Falak saga latest in India’s battle for its missing girls
A two-year-old girl battling for life in a New Delhi hospital has put the media spotlight on a sordid tale of child abuse and prostitution in the world’s biggest democracy.
Three weeks ago, a toddler with severe injuries was brought to the hospital by a teenager claiming to be her mother. The child, later named Falak (sky) by nurses, was in critical condition, with human bite marks on her body.
Her story is being played out on television screens across India, shocking viewers with images of a hapless baby hooked up to a ventilator. There are daily updates on her health, while television campaigns exhort the government to do more for abandoned children.
The case has also drawn attention to one of India’s most shameful truths — shocking levels of mistreatment and neglect of the girl child.
Media reports say the battered and bruised toddler had been abandoned by her biological mother and passed on several times before landing up in the arms of a teenager, herself a victim of abuse.
A TrustLaw survey in 2011 ranked India fourth among the world’s most dangerous countries for women — with respondents citing female foeticide, child marriage and high levels of trafficking and domestic servitude.
Falak’s mother, tracked down by police this week, was apparently unaware of the child’s condition. The young woman has a sob story of her own — lured to New Delhi with the promise of a job, nearly forced into prostitution, coerced into a second marriage and separated from her three children.
Doctors have said Falak, even if she survives, could suffer the effects of brain damage. While the plucky toddler clings to life for now, millions of girls in India may suffer a worse fate due to a preference for sons over daughters.
Census data last year showed a child sex ratio of 914 girls for every 1,000 boys born — indicating efforts to curb female foeticide haven’t borne results.
What can India do to save the girl child?