female foeticide is an epidemic in Pakistan and we’re not talking about it
I was going through my Facebook feed a couple of days ago and I came across a very weird message shared by someone in one of the groups that I have joined. Here is what it said:
Baby Boy InshAllah: Yes Now You Can Choose With Natural And Islamic Method. 95% Success Rate
It instantly got me thinking – why would anyone want to choose the sex of their baby unless of course, we have become this petty that our preference is blatantly for the male gender and that is only what we all want to conceive.
I opened up the conversation in the group to see what women had said in response. To my relief, most of the women had just denounced such practices but all of them were accepting the fact that while this may not be their reality, it is the reality of a large chunk of the population.
We come across several such stories every other day, highlighting how either a baby girl was thrown away because she was not wanted or that her mother was strangled for giving birth to a female baby.
I decided to find out what exactly prompts people of this country to indulge in such a heinous crime despite feeling very strongly for the religion of the country and the need to uphold its practices
According to a myth, back in the 19th century; an incident prompted the tradition of female infanticide. This was the story of Mirza and Sahiban. Mirza fell in love with Sahiban, who was not a woman of the same tribe and her father had already discussed her marriage with someone else. But before her marriage could take place, Mirza ran away with her. However soon they were found and slaughtered. This incident not only created animosity between the two tribes but also started this tradition of female infanticide, so that no one else dares to not abide by the rules set by the elders.
If we move away from myths, there are a couple of more reasons why women tend to be an easy target for infanticide
At this point, we are only talking about infanticide because during the earliest of time this was the only secure source of getting rid of a baby. Sex-selective abortions came in very later, which is also known as female foeticide.
The idea is that sons tend to provide better economic resources. they can help around with managing the house and sustaining the livelihood, which is why people prefer having sons over daughters.
The tradition of dowry is also very common in this part of the world, to the point that it has become a factor in determining the prospects of marriage for a woman. Many are sent back due to an inadequate supply of dowry. Such pressures lead to people preferring to have sons.
Lastly, the idea of shame and honor is attached to women. They have a strict mold that they need to adapt and any alterations lead to the idea that a woman has brought shame to her family. In order to avoid such shame, many think it is better to have sons.
The irony is that now the people have started using technology to their advantage
The ultrasound which enables parents to know the sex of their baby prior to birth is now used to determine whether or not the baby will get to live. Those who belong to privileged backgrounds call it the sex-selective abortions and those who cannot afford these abortions, either sell off their baby or leave them in dumpsters to be eaten by animals. And the entire decision then depends on the ultrasound.
From the year 2000 to 2014, a total of 1.2 million sex-selective abortions were carried out in Pakistan. This means that over the span of these 15 years, we witnessed 219 abortions every day because people simply did not want a baby girl to be born.
This is exactly why Pakistan’s sex ratio is very skewed. We have 105.5 men per 100 women. These statistics are only topped by two countries, which are India and China, where female foeticide is also very common.
An organization which works closely to ensure that baby girls are just not thrown to the animals is the Edhi Foundation. Edhi sb came up with the idea of cradle service, where babies just have to be left for the organization to take care of them. According to the foundation, 90 to 95 percent of the babies which were recovered were girls.
We got in touch with doctors to see how prevalent the practice is in Pakistan and here is what they said
Many doctors have not been exposed to this atrocious reality because abortion itself is kept very lowkey in Pakistan. We spoke to Dr. Samina Siddiqui from Hameed Latif Hospital in Lahore and according to her, she has not encountered any couple wanting to abort the fetus based on the child’s gender. However, we spoke to doctors from other hospitals (they refused to be named for obvious reasons) and according to them, parents never blatantly mention that the abortion is because of the gender. They will cite different reasons like not wanting the baby at all right now but you can clearly see their reactions when they find out the gender. And they do admit that this happens with many pregnancies.
Those who can afford an abortion commit female foeticide and those who cannot commit female infanticide
This is the sad reality of Pakistan, one we completely refuse to accept and mask by saying that we respect our women a lot.
cover image via ibtimes.co.in