendercide. And it’s an annual occurrence in the world’s largest democracy that will happen again in 2015, and perhaps grow in numbers by 2016 and future years without pressure for change. So here’s a hashtag to start a conversation: #Indiabringbackourgirls

The world is still largely writing science fiction scenarios about a society that selects its children on the basis of their genetics. But in India a terrible version of the future has arrived, and the defining preferred feature of a human baby has been narrowed down to Chromosome 23 specifically. In the last decade alone an XX there has been enough to illegally terminate up to 12m girl fetuses: monied, educated and tech savvy Indians want boy babies, and illegal sex selective terminations are how they make sure they get what they want.

Whilst sex selective terminations are illegal in India, medical staff in clinics break the law by taking the name of God to indicate to expectant parents their future child’s gender: Jai Sri Krishna, the name of the god who wrote Hinduism’s most sacred text, the Bhagavad Gita, means a baby boy; the phrase ‘Jai Mata Ki’, which ironically enough refers in Hinduism’s cosmic lexicon to the Divine Creative Feminine principle that underlies all creation, is used as code for ‘it’s a girl’ – words that signal to expectant mothers that they’ll be visiting the operating theater for an illegal termination.

A 2011 study published in the Lancet found that increasing wealth and education are both contributing to an increase in illegal sex selective termination by India’s relatively privileged. Across India, the report said, in the last two decades, women from ‘higher income, better educated families were far more likely than poorer women to terminate a pregnancy if the child is a girl, especially during a second pregnancy if the firstborn child was a girl.’

But this is not just a story about the illegal extermination of girls before they’re born. It is also a story about violence against women in Indian society. There are strong indicators that vast numbers of these illegal terminations are forcibly performed on women who are reluctant and unwilling to have them. These are women being forced by their husbands and in-laws, often physically beaten, burned or threatened with their life for refusing to terminate their babies that are girls.

Dr. Mitu Khurana’s story reported that after failing to persuade her to abort her girl child pre birth, her in laws tried to kill her four month old daughter; Nirmala Devi said in 2008, ‘My husband beat me a lot and my mother-in-law tortured me’ – she died during a forced illegal termination.

Amisha Bhatt told the Times of India in 2009 ‘In the past nine years, they have coerced me into aborting five female fetuses.’ The Lancet study reported that there were 500,000 illegal sex selective terminations happening a year. Exact numbers of how many women are being coerced into these procedures is not known but they’re unlikely to be low: like Indian culture at large, even educated, qualified, economically secure Indians feel comfortable in violating female agency, in this case producing results that combine violence against women and the eradication of the girl child.


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