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Female foeticide reaching ‘epidemic’ level in Kashmir


Summary of a story from BBC News, May 2o, 2011

The BBC has reported that in the Kashmir Valley, female foeticide has reached epidemic proportions.

A preliminary report issued last month showed that Kashmir had the worst skewing in the sex ratio of males to females being born of any Indian state.

The ratio of boys to girls in 2001 was already uneven, at 941 girls for every 1000 boys born, but now the number of girls born to every thousand boys is down to 859, and foeticide is to blame.

The ready availability of technology which allows pregnant women to find out what gender of child they are carrying means that women are dispensing with female foetuses in favour of male ones.

Gul Afroz Jan, a lecturer in law at Kashmir University, was shocked to discover that 10 per cent of the women she interviewed in the course of her research had terminated baby girls because of their gender.

“In a patriarchal male-dominated society like ours, preference for a male child is in our psyche,” she said.

“A son perpetuates our family name and line, while a girl is thought to be a burden, to be married with a huge dowry.”

And as the growing middle classes adopts a western style two-child norm for families, they are limiting their family size by terminating female babies.

Alfroz Jan alerted the authorities to her findings four years ago, but they attempted to downplay her research, saying the sample size was small and that they were doing good work on decreasing sex-selection in the region.

The recent figures, however, show that she was correct to be alarmed, and rather than decreasing, foeticide in the Kashmir Valley is rampaging out of control.

With the publication of the most recent report, the authorities have now finally responded, sealing 100 ultrasound clinics in the valley and taking action on others who carry out sex determination tests.

Illegal ultrasounds continue however, and activists say that until the root cause of the problem has been addressed – the overwhelming desire for sons, not daughters – then the practice will continue, legal or not.

A teacher of Islamic studies from the oriental college of Srinagar, Shaukat Hussein Keng, says that the practice of female foeticide means Muslims are “are moving away from humanity”.

“In the Arab world, people used to bury alive their daughters but when the Prophet Mohammed came, he put an end to this barbaric practice,” he points out.

He blames the ‘moral degradation of the society’ and the practice of dowry, saying that they “have come together to turn man into a murderer of his own daughter”, he says, adding: “It’s a grave sin.”

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