Thousands of doctors have vowed to deliver female babies free of charge, or for a drastically reduced price, to challenge sexist attitudes which are prevalent in India.
Approximately seven years ago, Dr. Ganesh Rakh was forever changed when, while helping a young woman give birth to her baby, he witnessed the drastic attitudes Indian families can adopt when learning that a female was born instead of a male. Reportedly, the young woman’s parents were fawning over the healthy baby girl that had just been delivered when the lady’s husband walked in. In Dr. Rakh’s words,
“He gave her a big slap, abused her parents and told them to take her home to their house. He was wild. He said he was going to leave her and marry a woman who could give him a son.”
Though this was a drastic incident, it was similar to the more “routine” version which played out in his small hospital in Pune, located in Maharashtra. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, it is quite usual for the relatives and husband to start crying and get upset when learning that a girl was born instead of a boy. Allowing their emotions to rule the scene, they become livid at the mother and express anger when presented with the bill.
Dismayed by the difference girls and boys receive upon their entrance into society, Dr. Rakh decided to begin offering free deliveries to female babies, forgoing the usual price tag of around 15,000-25,000 rupees ($300-$504) for the service. That was seven years ago, and to date, he has delivered more than 400 baby girls without the parents paying a fee.
To challenge sexism and encourage families to celebrate the young girls that are born into their families, the staff has been trained to gather around the bed with a cake, candles, and roses to make the mother feel special. It’s nearly impossible for the family members to maintain scowls when confronted by such festivity.
As news spread of Dr. Rakh’s activism, other physicians and medical students decided to follow in his footsteps. After tallying figures last week, it was discovered that a total of 17,000 doctors have vowed to reduce fees or charge nothing at all when delivering baby girls.
Dr. Satish Andhale Patil of Mauli Hospital, located near Pune, decided he had a social responsibility to follow Dr. Rakh’s lead when witnessing women fall into despair upon learning they had given birth to girls. He commented:
“I have seen 15 suicides of women who had given birth to their second daughter and were in despair. When Dr Rakh started, I knew I had a social responsibility to do the same.”
“A few rupees damages no one but makes a difference to changing people’s mentality,” he added.
What the doctors have committed to deserves recognition, for female foeticide and neglect of baby girls is still prevalent in India. This is because the culture holds a preference for boys. Millions of female fetuses have been aborted over the past few decades, activists relay.
Dr. Rakh, no stranger to hardship in his lifetime, has a daughter and said he will continue delivering baby girls for free until society ends its discrimination toward females.
“Of course I am losing out financially but how will anything change unless we all do our bit?” said the physician.
Fortunately, the doctor has witnessed a slight change in attitudes.
“The reaction is definitely less negative these days. I’m looking forward to the day when I can stop ordering so many cakes,” he commented.