Son preference over daughter high among Nepalis
By Arpana Adhikari
Kathmandu, Mar. 26: Preference for sons over daughters among Nepali families are still strong, though there are various measures adopted to discourage the families to terminate fetuses of girl child.
Gayatri (name changed), a 65-year old woman from Chandol, Kathmandu never fails to advise her neighbours and relatives, who don’t have a son, to take an advantage of medical technology to detect the sex of fetus and opt for sons over daughters.
Gayatri, who proudly shares the tale of her own daughter-in-law, who had terminated three of her previous pregnancies, because the fetuses were of girls, is now a proud grandmother of a 7-year boy.
“One of my uncles keeps pressurising me to give birth to a son. But every time, I ignore his suggestion and he gets furious and pass a disgusting comment that he will ask my husband to marry another girl so he can have a son,” Sharada Thapa of Baneshwor said.
“Don’t you think this is the creepiest comments to make on your own nephew? But our society always lays greater emphasis on male, which stems from the patriarchal family system; and our religion too grants more authority to men than women.”
Six years ago, when Pushpa Bidari, a Thankot local got married, she had an unforgettable experience. One of her husband’s relatives had gifted her Chinese calendar and suggested her to follow the gender chart to conceive a baby boy.
Bidari quoted her relative saying that she (the relative) and many of the relative’s relatives had successfully conceived baby boys following this chart.
Bhawani (name changed) of Siphal, who is eight-week pregnant, shares how she feels the mounting pressure to have a male child.
This mother of two daughters had already terminated her two fetuses due to family pressure, after knowing the fetuses were of girls. She said she was worried about further termination unless her subsequent pregnancy proved to be a boy. “Please, god let it be a boy,” she cried.
Though the world is changing in terms of establishing gender equality, there’s no denying that there are still many families in Nepal, who prefer a male child because a son is culturally, economically and socially more desirable than a daughter, said Ananda Tamang, Director of CREHPA.
The pressure to give birth to sons rather than daughters can be overwhelming, and sometimes heartbreaking, he said.
The strong preference for sons, declining fertility rate and the availability of medical technology such as ultrasound that makes it possible to detect the gender of fetus had led people to select sons over daughters (through sex-selective abortion), a study carried out by the Centre for Research on Environment,
Health and Population and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said.
The practice is so common that the natural 50-50 gender balance had been upended in some parts the country.
Nepal has also begun to show signs of imbalanced sex ratios in the population below one year of age that exceeds the biological norms of 106 or more boys per 100 girls, the report of CREHPA and UNFPA stated in its report.
The sex-ratio at birth in Arghakhanchi stood at 119 males per 100 females and 113 per 100 females in Lalitpur. Similarly, the sex ratio at birth in Jhapa, Rupadnehi and Sunsari and Makwanpur stood at 109, 107, 108 and 107 respectively.
The report by CREPHA showed that around 89 per cent of pregnant women who have previously given birth to two or more daughters have expressed their strong desire for son and 73 per cent of those with one daughter have also expressed their preference for male child.
Nepal legalised abortion in 2002 and the country’s abortion law prohibits disclosure of the sex of the fetus and termination of pregnancy based on sex.
Despite the ban, prenatal sex determination and gender biased sex selection are occurring in the country and have begun to result in skewed sex ratios at birth among the population in certain Terai and hilly districts, the report stated, said Tamang.
The report of CREHPA revealed that the proportion of second and third born children among the Nepal is statistically abnormal-favouring the birth of boys.
Though, there is no accurate data but these findings can be interpreted as evidence that gender-selective abortion is taking place in the country, added Tamang.