Medical technology (like amniocentesis and ultrasonography), employed in the prenatal period to diagnose genetic abnormalities, are being misused in
for detecting the sex of the unborn child and subsequently for sex-selection. Female foetuses, thus identified, are aborted. India
Many studies have concluded that prenatal sex determination, followed by abortion of female foetuses, is the most plausible explanation for the low sex ratio at birth in
The social system of patriarchy, with males as the primary authority figures, is central to the organisation of much of Indian society. The system upholds the institutions of male rule and privilege and mandates female subordination. Patriarchy manifests itself in social, religious, legal, political and economic organisation of society. It continues to strongly influence Indian society, despite the Constitution's attempt to bring about an egalitarian social order.
Patriarchal societies in most parts of
have translated their prejudice and bigotry into a compulsive preference for boys and discrimination against the girl child. They have also spawned practices such as female infanticide, dowry, bride-burning and sati. They have led to the neglect of nutrition, health care, education, and employment for girls. Women's work is also socially devalued with limited autonomy in decision-making. The intersections of caste, class and gender worsen the situation. Despite its social construction, patriarchal culture, reinforced by the major religions in the country, maintains its stranglehold on gender inequality. The prevalent patriarchal framework places an ideological bar on the discussion of alternative approaches to achieve gender justice. India
The declining sex ratio cannot be simply viewed as a medical or legal issue. It is embedded within the social construction of patriarchy and is reinforced by tradition, culture and religion. Female foeticide and infanticide are just the tip of the iceberg; there is a whole set of subtle and blatant discriminatory practices against girls and women under various pretexts. It is this large base of discrimination against women that supports the declining sex ratio.
While women are guaranteed equality under the Constitution, legal protection has little effect in the face of the prevailing patriarchal culture.
needs to confront its gender bias openly. It would appear that nothing short of a social revolution would bring about an improvement in the health and status of women in the country. Irony and hypocrisy are the two words that come to mind when patriarchal societies talk about justice for their women. Surely, the disappearance of millions of girls in India is reason enough to question the acceptance of patriarchy and search for an egalitarian social order. India
(Professor K.S. Jacob, Faculty of the
Christian Medical College, ) Vellore
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