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?Need to change social mindset?

HIMACHAL PRADESH Governor Justice V S Kokje has said that evils like female foeticide could not be stopped without changing social mindset of the people.

india Updated: Apr 30, 2006 15:01 IST

HIMACHAL PRADESH Governor Justice V S Kokje has said that evils like female foeticide could not be stopped without changing social mindset of the people.

“Law can only act as a facilitator,” he said while addressing a seminar on ‘female foeticide – moral, social and legal aspect’ organised by Rog Nirodhak Swasthya Sanrakshan Samiti here today. He, nevertheless, expressed concern over the rise in incidence of female foeticide across the country.

Terming it as an infectious disease, he stressed on developing an integrated approach towards solving the problem. Citing how laws could create social problems, he said that the Act which grants daughters equal rights over ancestral property would encourage female foeticide, as the birth would be seen as creation of another partner or competitor to property.

“The laws and their consequences should therefore be thoroughly debated before Parliament passes them,” he argued and said that public representatives should first discuss them with people before placing them on the floor of the House.

The seminar, which was attended by lawyers, doctors, police officials, social activists and theologists among other intellectuals, threw up startling facts about the female foeticide. For instance, doctor and social activist Dr Meera Shiva from New Delhi said that trend is more common among the educated and affluent class than among the uneducated tribals.

“It is directly related to economics. Prosperity demands male heir in our country. And that is why the female ratio in Punjab and Haryana has registered a steep fall. People there go to poor states like Bihar and purchase women as brides who are not treated with dignity,” Shiva said and held the patriarchal mindset of Indian society responsible for the gross disturbance in male-female ratio. Besides growing commercialisation, factors like physical looks, preference for fair skin, dowry and ostentatious weddings are also a cause, she added.

Mumbai lawyer and social activist Flavia Agnes said it was hatred towards women and their inferior social standing in the country that has led to decline in girl population.

Holding doctors responsible for foeticide, she said they exploit social sentiment. “Hospitals serve pure vegetarian food to patients, but they don’t hesitate in killing a girl in the womb,” she remarked. She said that doctors should be held accountable and penalised for agreeing to abort female foetus.

The debate turned interesting when the participants blamed doctors for agreeing to abort female foetus, conduct sex determination tests while the medical experts like Dr S N Goyal, Dr Shaifali Jain among others refused to buy the agreement.

Dr Goyal’s argument that it was the mother, mother-in-law and the lady doctor who aborts who are responsible for declining female population sparked off protests. Mayor Dr Uma Shashi Sharma retorted by saying the no woman would want to kill the child in the womb unless her husband applies pressure. Law College Principal Dr Nisha Dube pointed out that there were no well-defined laws for female foeticide in the country.

When child specialist Dr Savita Inamdar, who was conducting the seminar along with Dr Renu Mehta, asked CSP Irene Shah why police don’t raid sex determination and abortion clinics or conduct sting operation as TV channels do, Shah said that police could act on information and evidence, and it lacked both.

Those who participated in the seminar included City Qazi Dr Isharat Ali, Father Prasad and Brahmakumari Aarti Bahan who said that ‘atma’ has no gender and therefore every human being should be nourished and nurtured without discrimination.

First Published: Apr 30, 2006 15:01 IST