Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Monday, November 21, 2011

Is a girl child really welcome in an Indian family?

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan gave birth to a baby girl bringing unending joy to her family and fans. However, a recent international research shows that sex selective abortion is conducted in wealthy families across India, not so much in poorer homes. An overview :

Notice this: When it’s a baby boy, hardly anyone bothers to add any more description. When it’s a baby girl, an adjective is often added, almost to justify her coming into this world. For example —“she is beautiful”, ``she is really cute’’ and so on.

In fact, internationally acclaimed author Tasleema Nasreen’s Tweets reflect the attitude towards the female child. She had tweeted “I love Aishwarya Rai. But when I said ‘I wish she would give birth to a baby girl’, people asked me, ‘Why do you hate Aishwarya?’” She tweeted once more: “Why do you think if I say it should be a female baby, is not a healthy baby? ...but her having a daughter can encourage millions of couples not to kill their unborn female babies.”

I remember when I delivered my daughter, our first child, my husband was ecstatic. However, when he began calling up his friends, he was consoled…”oh. It’s very lucky to have the first daughter, she is Laxmi …” “doesn’t matter, there is always a next time” “Ohhh, so are you disappointed?”

It’s tragic that thousands of girls have been and are being snuffed out even before they are born and thousands immediately after birth. The result: a lop-sided girl-boy ratio, tilting towards the male fraternity.

What’s even more horrendous is the recent international research report which states that sex selective abortions occur more in affluent families of India than in poorer homes. A fact narrated to me by a leading gynaecologist of Pune who stated, “Poor parents cannot afford the test; middle-class parents normally have just one child and they do not mind whether it’s a girl or boy but it is the rich patients who indulge in sex selective abortions.”

Lancet, the reputed international medical journal which published the research report conducted by Centre for Global Health Research (CGHR), issued a press release recently stating the research shows that “…in Indian families in which the first child has been a girl, more and more parents are aborting their second child if prenatal testing shows it to be a girl, so they can ensure at least one child in their family will be a boy. These declines in girl to boy ratios are larger in better-educated and in richer households than in illiterate and poorer households, and now imply that most people in India live in states where selective abortion of girls is common.”

Lancet’s press release also stated: “...the 2011 Indian census revealed about 7•1 million fewer girls than boys aged 0-6 years, a notable increase in the gap of 6 million fewer girls recorded in the 2001 census and 4•2 million fewer girls recorded in the 1991 census. In this study, the authors analysed census data to determine absolute numbers of selective abortions and examined over 250,000 births from national surveys to estimate differences in the girl-boy ratio for second births in families in which the first-born child had been a girl.”

The study found that “girl-boy ratio fell from 906 girls per 1000 boys in 1990 to 836 in 2005; an annual decline of 0•52%. Declines were much greater in mothers with 10 or more years of education than in mothers with no education, and in wealthier households compared with poorer households. But if the first child had been a boy, there was no fall in the girl-boy ratio for the second child over the study period, strongly suggesting that families, particularly those that are more wealthy and educated, are selectively aborting girls if their firstborn child is also a girl.”

After adjusting for excess mortality rates in girls, the researchers observed that “number of selective abortions of girls rose from 0-2 million in the 1980s, to 1•2-4•1 million in the 1990s, and to 3.1-6 million in the 2000s. Each 1% decline in child sex ratio at ages 0-6 years implied between 1•2 and 3•6 million more selective abortions of girls. Selective abortions of girls are estimated at between 4 and 12 million over the three decades from 1980 to 2010.

The authors point out that the between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, more than twice the number of Indian districts (local administrative areas) showed declines in the child sex ratio compared to districts with no change or increases. They also point out that, the Indian government implemented a Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act in 1996 to prevent the misuse of techniques for the purpose of prenatal sex determination leading to selective abortion of girls. Yet they add it is unlikely that this Act has been effective nationally.

Isn’t this a national shame?

For the full article in Lancet, see:


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Shrin Juwaley: ‘Treat us as equals’

 It was on May 28, 1998 when life took a sudden turn for Shirin Juwaley, an acid attack victim. Juwaley was only 24 when her husband threw acid on her face, chest and arms and fled abroad. She was left with severe facial disfigurement and has undergone numerous surgeries since then. Scared and skeptical to face the world with her disfigured face, Juwaley refused to come out of her shell until one day she realised that she was wasting her life in this manner. “I decided to live life my way,” said Juwaley. Juwaley went on to start a non-profit organisation called Palash foundation, three months ago, which deals with issues of psychosocial rehabilitation and livelihoods for people with disfigurement.

On Wednesday, at Bonobo, a restobar in Bandra (W), people who faced discrimination because they were visually different came together and shared their personal experiences. The event called ‘Tweet Up night’ was organised by Palash foundation in association with mad o wot, a hair salon in Bandra.


Chetan Chavan, one of the speakers said, “At a very young age, some white spots started developing all over my body. Initially people thought that it was leprosy and I was shunned by society. My parents took me to various doctors, babas who claimed cure for all problems, etcetera. But the problem persisted. They were trying hard to change me so that I would fit into what is perceived as ‘normal’.” Chavan acknowledges that he did not face discrimination from his peers while interacting with them but, “when it came to sharing food from the same plate, people refused to do so.” It was at the time of getting married that he was hit hard by the discrimination. “I have white spots on my body and hand but not on my face. So, sometime people do not realise that I have a skin condition. But, I decided to hide nothing from the other party. People would approach me with a proposal but would turn away when they were told about my problem,” said Chavan who works in a private company and lives in Dadar. Abigal Vaz (33) from Vakola too faced a similar situation like Chavan. The reason being, Vaz was born without legs. “I walk with the help of two Jaipur feet but I am fully capable of independently carrying out my daily chores. In my 20s I too dreamt of having a family but everybody rejected me. Hence, I decided to look for somebody who would be like me so that I did not feel inferior in front of him,” said Vaz, who found her husband on a matrimonial site. Vaz’s husband lost one of his legs to polio when he was one-year-old. Since then Vaz has been living a happy married life and has a normal child.

Another inspirational story was of Parinaz Mubaraki’s (26) who is visually impaired. Born with a genetic defect, Mubaraki slowly started losing her vision when she was a child and lost her vision completely seven years ago.

“I don’t look like a blind person due to the fact that I wasn’t born completely blind. Sometimes people do not believe me when I tell them that I can’t see,” said Mubaraki, her voice choked with emotion. She recalls an incident during a stage performance at Bonobo. “It was an impromptu dance performance where we were performing with our belly dance teacher. We were unprepared so, we had to follow our teacher and repeat those steps. Since I couldn’t see, I kept doing my own thing and everybody was laughing. After the dance troupe left, I kept performing on the stage and the audience was wondering if there was something wrong with me. Finally, my teacher had to intervene and I got off the stage. I could hear the audience roaring with laughter because most of them did not realise that I was blind,” said Mubaraki, who works as a radio jockey.
Insulted by her friends and teachers in school, who did not take to her kindly, Mubaraki had started to lose hope until she met students from The Hellen Keller Institute for Deaf and Deafblind. Said Mubaraki, “I met students from the institute and I thought that if people who couldn’t see and hear were doing so well in their life, then I should be grateful that I can at least hear. I started attending counselling sessions and looking out for opportunities.”


While most of the speakers claimed that they are hardly bothered by what other people think about them, often they feel awkward in public places when people gawk at them. “I have people staring at me everyday. Some of them even come near me to look at my face closely. But, they refuse to shake hands with me. What do I do?” said Juwaley.

Mubaraki says that when people misbehave, she tells herself, “It isn’t my disability, it is their stupidity and that is why they are laughing at me. Members of the audience too agreed with the speakers. One of them suggested that people alone couldn’t be blamed for the way they behave. “They have been attuned to think in a certain manner. For larger acceptance of people who are visually different, changes have to be made at the grassroot level itself.”


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.