This is an article from the November-December 1994 issue: India

Formed in the Womb

Formed in the Womb

Vinoo gently touched her swollen abdomen. "I don't want any girls," she remembered her husband saying. They had taken money from their meager savings to have a costly ultrasound taken of the unborn child in order to determine its gender. "It shows a female," the physician told them. Vinoo's husband became very agitated. "So abort it!" he insisted. "Please don't," Vinoo pleaded. Her husband glared at her in anger. "You know that my first-born child has to be a boy, Vinoo." (Global Prayer Digest, Vol.12,No.6)

The Hindu religion and society has placed strong emphasis on the importance of sons. The son, religiously, is of more merit because of his sex. A daughter, on the other hand, is not only less significant purely because of her sex, but is also often viewed as a mere liability and burden. She is not considered to be a part of the family, but belongs to her husband's family. The required dowry for a daughter is also a heavy burden for poor families. Instead, a son provides security for those in poverty, for it is the son that will care for his parents in their old age. Thus gender becomes of such great importance and value. Out of this religious and social system has arisen the problems of abortion and infanticide. Parents have found ways to rid themselves of unwanted female children. Studies in India have shown that in India the abortion of baby girls is very common, and the practice of female infanticide is still prevalent, despite legal steps against such practices. Statistics available from 1986-1987 show that 50,000 female babies were aborted after sex determination tests. The increasingly easy access to amniocentesis and ultrasound have become a vehicle for propagating such action. Abortions are easily available and openly advertised in many areas,

and are socially acceptable to the Hindu population.

The plight of these thousands of helpless lives is a powerful reminder of the darkness and sin surrounding those who do not acknowledge a sovereign and creating God--whether it be Hindu unbelief or the pull of agnosticism or humanism. But let us not forget the women who are sacrificing their children. Abortion and infanticide is not done without an affect on those who have known the reality of the life within them!

--Becky Martin of TEAM

Burning Desperation

Sarita has just been released from the hospital after many months in the burn unit. She has not returned to her home with her husband, but instead is living in a small apartment with her sister. She says that divorce proceedings are in progress, as well as a police case against her husband and sister-in-law. It will be many years before anything is decided.

Painfully, Sarita relates what has brought her to this point. She had been very unhappy in her marriage. She was abused both verbally and physically by her husband and his family. Not only that, but they had continued to pressure her and her parents for more dowry. Even after having two children, and the death of her husband's parents, there was not peace. Her sister-in-law, the wife of her husband's brother, continued to berate her and to encourage her husband to ask for more money. She was spiteful and cruel, and Sarita found no support against her dominating presence in the home.

Gradually, Sarita became aware of her husband pulling away from her even more. She began to suspect that he was actually sleeping with his sister-in-law, and the alliance between them grew even stronger. Sarita struggled to care for her children and protect herself from the abuses she felt. She argued frequently with her husband about her dowry. Her parents had given what they promised, and yet he continued to demand more. They refused to pay.

Finally one day, a violent argument erupted with her husband and sister-in-law. According to Sarita, he started to beat her. Then she heard them talking excitedly. Suddenly, her husband grabbed the jug of kerosene and began pouring it over her. In a flash, her sister-in-law struck a match and threw it on her. With screams of pain, Sarita dashed through the door, and finally stumbled into a drainage ditch, putting out the flames. Some neighbors quickly took her to the hospital. Her husband and sister-in-law claimed that Sarita injured herself in an attempt to commit suicide. They continue to live in the home with her children, until the courts make a decision in this case. Sarita now faces the uncertainty of no job or anyone to care for her.

"Bride Burning" or "dowry death" is not uncommon in India today. Government statistics for 1987 reported 1,786 registered dowry deaths, but many are never reported.

--Elisabeth Bumiller


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