Friday, July 13, 2007

India to create a pregnancy register

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India plans to create a registry of all pregnancies to help curb widespread female foeticide and reduce its high infant mortality rate, although activists say the scheme will be hard to implement.

"With this, mysterious abortions will become difficult," Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury told the Hindustan Times.

The government wanted to ensure that abortions -- often carried out illegally with the aim of doing away with unwanted female foetuses -- were done for an "acceptable and valid reason", she said.

"This will help to check both foeticide and infant mortality."

Around 10 million girls have been killed by their parents in India in the past 20 years, the government says.
Like so much else in India, it looks great on paper and simply won't work in reality. And what is an "acceptable and valid reason?" I thought it was all about whatever a woman chose? So what if a huge number of women choose to kill their unborn girls, even if it is under societal pressure? Again, the (legitimate) outrage at this practice simply underscores the moral incoherence of so much "pro-choice" rhetoric.
Some activists said the government's plan to create a pregnancy register in a country of 1.1 billion people -- where more than 50 percent of women deliver children at home without medical assistance -- was unrealistic.

"We cannot give elementary health services in a satisfactory way to most of our citizens, and to talk about registering pregnancies is ridiculous," said Alok Mukhopadhyay, head of the Voluntary Health Association of India.

"Public awareness, empowerment of women and extension of health services are key in fighting infant mortality and foeticide, as well as implementing the existing laws that forbid sex determination."


PixelChick said...

My reaction simply is whatever. I think AP or TN enacted the anonymous cradle program where people could leave their unwanted kids, no questions asked. I wish the government would look into more programs like that, and give the children over for adoption a la China.

Gashwin said...

Oh absolutely. This seems like PR. Not sure what it means that a government would do such things in the interest of PR -- that public opinion has reached a certain level of maturity?

Incidentally the agency where my bro's kids were adopted from has an anonymous adoption basket at the front gate -- it's a private organization, I think.

Georgette said...

Hey, G--

Although at first it seems like a PR ploy, since it would certainly not address the millions of pregnancies which go full term without any medical supervision at all, I think it may have a shot at preventing abortions among the women who DO have their babies in hospitals and under doctors' supervision. Those are the women who are more likely to have access to sonograms, after all, which determine the sex of the child (and sex selection abortion). Of course it will do nothing for the poor villagers who often resort to outright infanticide (burying girl-babies alive, as in a recent news item), but it may be a step in the right direction.

From my observations as a woman, and a Christian outsider here, I think the female-infanticide/abortion problem, at its root, is two-fold: One is economics (that dowry system has GOT to go!); and the other is a question of the appreciation of human dignity inherent in all men and women, equally. The government is trying to correct the dowry thing with laws that make it illegal, but how do you eradicate harmful traditions and superstitionsw which are, after all, at the heart of the injustice towards women? Those superstitions and beliefs also hold down the entire society, in its treatment of "lower castes" to the widow and the girl-child, who are all deemed "lesser" beings. I think Christianity is their only hope.

Oh, and Re: dowry injustices, have you seen this story about this woman who was abused by her inlaws for more dowry and also for having birthed a girl-child? THis story is not a news item because of teh abuse she endured, of course--that is a typical day-to-day event that thousands, or millions, of women face here. The bit that makes it news-worthy is that she was lucky enough to have survived the dowry harrassments and got so fed up that she led this one-woman protest--and apparently has gotten somewhat effective publicity for it!

God bless,

Gashwin said...

Georgette: thanks for those insights from someone closer to the reality! I'm very glad to hear that slowly some change is being made in attitudes towards dowry.

How does one change a culture? That's a huge question. Of course societies do change and grow organically. I think the idea of social "progress" (with all its promises and pitfalls) is a uniquely Western idea, rooted in a Judeo-Christian worldview of the in-breaking of God's Kingdom. This is not to say that it is only Christianity that can inspire change (look at the French Revolution!) -- however, this is one of the biggest exports of the West -- the idea of change of improvement -- to the rest of the world, I would suspect.

Of course I share your view that Christianity ought to bring hope and a way out of such oppressive customs. Often it has. But often (perhaps even equally as often? I don't know) it hasn't. Christianity was planted in India nearly 2000 years ago -- it didn't make a dent in the caste system. In fact, Christians adopted caste and caste-based identity (and discrimination) continued unabated, and still continues. Or, for instance, the way the Portuguese tied up Latin Christianity with colonialism -- including conversion at gunpoint and some of the worst aspects of the Inquisition, vile treatment of Hindus, etc. -- hardly advanced, in my opinion, the true message of Christianity and only imperfectly advanced the mission of Christ. These remain huge stumbling blocks, I think, to evangelization in India.

Of course now that's a whole different conversation -- if Christianity didn't instantly (or even gradually) bring about utopia, what is it's worth? The Pope, incidentally, addresses this at the beginning of his new book ... his answer is that it brought God -- the One Living God -- to all peoples. But, as I said, that's a different conversation.