A culturally embedded preference for male child in the south Asian countries, especially in India, Nepal and China, has led to widespread sex selective abortions, female infanticide and neglect of girls. The anti-girl bias in India has led to a lopsided sex-ratio for years. Only 918 females are born for every 1,000 males in the country.
Doctor Ganesh Rakh (41), who runs his own hospital in Pune, has therefore decided to launch a unique initiative. In 2012, Rakh started a ‘campaign to save the girl child’ at his hospital. For every girl child born in his hospital, he waives the fee, and makes sure the newborn is welcomed by doctors and nurses with a cake and songs.
Dr Rakh, who started the campaign in 2012, has been instrumental in giving life to more than 500 girls so far
He shares that often relatives of the expecting mother who came to his hospital would openly hope for a boy. There would be celebrations and sweets if a male child was born. But a baby girl is unwelcome and the same relatives would disappear, the mother would cry and the families would ask for a discount.
He also offers counselling services both to the mother and her relatives. In which they spend time understanding the family’s concerns and easing their fears about having a daughter.
He counters the pressure to have a boy by telling the mother and families from day one, “You’re going to have a girl”, despite not actually knowing the gender of the foetus
Dr Rakh feels that the prevalent mindset is that the family isn’t complete without a boy. The boy is supposed to provide financially support to the parents in old-age, carry on the family name and in rural areas provide much-needed labour. On the other hand, girls are considered to be a financial burden, who will leave the parents for their matrimonial homes. Marriage customs deeply rooted in patriarchy dictate that the girl’s family has to pay a large dowry to get her married. And they bear all the marriage expenses.
Campaigners and studies indicate that millions of female foetuses have been aborted in recent years, despite laws being introduced to ban antenatal sex screening and a national campaign urging parents not to kill their daughters.
Dr Rakh says the day families start celebrating a girl’s birth is “the day I’ll start charging my fees again”.