A female baby, a waste of space

Published: December 17, 2011

Sana's mother-in-law stated that she had disappointed her and the family hugely because she was expecting a girl. PHOTO: REUTERS

It’s pitch dark outside, and not a sound can be heard anywhere. He hears the soft ruffling of his new-born daughter stir and he sneers at her in disgust.

“Waste of my money and a waste of space,” he mutters angrily.

As if sensing her father’s displeasure, the baby starts wailing softly. That’s it – he grabs her roughly, and before her mother can react, the baby is murdered. The only crime she had committed was that of being a girl.

Unfortunately, manly female infants meet the same end in Pakistan. According to The Edhi Foundation, it was estimated that more than a thousand infants were killed or left to die last year. The tragic truth is that most of these figures are gathered from the main Pakistani cities while the number of killings from the rural areas go undiscovered. The Edhi Foundation has also said that it has found forty babies dead in garbage dumps and sewers.

The rate of female infanticide has risen in Pakistan and it is believed that poverty is one of the main factors behind this sad reality. Because many women are not permitted to work and become the ‘financial responsibility’ of fathers and husbands, girls are seen as a ‘greater economic burden’.

Sana Siddiqui lived in one of the wealthiest sectors in Islamabad. Her husbands family was well-educated. Yet, she  sat in front of me, dabbing at her tear-stained cheeks with the ends of her dupatta.

Just 22, she was expecting her first child – a seven-month-old baby girl. She told me morosely that avoiding knowing the gender of the baby was probably the best decision if you had a family like hers. However, intense pressure from her nagging mother-in-law eventually pushed Sana to enquire whether the baby was a boy or a girl.

“When they told me it’s going to be a girl,” Sana said in between sobs, “I thought ‘No, no, no!”

She went on to narrate how when her mother-in-law found out the gender of the baby, she replied with frustration:

“Damn you, harvesting daughters everywhere.”

Sana told me how her parents had four daughters and they were all loved equally. She said that the problem of girls and boys being differentiated didn’t dawn on her up till she married her husband. Such thought is widely prevalent in Pakistan. Sana’s mother-in-law had declared that she had disappointed her and the family hugely because she was expecting a girl.

Sana isn’t the only woman who lives in dread of giving birth to a daughter. Many in Pakistan find themselves under tremendous pressure to bear sons, and when girls are born they are wiped off the earth without a trace.

Infanticide has also become rather widespread due to abortion being declared an illegal practice in Pakistan (with the exception of when the mother’s life is at risk due to the pregnancy). Legalising the act of abortion would greatly reduce infanticide, but that is an altogether different issue.

According to the law, the punishment of abandoning an infant is seven years in jail, and anyone found guilty of secretly burying a child can be sent to prison for two years. Murder is punished with life imprisonment. However, these crimes go undetected most often and people are rarely prosecuted due to a poorly trained police force.

Our religion Islam teaches us that the reward for giving birth to a daughter and bringing her up is paradise. The history of the life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) shows only tolerance and respect towards women. Then why do so many people despise the idea of having a female child?

Does it occur to these narrow-minded people that the reason why the world continues to go on is due to the hardships, determination, and tolerance a woman undergoes for nine difficult months? Also, do men realise that it is their sperm that determines the gender of the child, and the woman has nothing to do with this process?

Killing an innocent baby is the most horrendous crime any one can ever commit – it is a grave sin.

Do not let a female child become a burden; provide her with the most beautiful upbringing, let her have access to the best education you can afford, cherish her, and adore her rather than looking down on her as if she were the dust under your feet. She is a blessing from God.

aneka.chohan

Aneka Chohan

The author is a freelance journalist and human rights activist. She tweets as @anekachohan (twitter.com/anekachohan)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Khurram Mansoor

    The worst article ever to be written on the topic. Even sesatising such an important issue. So lame. Destroyed the whole sense of the article.Recommend

  • Didier

    It is indeed something very sad. I watched the film Bol and it really touched my hear. I appreciate that Tribune is speaking up to these issues of society in order for a change. Pakistan direly needs to wake up.Recommend

  • Rehan

    Low-earning women are the true heroes in Pakistani society. I have a lot of respect for their determination to feed and provide for their families. Frequently, men from that socio-economic background are lazy and a burden. The situation becomes the opposite in the upper classes, where women become a huge burden. Thus, no gender provides more than the other to society. We are equal, and should be treated as such in society.
    Regards,
    RehanRecommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    It is extraordinary how these smug, “pro-life” (rolls eyes) activists think they’re doing humanity such a massive favour by banning abortions.

    Yes, all of humanity is in debt to these people for the increased rate of back-alley abortions (and the rise in maternal mortality rate that follows), as well as rising prevalence of child negligence, child labour and female infanticide (as the author pointed out).

    But I’m sure it’s all a fair price to pay for “rescuing” a vat full of ectoplasmic goo that has no better appreciation or understanding of life than the plate of chicken you guiltlessly devoured for lunch.

    Give yourself a huge round of applause!Recommend

  • a 54321

    ‘Our religion Islam teaches us that the reward for giving birth to a daughter and bringing her up is paradise. ‘

    source?Recommend

  • JR

    Lack of education and severe lack of religious understandings is the root cause of all this happening! Recommend

  • Ali

    @Author

    No doubt its a serious issue. But plzz can you compare this to other countries??? can you write something which doesn’t demoralize but gives HIMMAT in women to stand up???

    Stop being an enemy of our nation. No more demoralization from Pakistani Media… One can write a better article which motivates women and address the issue more constructively. Recommend

  • Annas

    A very sad situation. Totally opposite to what our religion teaches us. Islam abolished female infanticide 1400+ years ago and we in Pakistan have not been able to eradicate it up until now. Recommend

  • Hira Z

    This author always touch my heart and leaves me speechless . Another positive contribution for the society. Bless you !Recommend

  • Olgr

    Hmmmm how is abortion any different for murdering, I fail to understand. This is truly very sad but WE people need to solve it some how. About religion I am no scholar but know this in thw Quran it is said “and the infant girl will ask (O Allah!) why was I persecuted” I for one can’t imagine to be on the other end and anyone who believes that day is coming should also take this in to consideration. Recommend

  • ana

    @ rehan
    women in lower classes work and earn but they are treated worse than dogs…n still considered a burden…educating and empowering the women at lower startum of society is the only way to move forwardRecommend

  • Parvez

    An important subject and I liked the simple, forceful way you made your point. Recommend

  • Kay Jay

    This is a huge issue in our society, even today , well educated rich families tend to be of that mindset …what i fail to understand is why is the mother blamed? .. only because she gave birth to the baby .. the child was conceived by both the husband and wife equally .. why is the woman blamed while solely it’s the sperm of the man that is the determinant .

    I know a Dr who divorced his wife only and only because she gave him 2 daughters. sad that even today sons are considered more precious and girls are looked down upon.

    Will this ever change ? … ever ?Recommend

  • ABC

    @Khurram, Okay, write a good article on this topic. Ghuma phira ke ik he baat pe ao ge na!Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    According to the law, the punishment of abandoning an infant is seven years in jail, and anyone found guilty of secretly burying a child can be sent to prison for two years. Murder is punished with life imprisonment. However, these crimes go undetected most often and people are rarely prosecuted due to a poorly trained police force

    Just 2 years for burying alive a child? Shouldn’t that come under murder?

    The ‘Islamic Republic’ moniker has become a cruel joke considering the way our society is and where it’s heading. Recommend

  • sana

    the jahalat that prevails in our country stops people from understanding that even if the gender of the baby comes from the sprem, it is Allah who gives people what He wants, its neither up to the woman nor the man to produce a female or male child.Recommend

  • Ignorant Rationalist

    “Also, do men realise that it is their sperm that determines the gender of the child, and the woman has nothing to do with this process?”

    A simpleton’s understanding of reality, of biology and of embryology. Let me shatter your delusions.

    Even if the baby has XY chromosome, he can turn out to be a female with female external genitalia if there is mutation in the testosterone receptors. Guess where are these testosterone receptors located? On X chromosome. Who gives X chromosome? The mother. Go google it up, since you are good at it. It is called testicular feminization syndrome.

    Let me shatter your delusions more. Women’s cervix and uterus plays a huge role in what sort of sperms survive. Woman’s diet alone plays an important role in determining what the sex of the baby will be.http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=80C1C2F5-0436-F9C5-E75C8FF34D921AC0Recommend

  • Saima

    Best article I’ve read on Tribune in a while. Recommend

  • Saima

    @a54321

    Whosoever has a daughter and does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favor his son over her, Allah will enter him into Paradise. (Ahmad)
    Whosoever supports two daughters until they mature, he and I will come on the day of judgment as this (and he pointed with his two fingers held together). (Ahmad) [9]

    There are more hadiths tooRecommend

  • Maria

    It’s true that women are not valued as much as men in Muslim societies like Pakistan but this article is showing that the phenomenon is getting worse. If we are to believe this article, we should ask why is our society changing? Is it because of Indian movies and culture which is flooding our air waves? After all they estimate that over 40 millions female babies were aborted in India over the last few years since abortion is allowed in India. I feel sorry for women around the world if this is true. Even here in Kingston, Canada there is the horrible story of an Afghani man who killed his wife and three daughters to protect his “honour”.Recommend

  • Dr. Banther

    I guess these people are so stupid that they don’t know that the sex of the baby is determined by the father. They should take out their frustrations on their son and then step in front of a truck so the world could be rid of one more idiot.

    A child is a blessing regardless of being born a girl or a boy and a woman can do anything a man can do in the new world. These same people who think in the past, have no problem using cell phones and riding in cars and airplanes. Give us modern benefits but only those modern things we approve of?

    I have two wonderful daughters who are both educated and have great careers. The world would be a better place if we could get rid of the Mullahs. Recommend

  • Berni

    @Rehan:
    In what upper classes do women become a huge burden? Not sure what you are talking about but in most upper class households in Karachi, there is sufficient money to guarantee a luxurious lifestyle whether the woman works or not – that’s why they are “upper class”. So I am not sure how the woman becomes a “burden”. In other upper households, women are just as educated as the men and have careers, sometimes making as much or more money than the men. I agree with you on the lower income households though – at least when you look at our maids etc.Recommend

  • Yousaf

    i wish all those people who hate daughters should be told that without daughters being born there wont be any mothers or wives either. The mother in laws should be reminded that they are daughters too.Recommend

  • sajid

    In pakistan the society is extremely tilted towards men. A man can be forgiven for everything but a woman is termed as immoral for going outside the house without a duppata on her head. I have personally heard stories of infantacide where people kill their daughters in rural areas since they fear when their daughters grow up they can be a threat to their honour. Furthermore illegal abortions are also quite common in our country where women are forced by their husbands and in-laws to abort female children.Recommend

  • A. Khan

    Preference to have boys is to with culture and more so to with social security. Boys inherit family name, bulk of the wealth. Girls are seen as a burden in that dowry is required at marriage plus the protection required until they get married.

    More importantly, in poorer circles with limited resources, boys are seen as a retirement plan in that they would provide for parents once they become too old to fend for themselves. This has led to an exploding population as people keep having kids in order to have more boys or alternately, if earlier children were girls, just to have boys.

    Unfortunately, our society and culture is stuck in the dark ages. Sure there are problems like lack of social care etc. but does that really mean infanticide should be carried out? For the piousness displayed, religion takes a walk when cultural issues comes up. As a nation, we seem to be confused on what we prefer more, our culture or religion. Please don’t confuse the two as those are completely separate as is evident in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Vigilant

    A good topic though but Article can be & needs improvement a lot………at least something more important than “JEANS & HIJAB”…….Recommend

  • http://utterlyurban.com/the-vampire-diaries-season-1-episode-9-history-repeating-songs/ Vampire

    It is unbelievable how people are still so backward in today’s world. Don’t mother in laws ever get it that they themselves are females. It is cruel to think of a baby girl as a waste of space. People who think like this should never have babies in the first placeRecommend

  • Omair Ahmed

    you know i find it pretty ironic that it is the women folk who make the life of other women a misery.women folk have a deep sense of insecurity in all places in the world(dont argue) be it America where they are used for their bodies or in Pakistan where they are killed.You see a husband would never kill her daughter he loves her more than he would love a son but the mother in law would want a son,it is all basically to stay important in the eyes of the men in their family circle(believe me the men need no attention but the women have to establish a hierachy so that a mother in law assumes a place of importance by asking for a son).Women like mother in law and the wife will always fight not because they cant get along but the basic instinct tells them to do so to be more important and a female child is just an excuse to vent frustration that has no meaning or purpose.Secondly the female child is killed but if she was to live than what she does or does not do becomes the concern of everyone around her.note when men talk they dont backbite other men not because they are very pious but because they dont have the insecurities that plague women.

    So in short this article just reflects the very small aspect of gender inequality that is rampant everywhere in the world and it is the honorable women who keep their insecurities alive.To break free first understand the problem and then feel secure.Teach your children the same things for i believe it is not men that deny women equal rights but women that deny each other the right of equality so that they can have more importance in the eyes of menRecommend

  • Anam

    I think you should watch this video about infanticide of female babies. It is shocking.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISme5-9orR0&feature=shareRecommend

  • zalim singh

    ohhh god. girls are God’s reflection.Recommend

  • http://about.me/arificial Arif Samoon

    What pains me is that it is always a woman behind this gender discrimination (usually mother-in-law). I really hope, one day, the woman stands up for her gender. Tell the world that ‘kids’ are not business ventures. Not something to gain profit or loss from. Tell them that they can’t be taken for granted. Tell them that when the gender they disgrace the gender of their mother as well. Just once, stand up.Recommend

  • nouman

    this is not the way to say thinhsRecommend

  • nouman

    this is not the way to say thingsRecommend

  • nouman

    good but be care [email protected]: Recommend

  • btw

    Please add (SAWW) or (PBUH) everytime you mention Prophet Muhammad (SAWW).Recommend

  • yousaf

    @Khurram Mansoor”The worst article ever to be written on the topic………”.I agree with you Khurram,there is no sensationalism in the article,Only plain facts,how boring.Recommend

  • Anees Majeed

    This article put very important matter “infanticide” as it is increasing day by day, regardless of the fact that this is big crime and sin against child. A matter of thinking and justice lies in how a person can think to do this act while having consciously or unconsciously aware of what he is going to do. One important thing is also lack of law implementation on the fact that why this is going to happened, the accused person must be punished and became an example for rest to see what he has done. Govt and NGO’s also need to look at the matter to aware people for this kind of acts. Recommend

  • x

    @Omair Ahmed:
    i am a woman myself but i absolutely concur with you. it is a very sad reality that a woman is in fact the enemy of anther woman. this inherent insecurity stems not just from women’s general nature but also due to the set up in our society where women’s importance is predicated on the status and wealth of their men, this dependency on the men arising due to their own lack of identity and independence means that women are involved in a power tussle to ensure their ‘hold’ over their men. thus, any new entrant in the family, especially an ‘outsider’ like the daughter in law is viewed as a potential shareholder in the rights over the men and no efforts are spared to undermine each other. even the wives are not exempt from this insecurity. usually, as taught by their mothers, immediately upon getting married, they try to weaken the hold of their husbands mothers over the men, house and resources and establish themselves as the new queens on the throne.
    women need to be not just educated but also, weaned away from the soaps which they watch and encouraged to read, think, have interests and hobbies so as to arise above of this petty thinking. Recommend

  • Zafar Ahmed

    @Khurram Mansoor:
    If you can write a better one then please do.Recommend

  • Abdullah

    @Khurram Mansoor:
    why? what was so wrong with the article? did u not like the usage of the grammar or maybe she missed some punctuation marks? or are you just criticizing for the sake of criticizing? Recommend

  • Abdullah

    @a 54321:
    The hadith. Recommend

  • AJ

    Well said! I agree with you one bit. These people should be ashamed of themselves. Murdering female infants is a one way ticket to hell! I totally agree with the writer.Recommend

  • http://www.flickr.com/ameerhamza Ameer Hamza

    Not very well written but brings the point home. Recommend

  • http://syedaabidabokhari.wordpress.com The Only Normal Person Here.

    Heart rending but a harsh reality of our society.Recommend

  • Oties

    Hi.

    Just wanted to say I am expecting a daughter in a few months and couln’t be more happier!
    I already have two daughters who I deeply love and although I would love to have a son, I am content with being gifted with a daughter,

    Allah will punish those who mistreat their children regardless of gender.Recommend

  • Rebecca Olesen

    Also, can someone tell these people who get angry at the ‘mother’ for ‘giving them daughters’ that the SEX OF THE BABY IS DETERMINED BY THE FATHER’s DNA.

    Spermatozoa’s carry the GENDER. Each sperm is either male or female, and doctors with microscopes can even tell the difference between male and female by sight. They are a different size, shape, and length of tail.

    So please quit blaming the mothers! How ridiculous. Also considering most men pay a ‘bride price’ I don’t know why they hate the daughters so much, that’s money right there.Recommend

  • Hiba

    really a harsh reality of our society! where on one side islam gives equality to men n women, on the other side people kill yet murder these innocent children.. just because they are baby girls..its really shamefull for every muslim if he commits this kind of ridiculous sin..Recommend

  • ….

    @Ignorant Rationalist:
    Diet does NOT influence the sex of the baby. Get YOUR facts right before correcting others. The number of calories you consume during pregnancy cannot possibly change the X chromosome into Y or the other way around.Recommend

  • sbc

    I never understood polygynous society that devalues female babies. Not very well thought out at all. At least their misogyny will result in a decreased population.Recommend

  • Asad

    I love my baby girl alot !!!!!!!Recommend

  • Waqqar

    Alhumdulillah I have baby girl two weeks before and she is every thing to me…….Recommend