Female and unwated in India

  • 14/11/1993

Female and unwated in India WHEN TECHNOLOGY, tradition and poverty combine to alter the sex ratio in India, who will point a finger and call us murderers? A foreign television network, if it is disposed to spend the time and money turning up evidence in obscure corners of the country. Last month, the BBC did precisely that, piecing together a mosaic of facts in a damning indictment of the status of Indian girls in the last decade of the 20th century.

Let Her Die, BBC's early October edition of its serial Assignment, contains nothing new for an Indian viewer. The female infanticide and amniocentesis mania has been making newspaper and magazine headlines here for almost a decade. But when you put the picture together (literally), and show men and women saying they have killed and would kill again; when you track down the doctor who has identified 30,000 female foetuses and feature him saying he is doing the country a service; when you don't pull punches and call a selective abortion seeker a murderer, you end up with a documentary that should make Indians hang their heads in shame.

Assignment reporter Emily Buchanan seems to get more evidence in Tamil Nadu and Punjab than in Rajasthan, where she does not manage to track down those who have committed or condoned infanticide. She, nevertheless, turns up enough evidence to make the treatment of female children a compelling human rights issue. Parents describe on camera how they kill their newborn daughters. Cameraman Surinder Kapoor also captures on videotape doctors who offer a package deal -- amniocentesis and, if the foetus is female, abortion -- and a doctor who shows an aborted foetus to the parents to satisfy them it was indeed a girl.

Already the results of sex-determined infanticide are becoming evident, though Buchanan's evidence consists only of a school and a paediatric clinic: Boys far outnumber girls in a primary school the team visits and one doctor's paediatric practice consists only of little boys.