• September 30, 2020 1:56 am

Reporting From Delhi

When the womb cries

BySashikala VP

Nov 26, 2019

The birth of a baby girl invokes tears, says a doctor. We will soon be 20 years into the new century but the plight of the girl child has still not improved, despite laws and provisions

If one needs to understand the present situation of the girl child, one need to only visit a government hospital and meet with its doctors. These are the people who can truly tell you what the majority of the average Indian in the Capital city thinks.

A story took me to Rao Tula Ram Memorial hospital, one whose antenatal and post-natal OPDs sees 400-500 women every day. Here I met a senior resident who says has conducted 2,000 deliveries. We started speaking about the women who visit and I veered into the domain of the girl child and asked if things are improving. He gave a blunt and firm response in one word: No!

“I will tell you how things are… you won’t read this in any book”, he started off. “I have done so many deliveries and have noticed how women who give birth to a girl child act”, the Senior Resident says. Before he proceeds to tell me what it is, he adds, “This is off the record.” So, I won’t name names.

“After a normal delivery, women need stitches. We administer localised anaesthesia in the region. But a woman who has delivered a girl child will cry out loud. She will keep weeping as if in pain”, the doctor tells me as his juniors sitting around smile knowingly.

It isn’t a happy smile, but one to soften the harsh subject of conversation. It reveals that they believe the situation is hopeless, that medieval mindsets are not changing. The doctor continues, “They cry even though they have been injected with anaesthesia. But at the same time, a woman who has given birth to a boy, not a whimper will leave their lips. They are happy because in the end they had a boy”.

When I put across some words of support for the mother and that she must be having to hear a lot from the family she has married into, he adds, “Yes, I understand that as well. But these women too don’t want a girl child.”

“There’s a woman admitted right now, she is expecting her ninth child. Now just guess which gender her other eight are”, he asks. I quickly, knowingly respond, “Girls”. “Yes, they are all girls. And if this too is a girl, I can only imagine that she will go on to have her 10th child”. He gives another similar example.

In a country such as ours, where the child sex ratio is deplorable, and the government at the Centre believes the mitigating formula would be its “Beti bachao, beti padhao” camapaign, such examples given by the sarkari doctor at a Delhi hospital gives us no positive spin to the state of the female child.

The same week I had met a family living in an unauthorised colony of West Delhi. While the family was now sending its smaller children to school, my question to the grandmother of the home about her daughter’s children made me understand that they didn’t see girls as a boon.

How many children does your daughter have? I asked. Shabana said, “Two, including the newborn son”. “Is the elder one a boy or a girl”, I asked, just wanting to jot down all details of this woman I was interviewing. Her response came as if she was offended I even asked, “No, no.. both children are sons. My daughters has had only sons”, she repeated, almost as if this was an achievement to be proud of.

We know the reasons for this misogyny. Practices like the dowry system are alive and kicking. Girls, no matter what age, have to fear for their safety even inside their homes. Believing that the female gender is lesser of the two, people view girls as just a burden on their families.

One can see the statistics of crimes related to women and how over the years it refuses to come down. A Delhi Police report shows that total rape cases in 2017 were 2,146 —  figure which decreased to 2,135 in 2018. This year till October 31, rape cases registered by the Delhi Police was at 1,877.

Furthermore, assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty (354 IPC) was 3,422 in 2017 which decreased a little to 3,314 cases in 2018. This year the data shows that by October 31st there were already 2,520 cases under the section.

Another section which has high number of cases reported is 498-A/406 IPC which deals with cruelty by husband and in-laws. This saw 2,745 cases in 2017. The incidence goes higher in 2018 with 3,416 cases. Presently, the number till October 31 reported to the Delhi Police came to 3,052 cases.

Then it was the dowry-related death cases, which rose up in 2018 with 153 lives lost compared to 2017’s 120. This year the number of deaths till October 31 was accounted to 103.

Delhi’s sex ratio in the years 2013-2015 was a lowly 869 to 1,000 males, according to Niti Aayog. The numbers will still be dismal next year and beyond, and doctors will still have to see women upset over the birth of the girl child until both females and males are made aware of the laws that govern the land – and even more importantly, to have law enforcers grappling every day to remove this burden that plagues our society.