In India, Rape of Women is Only a Symptom

by Dr. CESAR CHELALA

Two recent rapes of young women in India, one of which ended murdered by her rapists, provoked worldwide condemnation. It is difficult to equate India’s rapid economic and technological development with such barbaric practices. The problem of systematic abuse of women, however, will only be solved by changing entrenched culture norms that allow the abuse and degradation of women, of which girl’s feticide is a clear example.

Female feticide is the earliest and most brutal manifestation of violence against women. . Researchers for The Lancet estimate that more than 500,000 girls are being lost annually through sex selective abortions. Female fetuses are selectively aborted after pre-natal sex determination. Sometimes, the elimination of women occurs even after they are born. This situation of female infanticide has existed in for centuries in India.

Feticide began in the early 1990s, when ultrasound techniques became widely used in India. Many families continuously produce children until a male child is born. The reason is that boys are deemed more useful than girls. Boys have the exclusive right to inherit the family name and properties, and have the advantage of being allowed to be more productive in agriculture. Religious practices for their parent’s afterlife can only be performed by males, so they are also a status symbol for their families.

The Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, passed in 1994, making selective abortion illegal, has been poorly enforced. In 2003, the PCPNDT was modified holding medical professionals legally responsible for abuse of the test. These provisions, however, have not significantly deterred their abuse.

Although gender-based discrimination against female children is pervasive in developing countries, India is one of the worst culprits. Female discrimination, which starts in the womb, continues throughout women’s lives. A survey by the Thomas Reuters Foundation found that India is the fourth most dangerous place in the world for women.

In India, violence against women can take several forms. Women of any class or religion can be victims of acid-throwing, a cruel form of punishment that can disfigure women for life and even kill them. According to perpetrators, it is an action meant to put women in their place for defying cultural norms. The U.N. Population Fund reports that up to 70 percent of married women aged 15-49 in India are victims of beatings or coerced sex.

Dowry traditions, according to which parents must often pay large sums of money to marry off their daughters is claimed as one of the reasons why parents prefer boys to girls. In 1961, the Government of India passed the Dowry Prohibition Act, which makes dowry demands in wedding arrangements illegal. Although some kinds of abuse as “bride burning” have diminished among the educated urban populations, many cases of dowry-related domestic violence, suicide and murders are still occurring.

Since the first census of 1871, India has shown an abnormal sex ratio, steadily increasing the number of boys compared to girls. According to the Decennial Indian Census, the sex ratio in the 0-6 age group went from 104.0 males per 100 females in 1981, to 105.8 in 1991, to 107.8 in 2001 to 109.4 in 2011. This ratio is even higher in certain states such as Punjab and Haryana.

Among the consequences of female feticide is the increase in human trafficking. According to some estimates, in 2011 15,000 Indian women were sold as brides to areas like Haryana and Punjab to compensate for the lack of women as a result of feticide. This shows a significant change in women’s social status. In the Vedic age (1500-1000 BC), women were worshiped as gods while in modern times some are negated the basic right to life.

The recent rape cases in India are not isolated incidents. They are just a manifestation of a discriminating situation that starts at the womb, in a society that persists in treating women as second class citizens. Unless this fact is accepted by Indian society, and appropriate laws are enforced, any measures to overcome this situation will only be palliative, and will not solve this fundamental problem facing that country.

Dr. César Chelala is an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is an international public health consultant.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mark Hand
Cinéma Engagé: Filmmaker Chronicles Texas Fracking Wars
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”
July 30, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
How One Safari Nut, the CIA and Neoliberal Environmentalists Plotted to Destroy Mozambique
Bill Blunden
The NSA’s 9/11 Cover-Up: General Hayden Told a Lie, and It’s a Whopper