US lawmakers concerned over female foeticide in India

Expressing concern over increasing female foeticide in India, American lawmakers and experts have asked the US Government to help play a role in curbing such horrific practices and abuses against the girl child and women.

At a Congressional hearing on “India’s Missing Girls”, lawmakers and experts asked India to strictly enforce its rules, with several of them holding the “complex web of socio-economic and cultural factors” responsible for this and called for increasing awareness in this regard.

“There’s a complex web of socio-economic and cultural factors that result in discrimination against girls. You know, the chairman identified a few of those.

These then manifest in sex-selective practices, so we have to address those underlying causes,” Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera said during the Congressional hearing.

“The only way to achieve long-lasting and real change is really to engage in community-level campaigns to change attitudes and change cultural norms that perpetuate this bias against women and girls,” he said.

“The best role for the US to play is to remain a strong supporter and leader within the global community in order to best promote women’s rights and the freedom of every woman to make personal decisions about her health, her body and her to really empower women,” said Bera who has recently returned from a trip to India. Congressman, Christopher Smith, who chaired the hearing of the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organisations Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the roots of the present problem lies not only with cultural factors, but also misbegotten policy decisions, including population-control policies that were hatched in the US, which have had a disproportionately negative impact on India’s women.

“We hope that this hearing will help us better understand how we can play a role in curbing such horrific practices and abuses against the girl child and women.

“What, for example, can we do to ensure that companies based in the US such as General Electric, whose ultrasound equipment is used to determine the sex of the child in utero, takes steps to prevent that what should be a tool to promote life for both mother and child from being used as an instrument of death,” Smith said.

Testifying before the committee, independent researcher Sabu George, referred to the corporate sector who promote new technology for sex selection. “I would like to look at the role of Google, which today promotes new technologies for sex selection.

Today they are advertising new products long before they are proven to be effective. We would appeal to all of you to ensure that the US corporations respect Indian law,” he said.

Jill McElya, vice president of the Invisible Girl Project said sex-selective abortion is widespread and it’s proliferating.

Mallika Dutt of New York-based Breakthrough observed all forms of gender-based discrimination and violence stem from this larger issue of patriarchy and son preference that plagues India and so many other parts of the world.

The US, she said, must assume a position of global leadership in confronting the underlying factors that foster gender discrimination, first by sustaining and strengthening investments in global health and development, and second, by advocating for the equity in women and girls to be at the center of the global development agenda. Noting that ban on access to reproductive health are not an appropriate solution, Dutt said in India the path forward to reducing widespread gender inequity and sex selection is through comprehensive and community-based culture change solutions that have to be driven by Indian stakeholders themselves. (PTI)

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