In India, having a son is cause for great celebration. Having a daughter? Not so much. But one Indian doctor is trying to bring a change to this anti-female culture.
The reasons for India’s attitude towards female children include simple economic motivations. Sons are considered financial assets, while daughters are considered liabilities, in part due to the dowry system, in which the family of the bride must make an expensive payment to her husband’s family. Cultural attitudes toward female children have led to high rates of sex-selective abortions in India.
Decades of sex-selective abortion have created an acute lack of women in certain parts of India. Traffickers capitalize on the shortage by recruiting or kidnapping women ensnared in poverty to sell as brides. It’s a cycle influenced by poverty and medical technologies, but one that ultimately is perpetuated by India’s attitude towards women.
The 50 Million Missing Campaign, an “award winning, global campaign to end the ongoing female genocide in India,” reports that over 50 million women have been exterminated over the last three generations through various forms of violence including female feticide, female infanticide, and forced abortions.
One man, Dr. Ganesh Rakh, is doing what he can to improve the situation for girls in India. Dr. Rakh explains his perspective on India’s attitude towards female children…
They would celebrate and distribute sweets if a male child was born, but if a girl was born, the relatives would leave the hospital, the mother would cry, and the families would ask for a discount. They would be so disappointed.
The biggest challenge for a doctor is to tell relatives that a patient has died. For me, it was equally difficult to tell families that they’d had a daughter.
In 2012, Dr. Rakh – who has a nine-year-old daughter – decided to do something about it, launching the Mulgi Vachva Abhiyan (which translates to “campaign to save the girl child”):
I decided I would not charge any fee if a girl was born. Also, since a son’s birth was celebrated by the family, we decided we [at the hospital] would celebrate a daughter’s birth.
Hospital celebrations for the birth of daughters include bringing flowers to the parents, chocolate cake, lighting candles, and singing songs.
BBC reports that since the campaign began in 2012, 464 girls have been born in Dr. Rakh’s hospital – and he has not charged the parents any fee.
In addition to his own work, Dr. Rakh has been contacting other doctors, asking them to consider performing at least one free delivery for the family of a new daughter. He has organized marches to convince people that daughters are just as precious as sons.
Dr. Rakh describes his contribution to the welfare of women and daughters in India as a “small thing,” but he adds, “sometimes small things impact minds in a big way.”