Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Female Foeticide

Is it surprising that abortions are more frequent went it is a girl child? Roshan Ara reflects on the depths to which the society has sunk

(Ms. Roshan Ara, 45, was born in Warihama, in Budgam district. She attended the Government High School Aripanthan, and the Government Higher Secondary School Beeru. She graduated from the Government Womens College (GWC) Srinagar, University of Kashmir, and the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi. Ms. Roshan Ara has degrees in B.Com, M.Com, M.A. Economics, B.Ed, M.Phil, Diploma in Women's Empowerment and Development, and Ph.D. work underway titled 'Managing Work and Family Roles: A Study of White Collar Working Women in Kashmir.' She is presently a Lecturer in Commerce, Department of School Education, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar. During leisure time she enjoys reading newspapers & journals, staying engaged on Women's Issues, and writing articles for newspapers & journals.)

Murder in the Womb

The future of the nation lies in the womb of woman as she is the architect of our future generations. A woman is a beautiful creation of God and the most important component of every society. God created woman to add colour to the colourless universe and to make it a peaceful place to live in. It is she who has given birth to all prophets, scientists, philosophers and other great personalities of the world. She is the nurturer and care giver of the whole human race. In Islam, the word ‘woman’ is termed as ‘wo-man’ because she has been created from the ‘rib’ of man. Therefore she is termed as ‘man’s half’ and has to accompany him in every moment of life. A man is always dependent upon a woman during different phases of life — as a child he depends upon his mother, as a brother upon his sister, as a husband on his wife and as a father on his daughter. Thus she is the companion of man, his partner and not his inferior or slave. The great Urdu poet and philosopher – Dr. Alama Iqbal says about the importance of women:

“wajoode zan se hai tasweere kaainat main rang
Issi ke saaz se hai zindagi ka soze daroon
Makalmate falatoon na likh saki lekin
Issi ke sholay se phoota sharaare aflaatoon”.

In spite of the significance of women to the human existence, the crime against women has taken an ugly turn beyond human thinking. Various types of atrocities are meted out to women in our society like dowry deaths; sexual harassments, female foeticide, molestation, rape, women trafficking, domestic violence etc. Since women enjoy a secondary status in the society, in order to continue their subordination and to suppress them, new techniques have come into being. Patriarchal forces are no longer interested in the development and welfare of women and that is the reason why they threaten and harass women folk. Women specific violence is the function of keeping women where they were centuries before i.e. in a powerless and subordinate position.

Gender equality was introduced as a fundamental human right for the first time in United Nations in 1945. The priority themes for women’s equality were to promote equality between men and women, to ensure the integration of women in the development efforts and increase the contribution of women to the strengthening of world peace. Equality is both a goal and a means whereby both sexes are accorded equal treatment, have equal opportunities to enjoy their rights and to develop their potential, talents and skills so that they can participate in national, political, economic, social and cultural development and can benefit from its results. But these goals are yet to be realised. Women lack equal opportunities to education, employment, and economic resources etc. They have been dominated by patriarchal forces of the society and left in a powerless position. The attitude of the parents towards a daughter is indifferent in terms of education, development, health care, nutritional status and other spheres. The stereotype mindset that boys are assets, the bread winners and support of old age, continues. Girls are only treated as an additional burden on the parents as they have to spend huge money on their marriage and dowry. A girl’s social and economic dependence confirms to the denial of literacy and skills as well as taboos on her social interaction.

India is reeling under a shocking sex ratio. The declining sex ratio reflects the extent to which violence has been institutionalised in our society. It acts as a blot on the face of Jammu and Kashmiri State like many other states of the country. The 2011 Census figures present a dismal picture of sex-ratio in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The sex ratio of 883 per 1000 boys is below the national average of 914 per 1000 boys. In 1981, J&K had a sex ratio of 963 girls per 100 boys which has come down to the lowest level of 883 per 1000 boys now. Census 2011 results make it clear that it is not illiteracy, ignorance and poverty that only is responsible for this unlawful and unethical practice as well off and educated parents are also leading this race. The records at the national level reveal that 150 most backward districts of the country have a far better sex ratio ( 947 girls per 1000 boys) than the rest of the country ( 921 per 1000 boys). The gap between backward and non-backward districts is particularly high in states like Gujarat. The national capital Delhi has a good per capita income and a very high literacy rate but records a sex ratio of only 865 girls per 1000 boys. Maharashtra with a literacy rate of almost 83 percent has a sex-ratio of 883girls per 1000 boys while as Chhattisgarh with just 71 percent literacy rate has a sex ratio of 964 per 1000 boys.

This trend continues not only at the national level but also at the international level. A world fertility survey has found that out of 40 developing countries with strong son preference are Bangladesh, Jordan, Korea, Nepal, Pakistan and Syria. India, Malaysia, Thailand and Yemen were found countries with moderate son preference. Countries like Jamacia and Venazula were the only countries were son’s and daughter’s are preferred equally. The sex-ratio among Indian Asian communities in U.S is much lower than among whites and blacks.

There are 35 million girls missing in India and if the trend continues India will very soon be a bachelor nation. A girl continues to be an unwanted child of her parents. Even if she is allowed to take birth, she is received with sighs and sorrows and the question of celebrations doesn’t arise. The only situation where her birth is welcome is when the parents remain issueless for a long time. The birth of a son in our society on the other hand is celebrated like anything. The woman who gives birth to a son is also felicitated for bringing honour to the family and is loved and respected by her husband also. The discrimination and bias against girl starts from the date of her conception when her parents decide whether they will keep her or kill her. The use of modern techniques has been a source of comfort for the elimination of the girls in the mother’s womb.

One fails to understand whether the birth of a daughter is a disgrace or a burden for the parents or both? The birth of a daughter is considered a disgrace to the parents because they feel that their daughter is exposed to harassment like dowry death, domestic violence, eve teasing and even the rape. But men should know that the threat they perceive for their daughters is not from any other specie but from the men folk itself. Since their infancy girls are protected from the lust of men and this threat haunts them throughout their lives. Girls are not safe inside or outside the home. The girls are supposed to be the stake-holders of the honour of the family whereas boys are set free to do whatever they want to do. Parents are not bothered about the behaviour of their sons but only that of their career. They should not forget that it is not only the daughters who can bring disgrace to the family but equally the sons can do so. Therefore, the parents need to reform the society by modifying the behaviour of their sons who are the future men of the society. We need to inculcate a sense of responsibility, moral values, and religious education in our sons and teach them how to respect their opposite sex. It is the men who have to work for creating a safe and dignified environment wherein the girls will live a dignified life. It was in late 1960’s when Indian Parliament was pushing through a law to impose curfew on women going out at nights because they were sexually assaulted and raped, the late prime minister Smt Indira Gandhi asserted that curfew should be imposed upon men and not upon women because it is men who are assaulting and harassing women. On account of this logical argument the proposal was dropped.

No religion in the world allows the killing of the female foetus. Islam gives equal weightage to boys as well as girls. Our prophet (P.B.U.H) elevated the status of women in Islam by giving equal rights to men as well as women. Before the advent of Islam, the practice of killing girls was rampant in Saudi Arabia. The daughters were brutalized and buried alive. Our prophet (P.B.U.H) banned this evil practice and made people realise the importance of daughters. Daughter is the blessing of almighty Allah and deserves equal love and care. According to Islam, a man who brings up 4 daughters is promised a place in paradise. According to Qur’an to abort a foetus is a murder. Therefore, parents should not treat their daughters as a burden or disgrace but they should equally contribute in their welfare and education. They should not analyse the investment in the daughters in terms of the returns they yield but take it as an investment in future generations.

By and large, girls are discriminated and devalued from the day they are born. Millions of girls are raised in an environment of neglect, overwork and other abuses simply because they are females. In many places girls are fed less, forced to work harder, provided less schooling and denied equal access to medical care. Out of world’s one billion illiterates, two-third is women. Girls receive differential feeding and healthcare which have serious implications on their health. A study has revealed that 57% of boys were breast fed as compared to 30% of girls. Iron deficiency and anaemia is a common problem found in girls. It is responsible for 20% of maternity related deaths. Records of some Indian hospitals show that more boys (42%) are brought in for treatment than girls (37%) who are usually brought to the hospitals only when their illness becomes critical. Studies also reveal that expenditure on health of boys is more than that of girls. It is estimated that a girl works on an average for 10 hours a day and provides her family free and full time labour. In spite of such a great contribution of a girl child, she is considered a liability and a drain on the family resources at the time of her marriage. She is not even considered a permanent member of her family and is only considered a parayadhan, (other’s property). She is made to work hard for the family and thus trained for future slavery. She always remains under pressure and never enjoys a free life.

In spite of the serious efforts made by the government and framing up of many laws for banning the female infanticide, this crime is still prevailing. Therefore, it should be taken as a matter of serious concern by the government as well as the civil society. A positive image of the girl child has to be promoted. All planners, policy makers, administrators, media, enforcement machinery and religious leaders should come forward and work towards the holistic development of girl child. The real empowerment of women is totally meaningless unless women are empowered before birth. In order to grow a girl child into an active skilled and a confident woman, she should be nurtured in an environment of dignity and opportunity. Women need to be given the power and authority to decide their own destiny and the destiny of their children. The P.N.D.T Act needs to be implemented in letter and spirit. NGOs also need to be sensitised to make people aware about the evil affects of female foeticide. There is an immediate need to have more women involved in the effective implementation of women related laws for which adequate training needs to be ensured so that women themselves handle the implementation of various women related laws to avoid discrimination and harassment on account of termination of pregnancy etc.

The State Commission for Women needs to be strengthened further and National Commission for Women has to play an active role. Women’s commissions have to play a proactive role in educating, equipping and empowering women and stopping their rights violations. Women’s voluntary organizations have to come forward to help their society in fighting for their rights. Let all of us come together; crossing all the boundaries of caste, creed and colour, and welcome and celebrate the birth of daughters at par with sons. Let us change ourselves first and be the agents of change for others also.

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