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Why abandon daughters?

“Kashmiri society seems to be turning intolerant towards the girl child. We seem to be nearing a society that desires to have an all-male population,” writes Rabia Noor.

It is a common saying that ‘a daughter is forever’. She is there for her parents throughout her life. Perhaps sooner or later everyone, who is blessed with a daughter, does acknowledge it. Ironically, there are several people, who try every possible way to do away with this blessing, not realising the worth of having a daughter. Over the past one year, we have witnessed several baby abandonment cases in Kashmir. The babies have been abandoned in hospitals, on garbage heaps or elsewhere. On most occasions, the reason is plain and simple—‘female’ child.

To recall a few instances, in September 2012, an infant girl with a cleft lip and palate was abandoned by her parents in G.B. Panth Hospital in Srinagar, the premier children’s hospital in Kashmir. Even though the deformity is 100 percent treatable, the parents of the baby apparently did not consider the option. In another incident, a newborn girl child was found abandoned on the banks of the river Jhelum at Baramulla in December 2012. The child was later admitted to the neo-natal Intensive Care Unit at the district hospital in Baramulla.

Another newborn baby girl was abandoned in G.B. Panth Hospital earlier this year. The three-day-old baby girl was without any complication or disability. She was found outside a washroom.

A rising trend?

The abandonment of newborn babies, particularly females, is emerging as a gruesome trend in Kashmir. Even in the 21st century, we find many people who do not want to raise a daughter. It is not just about abandonment of female babies. When families pray for a boy, it reeks of gender discrimination even before the birth of a child. You may frequently observe a gloom that spreads in a family when a girl is born. More often than not, relatives are seen expressing sympathies with the family, especially the father, when a girl is born. In the course of her growing up, she is made to believe that she lacks something that makes her inferior to boys.

Yet another menace in the society is female foeticide. Some private clinics have been allegedly conducting the illegal pre-natal child sex-determination tests as well as the abortions, once a female foetus is found. Even though authorities are trying hard to save unborn girls from abortions, the female sex ratio is alarmingly deceasing in Jammu and Kashmir. The ratio plunged to 883 female children to 1,000 male children in the 0-6 age group, down by nine points from that of the 2001 census.

Such practices indicate how much intolerant Kashmiri society is turning towards girl child. Why do people abandon or abort their daughters? Just because they require hefty dowries to be married off? Or it’s just a psyche of a society, which it doesn’t want to change?

We seem to be nearing a society that desires to have an all-male population. It is a matter of shame for one to have such an obsolete and prejudiced mindset. One wonders why male children are seen as future breadwinners, while girls are often viewed as a financial burden.

Girls have time and again proved themselves. Every now and then, girls outshine boys in competitive and other examinations. They have hardly left any field unexplored. It is just unfair to believe that boys alone can bring fortune to a family.

Against Islam

Such discrimination comes as a shocker especially in a Muslim-majority region. Such practices are not only illegal, but un-Islamic as well. The Prophet (Peace be upon Him) has termed daughters as a blessing.  Islam is strictly against practices like abandoning babies and female foeticide and infanticide. With the advent of Islam came the verse from the Quran condemning those who practiced female infanticide:

“And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief! He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonor or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision.” (Surat An-Nahl 16:58-59).

And as part of a description of various events on the Day of Judgment, the Quran mentions:

“And when the female (infant) buried alive (as the pagan Arabs used to do) shall be questioned. For what sin was she killed? (Surat At-Takwir 81:8-9).

Even getting upset over having a daughter is a great sin, since it implies being upset with divine creation, not to talk about abandoning or killing her. In fact, Islam has bestowed women with equal rights as men, even though their roles in society are not identical.

The sociologist’s reasoning

Sociologists blame what they term as “moral corruption” of the society for the evils. The prevalence of premarital and extramarital affairs and increased media exposure among people are seen as major reasons.  Whatever the cause may be, finding solution for these inhuman acts is more important. The abandonment of daughters and female foeticide manifests sick mindset, which requires early addressing. An active involvement of the civil society is required to curb the menace. There is a need to impart religious (and moral) education to people in this regard.  People also need to be made aware of the legal and religious consequences of the crimes.

At the official level, the authorities ought to speed up the process of installing close circuit TV cameras in hospitals to keep a watch over such activities and stop such heinous crimes. The statutory laws in place need to be enforced strictly.

Author: Rabia Noor

Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan


12.03.2013 | 11:25