Why Baby B is good news in the Indian gender bias war

As media frenzy rose to a feverish pitch on the imminent birth of the Aishwarya-Abhishek Bachchan child, the question that was foremost was – would the baby be a boy or a girl?

And it’s a girl.

That’s much more than good news in a country where there is an alarming gender bias against the girl child.

Why Baby B is good news in the Indian gender bias war

In a country where there is an alarming gender bias against the girl child, this is more than good news. Image for representation only. Reuters

Take today’s story in The Times of India. “The number of pregnancies terminated in south Mumbai is higher than in the rest of the city. While some health experts feel this could be a reflection of better access to healthcare in the city's older and well-established parts, others were of the opinion that it could be an oblique indicator of gender-selected abortions. The island city has, after all, fewer girls to boys in the 0-6 age group in comparison to the suburbs,” the article says.

Two days ago, Mint had this to say: “India’s child sex ratio—defined as the number of girls per 1,000 boys up to age six—continues to be on the wane in the second fastest growing major economy, tripping aside conventional wisdom that gender inequality declines as the economy improves. India’s child sex ratio is at its worst since Independence, according to some participants at the India Economic Summit of the World Economic Forum in Mumbai. Data from the 2011 census show India’s sex ratio has slipped to 914 from 927 in 2001 and 946 in 1991.”

These are good reasons why the birth of the Bachchan daughter should not be ignored by media as decided by the Broadcast Editors association– but covered in depth.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and her husband certainly have the clout and the money and the wherewithal to have been able to know, months ago, whether the baby was a boy or a girl by making a trip abroad where the practice is not banned. In the event that they did ascertain (and we are not, in any way, suggesting that they did) the gender, they have chosen to have a baby girl, and that is news that could do great good for the cause of gender equalization in the country.

In the event that they did not ascertain the gender earlier, that is even better news: it says that they looked forward to the baby, boy or girl. That, too, sends a positive message, a strong message to those who want to ascertain the sex of the unborn child – a practice that is banned by law in this country

The news of the birth of the (junior) Bachchan’s daughter will be news that is celebrated by all those who are committed to the cause of the girl child. The fact that it is a girl child in the Bachchan family could be leveraged by media to bring heightened attention to the problem for positive gain.

Let media not pretend that the birth of the Bachchan baby is not news. The Broadcast Editors must be  kicking themselves, thanks to their shortsighted and ill-thought-through self restraint. Free yourself from the ban, cover the birth, amplify the news, and do the girl child a favour.

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Updated Date: Nov 16, 2011 13:18:25 IST

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