Sex Selection Abortion

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Sex selection abortion is the practice of terminating a pregnancy based upon the predicted sex of the infant. The selective abortion of female fetuses is most common in areas where cultural norms value male children over female children, especially in parts of East Asia and South Asia (particularly in countries such as People’s Republic of China, India and Pakistan), as well as in the Caucasus, and Western Balkans (Wikipedia).  It is also practised in the UK and the US.   According to reproductive campaigners, there is no evidence that sex selective abortion is a problem in the UK.  And there is no data to indicate that it’s been done in the US.  However, the procedure is happening in Canada.

It is rarely openly discussed and difficult to prove, but new research suggests that some couples in Canada are practising prenatal sex selection, aborting female fetuses out of a preference for male children. Two related studies, published on Monday in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), found a higher-than-expected ratio of boys to girls born to immigrants from India over the past two decades, which researchers linked to preceding abortions. This gender imbalance was particularly striking among families that already had two daughters.”

Politicians and activists have argued for legal limits on abortion to deter sex-selection. banning the disclosure of the sex of a fetus until 30 weeks, when abortions are performed only in rare circumstances. But such measures are difficult to enforce and, some argue, unjustifiably sweeping, while others note that identifying and targeting specific groups for practising sex selection is discriminatory – The Globe and Mail

Although sex selection abortion is banned in Canada and there are policies against sex-selective abortions and against the use of medical testing solely for identifying a fetus’s sex, there are parents and doctors who argue that expectant parents have the right to know.  Shree Mulay, associate dean and professor of community health and humanities at Memorial University of Newfoundland heard accounts from social workers who have had women ask for the sex of their fetuses, only to later learn that they terminated the pregnancy after finding out.  Mulay, a specialist in immigrant women’s health suspects that women may not necessarily be the ones seeking sex-selective abortion, but may be acting under family pressure.  The responsibility of taking care of elderly parents fell on the son.

Not everyone is opposed to sex selective abortion.  Professor Wendy Savage, a member of Senior doctors’ union believes that sex selection abortions should be allowed at any stage, citing that it’s a woman’s right to decide because she’s the one taking the risks.  She believes that forcing women to give birth to a child of a sex they do not want to have “is not going to be good for the eventual child, and it’s not going to be good for [the mother’s] mental health.”

“As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter why any woman wants to end her pregnancy. If it’s to select for sex, that’s her choice.  But what about when a pregnant woman lives in a society that gives her real and considerable reason to fear having a girl? The kind of society where dowry systems mean an inconveniently gendered child could bankrupt a family, or one where a livid patriarch deprived of a male heir could turn his fury on both mother and daughter? In those situations, a woman wouldn’t just be justified in seeking sex selective abortion; she’d be thoroughly rational to do so.  Ultimately, if you believe strongly that girls have as much right to be born as boys, then you should also believe that women have the right to decide what happens within the bounds of their own bodies” (Sarah Dunn, Opinion, The Guardian).

The problem with sex selective abortions is that there will be an access of the preferred gender as in the evidence which found that there was an unnatural excess of boys in 12 countries since the 1970s, when sex-selective abortions started becoming available.  Girls who can be of great value to society are being aborted.  What can be done about this?  According to Shree Mulay, “…traditions have to be challenged.” She also iterated that to be effective, efforts to change attitudes that favour sons over daughters must come from within the immigrant groups themselves.

Amrita Mishra, project director of the Indo-Canadian Women’s Association in Edmonton, believes major factor in this issue are the existing legal loopholes which allow anyone to use abortion for infant sex selection.  “I see Canada as enabling as such practices. And I refuse to have this turn into an Indian issue that’s been imported like vegetables or fruit into Canada.”  She is of the opinion that a law against sex-selective abortion would send a powerful message to anyone considering the practice.

In China, there are new rules to prevent sex selective abortions.  However, there is concern among citizens and activists over state control and women’s rights.  According to the Globe and Mail article, “the Jiangxi province issued guidelines last week stipulating that women more than 14 weeks pregnant must have signed approval from three medical professionals confirming an abortion is medically necessary before any procedure. The measures are meant to help prevent sex-selective abortions, which are illegal in China. The sex of a child is often discernible after 14 weeks.”  However, this raises fears that the woman’s womb will be monitored, that the reproductive rights of a woman in the country are taken for a joke and that their reproductive functions are tightly controlled by the state.

Lu Pin, founder of Feminist Voices, a blog on gender issues said that people were worried that “the government will go from lifting restrictions, to encouraging reproduction, to imposing restrictions on abortion and restricting people’s own decisions.”  She also stated that many Chinese women, who had chosen not to have a second child despite the new policies, were fearful that strict social policies will be introduced.

The crack down on sex selective abortions  in the various provinces in China is as a result the number of abortions of female fetuses which resulted in massive gender imbalance of 30 million more men than women.  More provinces will follow Jiangxi’s lead in imposing restrictions on abortions after 14 weeks.   However, despite the concerns of some over these provincial changes, Cai Yong, an associate professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, doubts that China would go as far as barring abortions to encourage women to have more children. “Certainly China is capable and has a history of doing that kind of thing but whether it will go all the way to ban abortion … I think that’s a little too far.”

Sex selective abortion is wrong and should be banned or criminalized.  Girls should be celebrated as well as boys.  If you feel the same way I do, The Population Research Institute encourages you to:

Take action against the sex selective abortion.  Life is precious, regardless of gender.

What if it’s another girl?

lakshmi-bhat

Photo Courtesy of Lakshmi Bhat

“What’s the matter, Aditi?” Bavishni asked her friend.  They were sitting on the verandah watching little Jaafar run barefoot about the yard.

Aditi sighed.  “I’m pregnant,” she announced.

“Pregnant?”  Bavishni got up and hugged her.  “Congratulations!”

“Thanks.”

“You don’t seem happy that you’re pregnant.”

“What if it’s another girl?”

“So what?”

“You can say that because you have a son.  Tahir and I already have a girl.  What if this one’s another girl instead of a boy?”

“Aditi, it isn’t the end of the world if you have another girl–”

“You’ve been living in America too long, Bavishni.  You’ve forgotten our ways.  Back home having a girl is considered by many to be a curse.  Don’t you remember what happened to Rekha?  She had another daughter and her mother-in-law poured paraffin over her.  She was about to strike a match and set her on fire in the bed when the neighbors rushed in.  They’d heard Rekha screaming.  I don’t want that to happen to me if this baby turns out to be another girl.”

Bavishni put her arm around her.  “Tahir won’t let anyone harm you.  He loves you.”

“But he wants a son.”

“I hope it’s a boy.”

 

200 Words

This story was inspired by the sad reality that still exists in India where according to Anju Dubey Panbey, of the Centre for Social Research, “if you are blessed with a son you are almost revered, and if you are the mother of daughters you are made to feel guilty and your status in your family goes down. It is very, very disturbing.”  To read more about this, visit Here.  Many Indians don’t want daughters who become financial burdens because the matrimonial dowry demanded by a groom’s family.  Perhaps the best solution to this problem may be to do away with the dowry.

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  The Guardian

Abandoned

In the early hours of

The morning, outside of

A hospital in the city of

Bharatpur in Rajasthan

A newborn baby girl was

Discovered.

 

Her umbilical cord still intact

She had been there

All night as a light rain that fell

Her only cover an old pink shawl.

She was abandoned.

Why?  She is a girl.

 

Sadly, her story is like so many

Others in India where couples want a boy

Because they are impoverished

And raising a girl is too costly.

 

In a society where boys are

Preferred, the lives of girls

Are devalued.  They are either

Aborted or abandoned.

Adoption centres have

Been put in place to rescue

And care for babies like this one.

Their credo is “don’t dump, give them

To us.”

 

A baby girl deserves to live and grow

in a society where she is a blessing and

Not a burden because of her gender.

 

Indian baby (1)

Source:  Aljazeera

 

Women Beggars in India

The Bible has told us that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  In fact, Jesus said that one day He will say to those who helped those in need, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’ (Matthew 25:34-36).

It is hard to go to a place like India and see a woman on the streets, begging with a child in tow and not do something about it.   She is dressed shabbily, perhaps bare feet, her face dirty and in her arms is a sleeping infant or a toddler with a dirty face, runny nose and big eyes looking at you as his mother holds out a thin, dirty hand for money.  Your heart melts and you reach into your handbag or your money belt to take out some money to give her.  It’s impossible for you not to help this mother and her child.  You give her the money and she takes it and goes way.  Your heart feels light.  You have done a great thing.

 

It’s a common sight in India to see a dirty looking woman carrying a child in her arms.  If you are driving, you see them at the traffic light and when you stop, they come to your car and bang on the window. Sometimes it’s a little boy with a runny nose.   You will find them in the railway stations, metro stations, tourist attractions, in temples and in areas where there are crowds.  People who see them are moved to give them money.  Sometimes they shoo them away.

 

It is perfectly normal for people to beg in a country where there is so much poverty.  In fact, begging has become one of the most serious social issues in India in spite of rapid economic growth.  This has led to the growth of beggars in the country.  Most of them come from Bangladesh and some are from India. The problem is that not all of the beggars are legitimate.  The few who are real are those who are handicapped because they are unable to work, they are old or blind or they need money for basic needs.  Many live far below the poverty line and have been forced to beg in order to survive.

 

There are entire families who are begging on the streets and in temples because their income is not enough.  The children are unable to go to school.  Poverty is very real in India and begging is the only way the people can earn their livelihood.  Unfortunately, begging has become a big scam in India. Travel India Smart warns people who plan to visit India that if they are approached by a women carrying a baby and begging for money not to give her any money.  These women make the babies look pathetic to appeal to the public’s sympathy.

 

In an article, Travel India Smart says that when one woman takes a rest, she hands the baby over to other women who continue to walk the streets in the hot sun, carrying the baby.  Babies are rented out from beggar to beggar.  As a mother, I can’t imagine how a mother could allow her baby to be used like this.  Maps of India says that sometimes the babies are drugged for the entire day so that they look sick and can be easily carried from one area to another by the young women beggars.

 

These beggars want money.  One beggar said that the baby she was carrying had just been fed and she would prefer money.  In Mumbai, a child or a woman beggar approaches a visitor, wanting some powdered milk to feed a baby.  The woman would take the visitor to a nearby stall or shop which happens to sell tins or boxes of the milk.  The milk is pricey and if the tourist hands over the money for it, the shopkeeper and the beggar split the proceeds between them.  The beggars rent babies from their mothers to make them look credible and they carry these sedated babies who are draped limply in their arms and claim that they don’t have any money to feed them.

 

When confronted by a woman beggar and a child, what do we do?  In an article written in Go India, Sharell Cook, suggests that it is best to ignore the beggars.  It may sound harsh but by not giving them what they want, you are taking the necessary step toward abolishing beggary.  It is something that has become a menace to society.  It is exploiting the compassion of those who want to help those in need.  It is making it difficult for the real beggars.  Babies and children are being exploited.  And gangs are profitting from begging.  Some beggars have gone as far as deliberately maiming and disfiguring themselves just to get more money.

 

Something has to be done to stop this epidemic.  One suggestion is that charitable organizations use their clout with governments to ban beggars from using babies.  Another suggestion is that the Indian government continues with its measures to alleviate poverty.  For our part, people can help to stop this problem by not giving money to these beggars.  Instead, they are encouraged to visit a temple and give alms to the beggars there.

 

Tips for giving to Beggars are:

  • If you really want to give to beggars, give only 10-20 rupees at a time and give them when leaving a place not when you arrive or you will be mobbed.
    • Try to give to those who perform a service, such as small children who dance or sing
    • Give to those who are elderly or crippled.

 

God wants us to show compassion to those who are in need but He doesn’t expect us to help those who would take advantage of our charity and exploit others for their greedy gains.

 

Avoid giving to women with babies because the babies are usually not theirs.  The best thing you can do is to not give anything to the beggars.  If everyone were to stop giving, then these gangs and all those who are profitting from begging will be put out of business.  They will have no choice to work and earn an honest living.  And visitors can enjoy a hassle free vacation.

 

indian_beggar_woman

Sources:  Map of IndiaTravel India SmartGo India

The Fires of Faith

Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.  And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:21, 22).

 

They meet in secret at night.  They don’t meet in the same place too often.  They don’t tell their families about these meetings.  They draw the curtains to keep the world out. They speak in whispers. Every day they meet, it is a gamble.  At any moment, they could be discovered.  The risk is great.  They live in fear of being arrested, tortured or killed.  Is it worth it?  To the members of the underground churches, it is.  They risk everything for their belief.

 

Life for Christians is terrible in places like North Korea, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Egypt, Iraq and Syria.  It is ironic that it was to Egypt that Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus to escape Herod’s murderous rampage yet today, Christians are under great pressure.  Secret believers like In Syria, Christians had to flee their homes.

 

Those of us who are living in the West, we can worship openly in church buildings.  We don’t have to speak in whispers.  We can sing and pray out loud. We enjoy religious liberty.  Some of us may face opposition from our families.  Jesus warned us of this.  “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and a ‘man’s enemies will be those of his own household’” (Matthew 10:34-36).

 

Just recently, I read a story of a father who forbad his daughter from going to church.  Her family was from an Orthodox background so they had a problem with her wanting to attend a Protestant church.  She resorted to sneaking off and going to church.  There are other stories of men and women persecuted, beaten, ostracized and even murdered by family members because of their faith.

 

It’s hard to believe that Christians persecute other Christians.  However, this is prevalent in Ethiopia.  Christians from the Orthodox churches who leave to find more vibrant churches are pressured to return.  In the days prior to the Reformation, many believers were forced to hide.  Such groups were the Waldensians who were forced underground because they were declared heretics by the Roman Catholic Church.  They rejected the teachings of the church and what they believed to be the idolatry of the church and considered the Papacy as the Antichrist of Rome.

 

Many were driven from their homes and into the mountains when in January 1655, the Duke of Savoy commanded them to attend Mass or sell their lands and go to the upper valleys of their homeland.  It was in the middle of winter.  The Duke didn’t expect them to choose to leave their homes and lands in the lower valleys.  Yet, they did and it was written that the old men, women and the sick “waded through the icy waters, climbed the frozen peaks and at length reached the homes for their impoverished brethren of the Upper Valleys where they were warmly received”  Sadly, the horrors of persecution were about to be unleashed.

 

 

When the Duke realized that his efforts to get the people to conform to Catholicism, he tried another approach.  Under the guise of false reports of uprisings, he sent the troops to the people. It was a ruse to gain them easy access.  Then, on April 24, 1655 at 4am when the people would have been sleeping, the troops were given the command to go and massacre them.  They didn’t just slaughter the people but they looted, raped, tortured and murdered.  Peter Liegé reported the following:

 

 

Little children were torn from the arms of their mothers, clasped by their tiny feet, and their heads dashed against the rocks; or were held between two soldiers and their quivering limbs torn up by main force. Their mangled bodies were then thrown on the highways or fields, to be devoured by beasts. The sick and the aged were burned alive in their dwellings. Some had their hands and arms and legs lopped off, and fire applied to the severed parts to staunch the bleeding and prolong their suffering. Some were flayed alive, some were roasted alive, some disemboweled; or tied to trees in their own orchards, and their hearts cut out. Some were horribly mutilated, and of others the brains were boiled and eaten by these cannibals. Some were fastened down into the furrows of their own fields, and ploughed into the soil as men plough manure into it. Others were buried alive. Fathers were marched to death with the heads of their sons suspended round their necks. Parents were compelled to look on while their children were first outraged [raped], then massacred, before being themselves permitted to die (Wikipedia).

 

annacharbonieretortured

Print illustrating the 1655 massacre in La Torre, from Samuel Moreland’s “History of the Evangelical Churches of the Valleys of Piemont” published in London in 1658.

 

 

The Piedmont massacre happened during Easter.  In fact, it became known as the Piedmont Easter and it was estimated that about 1,700 Waldensians were slaughtered.  Its brutality aroused the indignation of the European nations and sanctuary was offered to the remaining Waldensians.

 

 

Today, many Christians face the same kind of brutality for their faith.  Women have been attacked, beaten or murdered because they converted to Christianity.  Girls have been brutally raped for their faith or their parents’ faith. According to a report in the New York Times:  “Christians in areas of Egypt that are largely dominated by Muslim militants continue to suffer from violence and humiliation. These believers are under constant threat of their houses and other properties being burned down, or possibly being mugged while walking along the streets. Even church buildings are not spared as they are desecrated and marred with hate graffiti written on the walls.”  Christians are living in fear.  Some of them are secret believers like Femi* and Alim*

 

November 6 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.  I encourage you to watch the moving video, Pray With Them from Open Doors and try to imagine what it would be like to live in a country where you have to go underground in order to worship or face prison, persecution, torture or death.

 

Keep the fires of faith burning.  Do not let anyone or anything extinguish them.  Hold fast until our blessed Lord Jesus Christ comes and you receive your crown.

Mental Health Crisis in India

More than 50 million people in India suffer from a mental illness.  In 2011, India recorded the highest rate of major depression in the world at 36 per cent.  According to doctors, roughly 10 per cent of India’s population suffers from depression – MGMH

 

Women with mental illness are treated as less than human.  They are dumped, abandoned and abused.  If there are any signs of mental illness, a woman is put in a mental hospital with no chance of getting out.  Men can go back home while women are there for life.  In the following video, we meet a woman whose husband had her institutionalized although she had no history of mental illness.  Here’s a story of a mentally ill woman whose husband built a case against her so that he could get custody of their children after divorcing her.

It is not surprising that women suffer from depression at higher rates than men.  They have to deal with gender inequality, violence, lack of paid employment, lack of education, excessive spousal alcohol use and poverty.  Mothers are blamed for the birth of a female child and many face pressure to have male children.  Women are diagnosed with schizophrenia later in life, oftentimes, following the birth of their children.  The children are often removed from the ill mother’s care and this results in further distress for her. Indian women have higher rates of suicide than women in most developed countries and a higher rate of suicide compared to men in India.  Depression is one of the most common reasons for suicide among Indian women.

Mental health in India carries with it a stigma, especially if the person suffering from mental illness is a woman.  According to MGMH (Movement for Global Mental Health), in rural India, it is common to see people taking their children to temples and faith-healers instead of hospitals and doctors, especially in cases of mental health.  Mental health was something that was talked about in hushed tones.  Thankfully, it is no longer being swept under the rug.  People are coming forward.  Deepika Padukone stunned her fans last year when she admitted that she suffered from anxiety and depression.

At the time the news broke, she was one of the most sought after actresses in Bollywood. It took tremendous courage for her to disclose her illness, especially since people diagnosed with mental illness face discrimination.  Deepika has since launched the Live Love Laugh Foundation to raise awareness about mental health issues and as a result many celebrities were inspired to come out in the open and address the need to talk about mental health.  Varun Dhawan admitted that he was depressed during the making of Badlapur and Honey Singh revealed that he has been undergoing therapy for bipolar disorder.

Sadly, those living with mental illness are victims of a cruel fate.  They are often locked away and stripped of their basic human rights in state-run institutions that are under-staffed. In an article, titled Mentally Ill Suffer a Horrible Fate in India posted on the site for Deutsche Welle (DW), most state run mental hospitals are in deplorable conditions. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported that out of the 43 government mental hospitals in India, less than half a dozen are in a “livable” condition”.

There are doctors in charge of these hospitals who have no business being there.  “These doctors don’t understand the intricacies of a psychiatric illnesses and the comprehensive care the patients require,” said a psychiatrist working in a state-run mental hospital in Uttar Pradesh.

And in the midst of the crisis of hospitals not providing the conditions and care the patients need, are quack healers who are profiting from this.  According to a study by Dr. Shiv Gautam, former superintendent of Jaipur Mental Hospital, 68 per cent of the mentally ill are taken to faith healers before a psychiatrist.  “The reason, besides superstition, is that most general medicine doctors fail to diagnose psychiatric illness,” Gautam said. “A mentally ill patient displays symptoms which superstitious people believe are paranormal,” he added. “Such patients are tortured, chained and used for extracting money from their families.”  Hema, who was suffering from Schizophrenia was believed to have an evil spirit.  Her family took her to Datar Sharif Dargah where she spent a year locked up.  It wasn’t until her condition deteriorated that she was brought to Dr. Gautam.  In 15 days, she began to improve and a month later she was normal.

In other cases, the mentally ill are subjected to one of these horrific ordeals:  whipping, caning, inhaling burnt chili smoke, having their eyes smeared with chili paste or having their eyes branded with red, hot coins.  There are laws banning this practice, however, many dargahs and temples keep the patients chained.  Some of them spend the rest of their lives like this.  In 2001, 26 patients perished in a fire at a dargah in a coastal village because they couldn’t escape the blaze since they were chained.  What a horrific and senseless tragedy.

Families of mentally ill people opt for dumping them.  This means that they are dumped into an asylum where the conditions are not fit for a human.  When an illegal asylum was raided, they found thirty-five men and six boys living in inhuman conditions.  The stench from their unwashed bodies and the excrement drove neighbors to alert the health department.  Naked and chained inmates were discovered, dumped there by their families after they paid the asylum owner.  Some of these poor souls were found crawling in their excrement, some even consuming it.  On their bodies were marks of torture.  Some had surgical scars on their backs, leading to allegations that the asylum had links to kidney theft.  78 patients had entered the asylum but only 41 were found during the raid.

Other patients are dumped in jungles or forests ranges.  Their families pay lorry drivers to drop them.  Women and children are among these victims and in some cases, the females are raped by the drivers before being dumped.  Social activist Murugan S. who has rescued countless mentally ill people from the streets, cautions us not to judge the families by calling them cruel.  Instead we are to examine what forced them to take such extreme measures.  He believes that system needs to change.

Part of the solution is raising awareness.  The suffering of the mentally ill has been brought to our attention. It is out in the open.  The next thing that needs to be done is to show the superstitious and fearful society that mental illness is nothing to run away from or to be ashamed of.  The person suffering from mental illness needs love, support and most importantly, proper care so that he or she can live a normal life.

The government needs to put something place to ensure that patients are placed in reputable, sanitary facilities that will provide the care that they need and to ban the operation of illegal asylums and the practice of dumping.  Quack healers should be banned from profiting from other people’s suffering.  Husbands should not be allowed to institutionalize their wives if there is no record that they have mental illness.

No one wants to be mentally ill but it is a reality for many people and what they need is to know that they have a platform where they can talk about what is happening with them. Here in Canada, we have Bell Let’s Talk, a wide-reaching, multi-year program designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across the country. It has done so much to fight the stigma of mental illness and encourage people to get involved in educating themselves and others.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that something will be put in place in India so that attitudes toward mental illness would change and those suffering from it will have a platform where they would not be judged, dumped, abandoned or discriminated but supported and be treated with dignity and open minds.  In the meantime, let’s keep talking and raising awareness.

Talking is the best way to start breaking down the barriers associated with mental illness – Bell, Let’s Talk

 

Sources:  Vice News; Movement of Global Mental Health; Wikipedia; Deutsche Welle

Armless Artist

I saw this incredible story a few moments ago.  It is about Swapna Augustine, a woman from born in Kerala, India who was born without arms.  She uses her feet to paint and makes a living from selling her artwork.  What amazed me about this story was the dream her father had of her before she was born.

Swapna is an inspiration for all us because she refuses to be let her disability define or inhibit her.

Swapna is a member of the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists.  You can check out her work here.