Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Recognizing Violence Against Women - By Dr. Sabu George

Violence against women exists in various forms in all societies the world over. However, the recognition that elimination of gender- based violence is central to equality, development and peace, is recent. In India the landmark report on the ‘Status of Women-1975’ did not deal with this issue. Then in the late seventies and eighties, the Indian women’s movement focused on issues of dowry deaths, female feticide, sati, rape and other forms of violence. More recently, international conferences such as the Vienna-1993, Cairo-1994, Copenhagen 1995 and Beijing-1995 explicitly highlighted this problem. The World Health Assembly in 1996 endorsed that violence against women is a public health problem. In 1998, the 50th anniversary of the ‘Declaration of human rights’ was celebrated by the UN with a global campaign for elimination of gender based violence. The objective was to influence public opinion and attitudes, policies, practices and legislation to facilitate a violence-free life for women.

Female feticide is one extreme manifestation of violence against women. Female fetuses are selectively aborted after pre natal sex determination, thus avoiding the birth of girls.  In India where female infanticide has existed for centuries, now female feticide has joined the fray and is increasing each day. The reasons for this evil are the introduction and proliferation of pre natal diagnostic test / sex determination clinics and cheaper ultrasound machines that help determine the sex of a child before it is born. Dramatic reduction of birth rates in most of India’s states which contributed toward intensification of son preference in the existing patriarchal society. And one must also not forget the lack of ethics in pockets of the medical profession that result in furthering female feticide.  For instance, in Tamilnadu the establishment of numerous ultrasound clinics in semi-urban areas since the mid-nineties is not a widely known fact. Even rural families in the state have begun to commit female feticide to satisfy their preference for sons.  In Haryana residents of upper caste hamlets openly admit to the widespread practice of female feticide. Parents tend to be calculative in choosing the sex of the next child and the decision is based on the birth order, sex sequence of previous children and number of sons. Transfer of reproductive technology to India is resulting in reinforcement of patriarchal values as professional medical organizations seem to be indifferent to ethical misconduct.  These facts have to be publicized so that awareness can be raised and appropriate action by the state and civil society be initiated.

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