South Asia’s girl child still faces bias even before birthJune 23rd, 2010 - 6:47 pm ICT by IANS
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 23 (IANS) Despite governments’ efforts to prevent female infanticide, the girl child in South Asia still faces bias, even before birth.
This was admitted by Nepal’s Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal while inaugurating the third meeting of South Asian ministers on child violence here Wednesday.
“Traditionally, girl children in the region face gender biases even before birth, and the degree of such discrimination continues throughout their lives,” Nepal said at the meeting of the South Asian Initiative For Ending Violence Against Children.
The initiative, whose members are India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal, has seen some of the highest incidences of girl infanticide in the world in its own member countries.
In India alone, around 10 million girls are estimated to have been killed before or after their births in the last two decades, causing a severe gender imbalance with nearly 50 million more males than females.
Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are also among the countries where sons are preferred to daughters.
Nepal too holds sons in higher esteem. But women comprise over 50 percent of its nearly 28 million population.
The reprieve is traced to abortion having been illegal in the former Hindu kingdom till 2002.
The law still bans abortion beyond 90 days of pregnancy, except in rape cases where the victims are allowed to abort till 18 weeks.
But medical termination of pregnancy still remains inaccessible in the villages and, according to health officials, nearly 57,000 women die every year due to unsafe abortions.
Women’s rights organisations say there has been an alarming growth in medical tests to determine the sex of the unborn child, resulting in abortion.
Such cases are mostly reported from the Terai plains along India with women crossing into Indian towns to have the examinations and termination of pregnancy.
Though the Nepal government announced 2010 as the year against gender-based violence, police records show a spurt in murder by husbands and relatives as well as rape with the victim often being under-age.
“Violence and abuse often transcend our national borders,” the prime minister said.
“In Nepal, like in many other South Asian countries, the saga of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence is widely prevalent and affecting millions of children. Such violence cuts across social, cultural, religious and ethnic lines,” he said.
Thousands of women and children are trafficked to India every year where they are either sold to brothels or forced into a life of slavery in circuses or factories.
The meeting comes close on the heels of four children being rescued from the residence of an Indian politician in Ghaziabad, neighbouring India’s capital Delhi, where they were said to have been forced to work as domestic slaves.
In the last one month, Kathmandu valley has seen incidents of mob violence after neighbours attacked families employing young children as domestic help and treating them brutally.
They included a senior police officer and a doctor.
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at email@example.com)
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