Endosulfan fears force Kasaragod women into feticide

via PNS | Kochi published on April 18, 2011

Anxieties over possibility of the offspring bearing congenital disorders due to Endosulfan poisoning are reportedly forcing women of Kasaragod in Kerala – the area with the largest number of Endosulfan victims in the world – to commit feticide even as Kasaragod hosted a national convention on Sunday as part of extending the anti-pesticide agitation to the national level.

Reports from the Endosulfan-hit areas like Bovikkanam, Enkamaje, Perla and Periya in Kasaragod show that more and more women are resorting to termination of their pregnancies out of the fear that the offspring might bear serious congenital diseases. Babies with serious disorders were being born in the area for the past twenty years.

Continuous aerial spraying of Endosulfan in the cashew plantations in 11 panchayats of Kasaragod district for two decades since 1980 has so far caused the death of about 600 people and serious health disorders like cancers, dermatological problems, reproductive disorders, early maturing in females and non-maturing of males in about 10,000 people.

A mother in Bovikkanam admitted to the media that she had terminated her pregnancy in 2007 out of fear of giving birth to “yet another baby” with congenital health disorders. She said she had got the pregnancy terminated at a clinic in Mangalore after convincing her husband of its need. She said she knew several other women who had committed feticide out of the same fear.

“My first baby was born with an oversized head and an undersized body. This is not unseen in this place. Babies are being born here with such disorders even now. After scanning, the doctor told me that the fetus had disorders similar to those of my first baby. I could not think of bringing yet another baby to the world knowing that it would live its whole life in suffering,” she said.

According to voluntary health workers in Kasaragod, a minimum of ten women have been going to Mangalore a month to get their pregnancies terminated out of fear of giving birth to disease-hit babies. “There is no advice you can give to stop them. Which mother would want her child to live in perpetual suffering?” asked Pradeep, an anti-Endosulfan activist.

The mother at Bovikkanam said that she had to get her pregnancy terminated secretly as she was afraid that the highly orthodox family of her husband might prevent her from doing it. “I did it four years ago after convincing my husband not to let his parents know of it. Luckily for me, I haven’t become pregnant since then. But many of my friends have not been that lucky,” she said.

A television report quoted a local club, Punchiri, as saying that a large number of women from the Endosulfan-hit areas had visited clinics in Mangalore for feticide in the past five years. Pradeep said that many women who want to terminate their pregnancies out of the same reason are not able to do it due to lack of money.

Hundreds of people, including victims of the pesticide and their families participated in the anti-Endosulfan convention in Kasaragod on Sunday. The convention, organized by the Anti-Endosulfan Committee, was aimed at putting pressure on New Delhi to change its pro-pesticide stand and agree to ban it at the Geneva meet of the Persistent Organic Pollutants’ Review Committee of the Stockholm Convention to be held from April 25.

Despite the horrific magnitude and dimension of the tragedy the pesticide has been causing to human beings and other organisms as evidenced in Kasaragod, the Centre has so far refused to impose a nation-wide ban on it, allegedly due to the pressures from the pesticides-manufacturers lobby.

Kerala had banned the use of Endosulfan a decade ago after two decades of its continuous spraying in the cashew estates of the State-owned Plantation Corporation of Kerala created unimaginable tragedy in the area. However, in the absence of a national ban, the killer pesticide is still being smuggled in and used in the various plantations.

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