Mumbai (AsiaNews/Agencies) - About 225 women, members of the first all-female village council (gram sabha) of Haryana, have decided to set up vigilance committees to stop selective abortions and female feoticides. According to their proposal, each of the 14 districts of the village of Bibipur (Jind district) will have its own committee, made up of three women and one man with the task of monitoring and controlling pregnant women. The move is significant because Haryana is one of the Indian states in which the practice of gender selection is most widespread.
The women made their proposal in the presence of the sarpanch (village head), Sunil Jaglan, who gave full approval to the project. "From this moment", he explained, "the anganwadi (a sort of health worker, ed.) must record every woman in the second month of pregnancy. Up to now, the state, by law, already records pregnant women from the fourth month. Our hope is that lowering the limit will serve as a deterrent, and that other villages will follow our example."
A woman named Birmati explains that the gender test costs 5,000 rupees (70 euros) and the same again for an abortion. She suggests:
If the same money were instead deposited into a fixed deposit at the birth of the baby, the family would not need to worry about her future. When she grows up, the bank can provide them with sufficient financial support for her studies and for a good marriage.
In Canada, an editorial in the Calgary Herald is calling for an end to 'entertainment' ultrasounds.
An ultrasound is a medical procedure, not a party trick. Its long-term effects remain unknown and Health Canada warns about possible risk for a woman and her baby. Health Canada recommends "diagnostic fetal ultrasounds should be done only when the expected medical benefits out-weigh any foreseeable risk." That's a sensible rule for any pregnant woman.Here at DJ! we've covered the weird fascination fetus fetishists have with ultrasound several times. They believe that forcing women to look at pulsing images of their innards will dissuade them from abortion.
To that end, the Knights of Columbus have a program to raise funds to buy equipment specifically for fake clinics.
Multiple ultrasounds are a relatively recent phenomenon. Back in the day, there were few machines and they were reserved for high-risk pregnancies. Even now, current guidelines recommend two ultrasounds per uncomplicated pregnancy.
So, while prochoice people are generally not in favour of pregnancy regulation, I personally wouldn't have a problem with outlawing non-medically necessary ultrasounds. Especially if that included non-medically necessary but coercive and manipulative ultrasounds offered by the fake clinics.
Of course, regulating non-medical ultrasounds -- it's done in several Excited States -- is not the whole answer to sex-selective abortion. Women, whether on their own or pressured by family and cultural expectations, will seek and no doubt find ultrasound operators willing to risk whatever sanctions for a few bucks.
More important is elevating the value of women in the benighted communities where this goes on. Maybe the community teams and a very practical idea like Birmati's could go some way towards altering people's perceptions of women.