In India, as estimated by the United Nations, almost 2,000 unborn girl-children are illegally aborted every single day. The report also talks about 50 million girl children and women missing from India’s population as a result of systematic gender discrimination.
In most countries across the world, there are approximately 105 female births for every 100 males. In India, there are less than 93 women for every 100 men in the population. It is time we work towards building a nation where equality becomes the norm. We should start by putting a greater impetus on preventing female foeticide, improving maternal health and above all, empowering the girl child to lead a secure and healthy life.
A woman was the president of this glorious nation and yet across thousands of villages and in urban India female foeticide is rampant. Addressing this unfortunate practice requires a correction across many levels — punishing the culprits is not enough, it needs to begin in the mind and everyone needs to participate in this journey.
The Government of India should harness Information and Communication Technology (ICT) much more aggressively to ensure vigilant monitoring of gender determination centres that are often the culprits and immediate punishment can prove to be a deterrent to such offenders.
India’s Maternal Mortality Rate stands at 212 per one-lakh live births with one maternal death occurring every 10 minutes. Forty-nine per cent of pregnant women still do not have three antenatal visits during pregnancy, just about 46.6 % of mothers receive iron and folic acid for 100 days during pregnancy and only 47% of women in India have an institutional delivery.
The loss of a mother has a ripple effect on the family and the community. It also has a direct impact on infant mortality. Babies whose mothers die during the first six weeks of their lives are far more likely to die than babies whose mothers survive.
Tamil Nadu has proved that better-equipped public primary health centres and timely assistance to pregnant women can make a significant difference to maternal
health statistics. An interesting activity that the administrators got the PHCs to do was to conduct the tradition ‘bangle ceremony’ for the pregnant women — a ritual usually done at homes. This simple effort helped them to bond with expectant mothers and increase confidence in PHCs. A nutritious meal two days a week being given to antenatal mothers has also begun to make a huge difference.
Maternal and child health, female feticide and empowering the girl child are all people issues. Raising flags alone cannot help; it requires — and demands — a concerted behavioural shift.
Let’s accept the obvious — to empower India we need to empower the girl child and our women. Only when our daughters are educated and enlightened about their rights and responsibilities can they play a greater role in taking forward families socially, economically and morally. A family is the fundamental unit of a society and when this building block progresses with the right value system we can expect our nation to achieve true progress and soon gender discrimination can become history.
Preetha Reddy is the Managing Director of the Apollo Hospitals Group
The views expressed by the author are personal