A father in India has been arrested after admitting to burying his child alive because he and his wife wanted a son instead of a daughter.
Ramesh Chandra is a 35-year-old part-time taxi driver, according to the Daily Mail. His family already consisted of “two daughters and a son” and two babies they chose to abort, according to police. In India, parents desire sons because they are “expected to support [their parents] in their old age.” Daughters, however, “are [considered] to be a burden because of the huge dowries still frequently required for marriage.”
The baby girl was found by local villagers who discovered her feet “sticking up from a shallow sand pit in farmland in the Jaipur district of the eastern state of Odisha.” An onlooker filmed the dramatic rescue that resulted in the baby’s life being saved. Medical staff believe that the newborn had been taken from her mother soon after birth as the baby’s umbilical cord was still attached. The baby had not even been wiped off before being transported to what her father thought would be her shallow grave, as she was still covered in vernix.
Alok Rout, who witnessed and helped rescue the baby, recalled, “It was a little kid who first saw the feet of the child buried under a compost dump in a field. … Later we rushed to the spot and rescued the newborn girl.”
The baby can be heard belting a loud scream once the sand is cleared from her face. Fanindra Kumar Panigrahi, chief medical officer in the Jaipur district, reported that the baby “is doing fine and all her parameters are normal. She is a full term baby, weighting around 2.5kg,” which is approximately 5.5 pounds. Hospital staff caring for the baby have nicknamed her “Dharitri,” a Sanskrit word meaning “the earth.” After being discharged from the hospital, Dharitri will be placed with the state-run child welfare committee.
Police will charge Chandra for attempted manslaughter for his crime. Investigators reported that the couple was “unable to explain about the missing child after [they] scanned the locality for expecting mothers.” After being questioned, Chandra admitted to “burying the baby, saying he was too poor to raise a daughter.”
While Dharitri will have a happier outlook than the first few hours of her life pointed towards, this attempted murder is not an isolated incident in India. Despite the fact that India “banned prenatal sex determination to stop its misuse,” parents there are still trying to kill their baby girls. One 2011 study “found that up to 12 million girls had been aborted in the last three decades in India.”
Using ultrasound technology and other tools to determine a baby’s gender before birth is a useful tool “for families with sex-linked genetic diseases.” However, in South and East Asia, these methods have been and are being used to determine the sex of the fetus before selectively aborting females,” according to a National Institutes of Health report from 2013.
In response, India has “banned prenatal sex determination to stop its misuse, although the tests are still thought to be common, particularly in poor rural areas.” Lawmakers have also banned dowries through the Dowry Prohibition Act, which results in “prison sentences for both the receiver and the giver of a dowry,” but the law is hard to enforce. Many Indian communities believe “that the dowry may be the way to obtain a suitable match, to overcome the bride’s shortcomings, or to secure favorable treatment in the home of the in-laws,” so it is often reported as a gift.
Similarly, sex-selective abortion remains rampant. As the Daily Mail reported, in just one location this month “police recovered 19 female fetuses from a sewer in the western state of Maharashtra and accused a doctor of illegally aborting them on behalf of parents desperate for a boy.” Dogs brought attention to another female unborn baby “found buried near a sewer in New Delhi” when the dogs began to dig at the makeshift grave.
It is devastating to know that for the one Dharitri whose life was spared, at least 20 other lives were taken just this month in three towns in India, simply because of two X chromosomes given to them at the moment of conception.