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Articles: Science
Future Shock?
- Mr. Vachaspati Velavartipati
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The legacy of the declining sex-ratio in the history of India of the Census of India has taken new turn with the widespread use of the New Reproductive Technologies, after opening of Indian economy, not only in urban areas, but also in rural areas. In India, for the Patriarchy, which is predominant, the desirable is baby boy and the most desirable is the baby girl. The result is obvious; the Census 2001 revealed that with a sex ratio of 933 women for every 1000 men. Hence, we have deficit of 3.5 crore women, till 2001. In the age group of 0-6 years, more than 60 lakh infant girls are deficit. As the total population of that group is 15.8 crores, males are 8.2 crores and females are 7.6 crores with the sex ratio stands at 927, well below the over all sex ratio at 933. . It is shocking to notice, the over all sex ratio is already against women, and, now, the juvenile (0-6-age group) is also against them. Hence, these are the shocks about to fall in future. Behind these figures, there is undoubtedly, a high degree of discrimination against female gender. With this scenario, India entered into the new millennium. The period of 1991-2001 coincides with the opening of Indian economy, and it also coincides with the rise of dowry deaths, incidents of domestic violence, sex-selective abortions and female infanticide. Hence, the registered decline in the population growth rate between 1991-2001 is at the expense of girl child, who may be born or who were yet to be born. 'In the last six years, the number of sex-selective abortions has increased from 62000 to 69000 in Haryana, and 51000 to 57000 in Punjab'(The Hindu, 19-10-2001). Hence, even for enormously prosperous states like Haryana and Punjab, the girl child became a burden and the impact of sex-selective abortions and pre-natal diagnostic techniques may be in terms of widening the gender gap in those states, that is increasing year by year and census after census. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamilnadu, and Uttar Pradesh and other states became notorious for high incidence of sex-selective abortions. Among these states, it was Tamilnadu that is almost officially recognized for the unfourable conditions of the girl child. Even though, it is unable to check the sex-selective abortions, female infanticides and female feticides, it took a bold decision with a little humanistic view by introducing ‘Cradle Baby Scheme’ urging the parents to leave their unwanted girl child at the Cradles provides at the hospitals, primary health centres and orphanages, and encouraged the parents to take back if they changed their mind. Astonishingly, the project was a great success and the government had to introduce more and more Cradle Reception Centres to meet the ever-increasing dumping rate of the unwanted girl child. This is the symptom of social sickness and gravity of the merciless attitude of the society towards female gender. Instead of making the life of the girl child happy, the Government of Tamilnadu introduced this scheme as an alternative. But this was nothing but the recognition of social evils against the womanhood. Anthropologists say that, among the hunting and gathering tribal societies, the girl child is a burden to the group not only because the presence of a girl child invites their enemies for want of women or girl children among them but also a woman cannot protect herself during the raids against their tribe. And it is generally believed that the poverty is the main cause for the negative attitude of people against the existence of girls. But the case of Punjab and Haryana proves that there is no link between poverty and negative attitude against womanhood. Then what could be the reason? Since the Patriarchy is predominant in India that includes Patrilocality and Patrilineality, the son is preferred as he perpetuates the lineage. Hence, the girl child is unwanted, not because she participates in perpetuation of the lineage of ‘others’, but the presence of dowry, dowry-related violence and troubles. Hence, to avoid future risks, the girl child is eliminated by sex-selective abortions before they are born or by female-infanticide after birth. And, for the education of girl child and for her marriage, both need some attention and investment. The Patriarchy simply tries to avoid the attention and investment on both the occasions. It also feels that the attention and investment on girls’ education and marriage means wasting water on the neighbour’s plant. Hence at the expense of girl’s education, the Patriarchy simply washes off its hands by sending off girl child by marriage, with one single time attention and investment in the form of her marriage and dowry. This is the reason why India has done worse than even the average of the poorest countries in the world in terms of girls’ education. So, this Dowry stands at the strategic point that prevents the real enlightenment of the society in general and women in particular. It can take away their education, nutrition, quality of life, equal preference and even life. For millions of women, the marriage with dowry is not final but it leads to the dowry related issues either directly or indirectly, with little reported and with huge number of unreported incidents. On average, in Andhra Pradesh, either death or harassment, minimum of two incidents reported every day in every edition of news papers, may be in general page or in district tabloid. It implies more than two thousand such incidents occur per year. These actual news item reports are no match to that of official numbers. Moreover, most of the dowry related issues are either compromised or unreported to the authorities concerned, the whole education of women have been carried out with discrimination and her future will be at the mercy of her in-laws or society. Women constitute 48.1 per cent of Indian Population as per Census 2001 and are 93 for 100 men. Yet, women are political marginalized. The Primary and allied sectors employ women as much as 89.5 per cent of the total work force. They are part and parcel of Green Revolution, Blue Revolution, White Revolution and IT Revolution. Yet, 56 per cent of rural women and more than that in case of urban women suffer from anaemia and need to purchase men as their husbands by means of dowry with social sanction. Despite their achievements, there is a constant gap between literacy rates between men and women as the dropout rate of girls at various levels of education is from high to very high. Hence, the presence of ‘Dowry’ is the first major cause for the marginalization of women. This makes them live under close observation and supervision of their guardians. And that observation and supervision directly influences their education, social mobility, enlightenment, decision making and political participation. Even though India introduced Panchayat system by 73rd Amendment, the number of women’s’ participation never exceeded the reservation quota. In fact, even though they have participated, it was their husbands, brothers or uncles who were de facto representatives in most cases, while women being nominal and attend the meetings merely for the name and quota sake. India had a woman Prime Minister who never talked about the Dowry. Now, for the first time in history, we have five women Chief Ministers. All won the elections without addressing the women’s’ real issues: status of women in the family, declining sex ratio, increasing domestic violence and sex-selective abortions. Interestingly, the five states where women became Chief Ministers, won their elections with huge turn-out of women voters, has dubious distinction of high decline in sex-ratio, incidents of female infanticide and female feticide. Before and after 1992, the year of liberalization, to till 2003 semi-finals, not even single political party address these issues in their election campaigns. Not even single political party noticed and addressed the alarming raise of dowry levels. 1992, the year was turning point to the raise of levels of dowry. Within small span of time, it crossed the thousands to lakhs, resulted in the increasing degree of unwantedness of the existence of girl child. Because of this, the advertisements for the commercial pre-natal diagnostic technologies, 'Better Rs.5000 now, than Rs.6Lakhs later' appeared. Better Rs.5000 now, means, invest Five Thousand for sex-selective abortion if the female is found and aborted that saves Rs.5 Lakhs later that is nothing but Dowry. So, the dowry has acquired commercial colour apart from social sanction. Hence, this dowry made violence a cult, at the expense of India’s future. India will have 500 young million people in the age group of 18-35 years in the next fifteen years. This means, the more productive years are ahead on account of this productive young generation. Their social life and gender balance will be seriously hampered unless this dowry is eradicated now. India had already abolished two inhuman social evils i.e., Sati and Untouchability. Now, it is high time that Dowry were abolished. Since the political parties indifferent to this issue, the same is the case with religious organizations and youth are not in agitating mood, the last remaining alternative is judiciary. Since this ‘Dowry’ affects the millions of women in India, and about to destabilize the future, it is the clear case for the Judicial Activism. It’s pity, if the society continues this practice i.e., despite having abundant spiritual wealth, strength and will power to flush it out. It may be due to the asymmetrical growth of dimensions of social mind missing gender justice. People think that this dowry is neither a political issue nor a religious issue. None try to correct this. How can it be corrected? It is nothing but Judiciary. It is only the judicial intervention that can ignite a national debate. If the Supreme Court exclusively declares the ‘Dowry’ as illegal and ‘Abolition of Dowry’ as a Fundamental Right, it can effect an egalitarian society with gender equality. 'No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law'- Art.21, will be more and more meaningful for the millions of women in India, if the dowry is abolished. The Supreme Court have already widened the scope of Art.21 by saying, ‘Right to Life’ is not mere animal existence, with all faculties in tact, a roof over one’s head and basic right to food, right to speedy justice, right to legal aid, right to medical aid, right to clothing, right to reasonable residence and right to protect cultural heritage of the people of people. All the implicit rights of Art.21 and Right to Education (Art.21(c)) are being violated, indirectly, in life of millions of women because of the presence of Dowry, as this practice makes their social programming as such that make them suffer with masochism. The NHRC’s advise to Center to make Hindu marriage registration compulsory was turned down. In fact, the marriage registration must be made compulsory along with affidavit signed by both the parties and arrangers and facilitators of the marriage at the Panchayat level, if it is not possible at the registration. And that Panchayat registers must be communicated to the registration department. Why the arrangers of the child marriage made punishable? Why not arrange and facilitators of the dowry marriages not punishable? In fact, both the child marriages and dowry marriages are seriously challenging the all the provisions of Art.21. Unless and otherwise the registration marriage is made compulsory with affidavit of both the parties including arrangers and facilitators of that marriage declaring ‘No Dowry’ is present in the marriage, it will be difficult to make civilians to be responsible citizens. This is a good technique to tackle the spread of the dowry, and at the same time provides security of marriage and to women. The same prevents the raise of aftermath dowry issues. The present existing laws touch only the results of dowry, but not dowry itself. The real disease of dowry is ignored but the medicine is applied somewhere else. Judicial intervention of ‘Dowry’ needs to be an affective and deterrent at the marriage level. If we made ‘Abolition of Dowry’ possible a few things will happen: 1) Education of girl child will improve 2) Sex-determination tests, female infanticide and female feticide will disappear 3) Sex-ratio will increase dramatically 4) Male child preference will be reduced, parents start treating boy and girl alike. 5) Economy of the families enmasse get stabilized as women become good productive force 6) Women develop awareness about their socio-economic and political rights as their educational levels raise 7) The family becomes egalitarian that show multiplier effect on the status of women. This transition is necessary for harmonious society and sustainable development, that is possible only when the ‘Abolition of Dowry’ must accompany with Inheritances of Equal Property Rights. The opinion expressed by the Supreme Court, could provoke parliament for legislation or may call attention of the public that may ignite a effective national debate. Hence, the Supreme Court need to consider these Dowry related issues in relation to Art.21, as this not only violates this article, but basic human rights of millions of women.

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