Female feticide is defined as killing of the unborn female child in the womb through abortion after a sex determination test. This is one of the most horrendous forms of violence carried out against the girl child. This happens due to the desire for a male child in preference over a female who is seen as a liability and a burden. Repeated campaigns have failed to address the problem and it is worsening day by day in large parts of India. According to a survey by British medical journal, Lancet, nearly 10 million female abortions have taken place in India in the last 20 years. The various reasons cited for female feticide are a patriarchal mindset with desire for a male child, the dowry system and continuation of the family lineage and clan. Our organization defines it as a crime rather than a social evil as it undermines the level of violent perpetrators on the girl child.
In India a significant number of girls from all communities get married in the age between 16-19 years. Motherhood for them follows soon after marriage. The girl has little awareness about her rights as a woman and that she has a right to say no to an abortion forced upon her as a mother and therefore she gives in to the pressure. This has resulted in highly skewed male-female ratio with boys overwhelmingly outnumbering girls in several parts of India. This has also led to increase of violence against the girl child in the form of human trafficking, sexual assault and discrimination.
In our field-studies we have found that the mind of a girl is conditioned from a young age and she feels that she has only self-worth if she is able to bear a son. Millions of teenage girls carry this belief as a result of social and familial conditioning as when they are married; they believe female feticide is a natural thing to do. This conditioning also leads to women going for illegal abortions.
Observing the prevalent conditions, Swanchetan endeavored to contribute towards prevention of female feticide. We believed the deterrence would be most efficient if we spread awareness among young girls especially those in their teens. As the organization has been working with Delhi Police for last ten years, it was felt that a collaborative program can be held with the same for proficient achievement of the goal. Therefore our organization and Parivartan program of Delhi Police decided to hold art therapy workshops in various girl schools of Delhi. It was felt that girls could be asked to prepare models based on the theme of female feticide using materials they are well acquainted to. We felt it shall help them to bring out their inner feelings as psychological studies have shown art therapy is a powerful medium to influence an individual’s mind. Thus we decided to use its techniques on young girls so as to empower them to say ‘No’ to abortion of a female child.
Through these workshops we want girls to acknowledge the core notion of female identity. We felt that they must develop their own self worth, understand their rights and learn to protect their bodies as well as their identities. It is significant to change the mindset of young girls to bring about a change in the orthodox Indian society. For this purpose a number of workshops were organized at various government schools of North Delhi such as Majnu ka Tila, Chandni Chowk, Kashmiri Gate, Khari Baoli, Kamla Nagar. These are places where girls/women feel unsafe; they are merely expected to play the role of a good wife and produce children especially sons. They even face frequent abuse by their husbands, in-laws and sometimes parents but they never learn to stand up for themselves because of the lack of self-respect.
Female participants prepared their models with their respective groups. They were provided with necessary instructions for the same as most of them were working with clay and thermacol for the first time. They used former for making human figurines while latter was helpful in creating the surroundings such village huts, houses, trees, hospital building, etc. The activity helped them to bring out their creative instinct as most of these girls live in a very restricted environment and therefore receive extremely limited opportunities to showcase their talent. Participating in a group work gave them the strength and power to emphasize their own existence especially those who are shy. This is because the activity helped them to give a collective voice to their concerns, fears, anxieties and feelings.
It resulted not only in wonderful models but also in positive feedbacks from the girls when they described the same. Neha (name change), student of 11th standard said, “bhrun hatya ko band kar dena chahiye kyunki humein apni ladki hone par garv hai aur humare ma-baap ko bhi” (The practice of female feticide should be stopped because we are proud t born as girls and so does our parents). Another girl Priya (name changed), student of 10th standard mentioned, “Girls should be saved and have all the rights as they are the future of India.” Some of the models displayed slogans like “nari ki izzat karo” (respect females); “bhrun hatya paap hai” (female feticide is a sin), etc.
One of the groups in these schools made small figurines (representing their own selves) going towards the hospital to stop the practice of female feticide which is highly prevalent there. On their model, they wrote, “samaj mein nari ka vishesh sthan hona chahiye.” (a woman should be given an exceptional position in the society). Another group portrayed a father throwing his newly born girl-child into the well. Through their model, they are questioning the nature of human beings – why does it want to kill girls? Today Indian nation feels proud of Indira Gandhi (Ex-Prime Minister), Jhansi ki Rani (Queen of Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, one of the chief fighters during 1857 Mutiny), Kalpana Chawla (First Indian woman to become Astronaut at NASA, USA), ironically they were also girls. A group showed a expecting female being pressurized to abort the girl child inside her womb by her in-laws and her husband. She instead decides to seek help from a police station near her home. They told us that they would also take the same step if faced with a similar situation. Another group used their model to convey if girls can set examples as President of India (Pratibha Patil); Indian Woman Astronaut (Late Kalpana Chawla), etc., then why kill girls.
Some of these depicted a village scene where the practice is extremely high. The models showed a mother (village woman) going against the decision of Panchayat to kill the female child inside her womb; she in turn seeks help from a police station. Another demonstrated a young girl protesting against the practice in her village by stopping the husband while saving the ‘would be’ mother. A group prepared a hospital where sex determination test is not allowed while another showed a mother telling the doctor not to kill the female child inside her womb just because she is a ‘female’.
As mentioned through these workshops we aim to prepare girls on how to say ‘No’ to female abortion. We want them to know that they have their rights on their own bodies and therefore it is ok for them to fight for their own protection. We hope these workshops shall contribute in changing the vision of Indian society and bring an end to the practice of female feticide as far as possible.
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