Bearing daughters – India could do with more Mitus
EVER so often, women in India succumb to family and societal pressures to abort their female foetuses. That is why the case of Dr Mitu Khurana who resisted pressure and not only gave birth to twin daughters but also had the gumption to take on her in-laws and her husband is worthy of praise. Sadly, today she is fighting a lonely battle. The much-touted Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act under which she has filed a case against her in-laws has not come to her rescue. Even though Section 24 of the Act says that “the court shall presume, unless the contrary is proved, that the pregnant woman has been compelled by her husband or the relative” to undergo PCPNDT, justice continues to elude Mitu.
Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques Act that became operational in year 1996 was amended and a stronger PCPNDT Act that also bans advertisements of sex selection came into force. Yet, the law has failed to check the widespread practice of female foeticide, rooted in deeply entrenched gender prejudices. While the attitudinal change that will value daughters as much as sons remains a mirage, the implementation of the law is lax. Ironically, while the same law has failed to bring relief to Dr Mitu, it was allegedly used to harass women for undergoing sex selective abortions. All this while, invariably, the doctors, the equally guilty partners walk away scot-free. The mandatory requirement of maintaining form F under the PCPNDT Act is flouted by clinics across the country. Worse still, authorities concerned rarely conduct medical audits.
Indeed, much noise has been made and some action has been taken to address the “missing daughters” phenomenon. Besides individual efforts, the government has launched schemes favouring the girl child. Instances like that of seven villages in Mansa district with a good sex-ratio signify that change is possible. Still, the bias against girl child continues to manifest and in the 21st century her existence is threatened in the womb itself. Until female foeticide is understood and dealt with as a crime in the same continuum as female infanticide or sati, gender imbalance that could rip apart India’s social fabric will continue to grow.
Followup: L E T T E R S T O T H E E D I T O R
It is ironical that the more educated and advanced our society (editorial “Bearing daughters”, May 16) is, the more inhuman, cold-blooded and insensitive it becomes in its attitude towards the fair sex. Dr Mitu Khurana was ill-treated by her doctor-husband because she was carrying twin daughters in her womb. If this is how biased a man, a doctor by profession, can be towards unborn daughters, the attitude of an illiterate person can be well imagined.
I wish Dr Mitu would succeed in her crusade against female foeticide. Sadly, the practice of female foeticide is widespread in our rapidly “progressing” society. The craze for a son is resulting in the “murder” of unborn girls. Dr Mitu’s refusal to abort her twin-daughters cost her dearly. However, she has set an example for other women to follow. May her tribe increase!
The present laws follow a circuitous and tedious procedure to bring the guilty to book and invariably the culprits go scot-free. More stringent legislative and social measures are required to curb this rampant evil.
Fast track courts should be set up to deal with such cases. Clinics across the country must not be allowed to indulge in this hernous crime. Those doctors who are in cahoots with daughter killers should be identified and tried in a court of law.
TARSEM S BUMRAH, Batala
Dr Mitu Khurana deserves all praise. She not only resisted pressure to give birth to twin-daughters but also has been fighting a legal battle against her in-laws. Despite the law against female foeticide, even well-educated people are killing unborn girls.
You have rightly observed in the editorial that until female foeticide is dealt with as a crime in the same continuum as female infanticide or sati, gender imbalance will continue to grow. I appeal to the lawyers not to take up the cases of those involved in the abominable practice of female foeticide. No doubt, such people are killers.
SUBASH C TANEJA, Rohtak
Dr Mitu Khurana deserves kudos for her doggedness in exposing her doctor husband’s nefarious intentions. Her safeguarding of a mother’s right and daughter’s natural right to birth is laudable. By taking up the cudgels against her husband and in-laws she has given a befitting rebuff to all male chauvinists, and her action is an eye-opener. Sadly, the PCPNDT Act has not come to Dr Mitu’s rescue and justice continues to elude her.
Ironically, laws are being openly flouted by clinics across the country. The lackadaisical approach of the authorities, random raids on clinics and rare instances of punishment have led to the spread of the abominable practice. Only a governmental campaign on a war-footing can yield the desired results.
O P COUSHIK, Kurukshetra