Indian-origin filmmaker fights battle against female foeticide


By Robin Sam

UNTIL recently Indian-origin filmmaker Nyantara Pais Caputi was perhaps best known for her short film ‘Desi Confused By America’ (DCBA). But with simultaneous walks organized in various parts of the world on March 6 (2010) to protest against foeticide, Nyna  has also emerged as a champion of the female child’s right to live.  Married to filmmaker Gino Caputi, Nyna is currently working on a documentary film, ‘Petals in the Dust: India’s Missing Girls’, on female infanticide in India.  The film, expected to be a powerful commentary on the issue and government’s apathy towards it, will likely be completed by 2012.

‘Petals in the Dust’ was inspired by the Caputi’s own attempts at adopting a girl child from India recently.

“I was told I would have at least a two-to three-year wait for a baby girl. I was surprised to learn that there were long waiting lists of families wanting to adopt girls from India,” she said. “Then the orphanage that I visited in India pointed to a lake in the vicinity where baby girls used to be drowned by their parents.”

Originally hailing from Bangalore, Nyna now lives in the san Francisco Bay Area with her husband Gino Caputi and four-year-old son Dante Taran Anthony.  The Caputis are members of the St. Agnes Church in Concord, California, US. THE CHRISTIAN MESSENGER caught up with Nyna Pais Caputi recently.  Excerpts from the exclusive interview:

When and how did the idea to have a walk protesting female infanticide in India materialize?

After I started work on our  documentary film, ‘Petals In The Dust: India’s Missing Girls’ the stories the women I  interviewed shared with me made me realize I needed to do everything that I could possibly do to create awareness and bring about change.

How did you mange to rope in other organizations to have the walk across countries on the same day?

I reached out to some non-profits like Fight-Back in Mumbai that is fighting female among other issues and the Pink Pagoda run by Dr. James Garrow, that has been involved in saving over 31,000 babies in China from the one-child policy. I also posted on the Facebook page of the ‘Walk for India’s Missing Girls’ that I was looking to organize the walk all over the world. The other NGOs and women approached me. In Australia, we have a woman of Indian origin, who has been nominated for the Mrs. Australia pageant, organize the Walk there.

What did you set out to achieve through the walk? What do you think has been achieved really?

There were several things that I wanted to achieve. I wanted women in India to realize that they are not alone and people from all over the world would join hands to help them fight for the lives of their daughters. By creating a global walk, we would get the attention of ‘I have heard that female foeticide is also is also happening among Christians living in India. The church leaders need to preach against this from the pulpit and also do more outreach to communities that belong to regressive social backgrounds.’

By creating a global walk, we would get the attention of the Indian and international communities and international communities and hopefully some of them would come forward to assist the women in India. By organizing the walk in different parts of India,  girls, women, school and college students would participate and not only create awareness but also realize themselves the value of the girl child and the necessity to fight female foeticide and infanticide. We had over 700 people participate in Jamshedpur, over 200 in Pondicherry and over 100 in Mumbai and Delhi.

The global walk has been written about both in India and the US and the issues of female feticide and infanticide are becoming more public.  I plan to make the ‘Walk for India’s Missing Girl’ an annual event and besides making it more global, my dream is to have every city, town and village in India, also organize this walk.

Sex-selective abortion is in principle banned in India.  Yet it happens unchecked in many remote areas of the country. Do you think various state governments are doing enough to root out the evil?

It even happens in the big cities. I don’t think the various state governments are doing enough. I think the government and the doctors have to take a stand to root out this evil. Severe punishments should be given to those who break the laws, especially the doctors who divulge the sex of the child and then out the abortions.

Many social organizations have gone on record to say legislations lack teeth in India. Your comments.

Doctors are forcing their wives to have sex-selective abortions. So not only does the legislation not have teeth, in some cases they are themselves guilty of the crime.

Does ‘Petals in the Dust’ offer any solutions to the issue?

Yes, we hope through interviews with activists and experts in the field to offer solutions to this issue.

Were you successful in your attempts at adopting a girl child from India?

No.  We hope to start the process later this year or some time next year.  However, we don’t particularly look forward to the paperwork, the thousands of dollars involved and the long waiting time.

Considering that female infanticide is not limited to India, would you like to take up the issue in a much more concerted manner across other nations known for female infanticide?

As of now, no!  There are many other issues in India like child labour, dowry deaths, rights of the disabled that I would like to take up as well.

What kind of a role can the church play in removing misgivings about the girl child from families belonging to regressive social background?

I have heard that female foeticide is also happening among Christians living in India.  The church leaders need to preach against this from the pulpit and also do more outreach to communities that belong to regressive social backgrounds.

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This interview was published in the April 2010 edition of The Christian Messenger newspaper

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