The first episode of Aamir Khan’s show Satyamev jayate raised the issue of female foeticide in Rajasthan. While the show asked for stringent laws, it missed a few major reasons behind the same.
- Male child as a support for old-age (lack of social security)
Nandan Nilekani explained the issue in depth in its Book Imagining India and strongly recommended a contribution based pension plan for self-employed Indians to relieve old age insecurity.
- Prohibition on consanguineous marriage in most of India
Indologist Koenraad Elst wrote “In patriarchal societies like Confucian China and Hindu India, a daughter leaves her family upon getting married. This affects the status of the girl child negatively, making her education into a burden on the family that will only profit another family. (…) Brahmanical tradition, like the Roman Catholic Church, frowned upon inbreeding and imposed forbidden degrees of consanguinity. This taboo does not exist in most West-Asian and North-African countries. More often than not, a young man will marry his first or second cousin; or a slightly older man, his niece.”
Thus, unfortunately, for most patriarchal Indians for whom consanguinity is a taboo, marrying his daughter to a man hitherto unknown to him (in Koenraad’s words) is like “tilling his (unknown) neighbor’s land”.
While we can always make laws to fight foeticide, the real solution can only come out by trying to sort out above two issues.
The issue of consanguinity is, of course, a cultural one but if government fixes the issue of old age insecurity, the desire for a male child and thus, the problem of female foeticide should disappear in long run.