Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Friedman said Legalize Marijuana; I say Legalize Female Foeticide

A news article appeared thus:

"More Female Foetuses being aborted in India, UNICEF says"

NEW DELHI: The practice of aborting female fetuses because of a preference for sons is becoming more widespread in India, a Unicef report revealed Tuesday, with an estimated 7,000 fewer girls born every day because of the spread of cheap, prenatal sex-determination technology.

This news article in IHT got me thinking; this and the still fresh memory of Milton Friedman’s recent death. Friedman, the revolutionary economist who gave a series of lectures in the 70’s propagating the idea that Marijuana be made legal…that banning anything doesn’t make sense. All a ban does is to create a huge black-market for the commodity. And lest u think that economics would play a part and a higher price (as a result of black-market) would reduce demand – he said, it only goes on to increase the desire value for the commodity and leads to increased users. He empirically proved the data. I wont comment on whether his analysis was right or not…but the idea was revolutionary. And definitely worth a pause by a govt that kept increasing the vigil on drug use, users and suppliers.

But how is this related to female foeticide, you ask? Let me first quote another para from the same article:

"It was a surprise because there is so much awareness being generated about the need to cherish the girl child," said Deepa Jain Singh, secretary to the Ministry of Women and Child Development. "We have to address this in a big way. We have no option."

Why does any family, a unit that consists of a man and a woman, decide to kill their yet-to-be-born girl child? Maybe its because they think a girl would cause additional burden in the form of dowry. Maybe its because they think that with a girl they would have to maintain constant vigil; taking care to see that her reputation is never tarnished. Maybe its because they think a girl would not be there to take care of them in their old age. And finally, maybe its because of the age old concept of “vansh” that makes them desire a male child more. Or maybe its all of these reasons.

And why does the govt want a ban on foeticide? Because an uneven society with a lot more boys that girls would lead to a sex-depraved and hence, a violent society. As someone said: “Boys will be boys: Either they have to fuck or they have to punch”. And if nobody did ever say it….well, I am now. Other than that I believe, the govt propaganda is more because the world considers selective foeticide wrong and barbaric and the govt just-goes-along. If there are other reasons, they don’t come to my mind now.

Anyways, is the govt right in saying that selective foeticide is wrong? I know what many will say: “Of course”. And why pray? Isn’t abortion legal? Then why not kill just the girl child if the parents so desire. Shouldn’t it be the parents right to decide who to bring into the world and who not to? More importantly, think of the girl child who is born and who was never wanted in the first place. Think of how u will feel if told that u just happened to come and that we (ur parents) did not want you here? Think of the life of that girl child: the years of neglect and unwantedness that she’ll feel as compared to her brothers. Think of her life!

“Oh! But what about the morals involved.” What morals? Morals are more often than not, just the social norms. America didn’t legalize abortions until about the 60s or the 70s (I am not sure which!). India, a much less (so called) progressive country, had it legalized since ages. How do you reconcile the moralities? To go a step further, America, a mostly non-vegetarian society, would be shocked at even a single human death. And we, a very vegetarian society would shed no tear over the death of 20 ppl in a boating accident but will be more concerned (many religions) about the death of an animal. Moralities are just the social norms!

Am I saying that female foeticide is right? No definitely not. All I am saying is that it’s upon the husband and the wife to decide who they want to bring into the world and who not to. “But they’ll always want a boy and never a girl. That’s how the Indian society is built.” I am not too sure. I believe that as a whole new generation comes of marriageable age sans all the killed female foetuses, there’ll be a whole lot fewer girls to marry and then will come the classic demand-supply mismatch. This new generation’s males will have to fight for the remaining females. Dowry? I am pretty sure, this lack of females, and none of the myriad govt laws, will lead to an end to the dowry system. And these new couples, as they get ready to bear children, would realize that girls are not such a huge burden as their parents’ generation thought; and might, just might, even consider her a boon.

“But what about the fact that boys take care of their parents in their old age?” Again I believe, given the nature of the society and in the times to come, with the growing fight that young men will have to make among the ever growing male population, and population in general, for survival; parents will realize that the support structure that they thought would be there in their old age, namely their sons, would drop off from below their feet for these sons would be happy with their wives and their small nuclear family. These sons, when they marry and get ready to bear children, would realize that sons do not necessarily mean a support for old age, and hence would not be so against having a girl child.

And “Vansh”? Well, do you see any dynasties around? The only “vansh” these days is that of money. And this sees no name (or surname, for that matter!). It sees only talent. And I am sure that the new generation would be intelligent enough to see that.

“But still how is it related to the initial drug story?” Well, in this way, if you didn’t already see it. Banning something never ever works, least of all in a case such as this. As does not the banning of child labour. As does not, banning prostitution. They will all find a way to surive. The govt has to provide alternate means of income to naturally lead to an end to child labour or prostitution in the same way as it/society has to find a way to desire a girl child. The govt may ban industries polluting the Ganga and enforce it because there are only a 1000 odd of them (though the govt has even failed in doing this!). But how do you enforce a ban on a billion people across the length and the breadth of the country?

A ban in any such case would never work. What is needed is an atmosphere conducive to bearing a girl child. An atmosphere where parents and grandparents do not feel disappointed of having a girl born into their family. An atmosphere where parents do not start saving money for their daughter’s dowry from the day she is born. Where a girl’s birth is celebrated. And no ban can ever do this. Its only the free market forces that will get the society to where a girl’s birth is seen as natural, as natural as the birth of a boy. For, which father, were it not for other reasons, would not want to have a daughter, just a glimpse of whom, at the end of a long tiring day, lights up his face !


The self proclaimed CEO said...

pretty thought provoking.. You could have also touched upon the so called awareness generation campaigns by the Govt. "Care for the girl child". These awareness campaigns have an inherent flaw: when Govt. continuously promotes the idea that girl child is an equal, it in some manner also amounts to promoting the opposite. Its like when Coke continuously harps at the idea of being pesticide free, it also ends up reinforcing its association with pesticides making us more wary. May be the Govt. actions unless well designed end up achieving the opposite. I have often wondered how a TV commercial could change the way people look at a girl child.
And yea good girls are hard to find so this surely is a pressing problem .. ;-)

Manish Khamesra said...

you know campaigns are very against female foeticide might actually lead some ppl to get it done who might not hv thot abt it otherwise! while one abt caring for the girl child might make some parents realize that what they r doing is unethical. Realize! tho' maybe not act upon it. however, what i kept harping on was the futility of it all...anti-tobacco campaigns hv never worked, its their complete absence from TV and print that actually has !

Dhiren said...

i can sense the frustration. However the only way to approach public policy subjects is to constantly reinforce the message along with strengthening enforcement. Food for thought : imported brides from Bihar for the sons of Punjab and Rajasthan.
Completely unfair that you discredit anti-tobacco campaigns just cos you dont have any measure of the impact. Remember its all part of creating the ecosystem and trying to attribute value can be fallacious. Gestalt puts it best with the value of the whole being greater than the sum total of its parts

Anonymous said...

Terrific, that' s exactly what I was seeking for! You by the skin of one's teeth spared me alot of commission