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FEMALE FOETICIDE IN INDIA

Among various women related issues in India, the female foeticide and female infanticide has become one of the social problem. The advent of technology and misuse of pre-natal sex detection and also attitude of the unscrupulous medical practitioners, who are facilitating the female foeticide through induced abortions. There are strict laws and penal actions against violators, but the laws have not worked. Over 10 million female foetuses have been aborted in India in the past two decades.

The sex ratio as per 2001 census the females are 933 per 1000 males. Although a marginal improvement of six points in the overall female to male sex ratio in India  from 927 in 1991 to 933 in 2001  is an encouraging development, the massive decline of 18 points in the juvenile sex ratio (age group of 0 to 6) from 945 to 927 in the country after 1981  is what shows the extensive female foeticide in India.

It is pertinent to note that the figures shows the fall in the juvenile sex ratio is much higher in the economically developed States in India. There is steep fall in sex ratio in States like, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra , along with the Union territories of Delhi and Chandigarh. In Punjab there are only 874 females per 1,000 males. The situation in Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra is also similar – the females are 861, 921 and 922 respectively per 1,000 males. Kerala is the only State were females are 1,058 per 1,000 males. The following is the sex ratio chart from 1901 to 2001.

YEAR – SEX RATIO Females per 1,000 males

1901 – 972

1911 – 964

1921 – 955

1931 – 950

1941 – 945

1951 – 946

1961 – 941

1971 – 930

1981 – 934

1991 – 927

2001 – 933

Source: Census of India, 2001.

India cannot afford to wait till the next census in 2011 to determine whether the growing practice of female foeticide and the girl child mortality rate had gone up. In India the reason behind in rise of female foeticide is because of the strong son preference in society, universalisation of the small family norm, practices like tradition of giving dowry (gifts by father of bride in cash or property to the groom), laws that govern property inheritance and the cultural perception about the familial name through the male line. The mortality of girl child is also high because of parental discrimination against their daughters in terms of health care and nutrition.

FEMALE INFANTICIDE:

According to a recent report by the United Nations Children’s Fund up to 50 million girls and women are missing from India’s population as a result of systematic gender discrimination in India. The disastrous impact of the consumerist culture spawned by globalisation that has been widely held to account by social scientists for the spread of infanticide in India.

There are instances like, leaving days old girl-child near the gates of Governmental Health Centres, Juvenile Centres, Temples and Churches leaving baby’s fate to God. Selling girl child for few hundred rupees to childless couples is another atrocity. Several Incentives and Schemes were introduced by the Government of India to reduce Infant Mortality Rate in India and to discourage the practice of female infanticide.

To combat the situation Government of India had enacted Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 to provide for the regulation of the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for the purpose of detecting genetic or metabolic disorders or chromosomal abnormalities or certain congenital malformation or sex linked disorders and for the prevention of the misuse of such techniques for the purpose of pre-natal sex determination leading to female foeticide.

Sec. 6 of the said Act, clearly says about determination of sex prohibited. Further Sec. 22 prohibits advertisements relating to pre-natal determination of sex and punishment for contravention.

Sec. 23 (3) of the said Act, lays down that any person who seeks the aid of a genetic counseling centre, a genetic laboratory or a genetic clinic, or of a medical geneticist, gynecologist or registered medical practitioner, for applying pre-natal diagnostic techniques on any pregnant women (unless there is evidence she was compelled to under go such diagnostic techniques) for purposes other than those specified, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term that may extend to 3 years and with a fine which may extend to Rs.10,000 and any subsequent conviction may involve imprisonment which may extend to 5 years and a fine of up to Rs.50,000.

The Supreme Court of India in its recent Judgment observed and issued directions to central and State Governments, Union Territories, Central Supervisory Board and Appropriate authorities for proper implementation of the Act.

In the words of Supreme Court of India, It is unfortunate that for one reason or the other, the practice of female infanticide still prevails despite the fact that gentle touch of a daughter and her voice has soothing effect on the parents.

One of the reasons may be the marriage problems faced by the parents compelled with the dowry demand by the so-called educated and/or rich persons who are well placed in the society. The traditional system of female infanticide where by female baby was done away with after birth by poisoning or letting her choke on husk continues in a different form by taking advantage of advance medical techniques. Unfortunately, developed medical science is misused to get rid of a girl child before birth. Knowing fully well that it is immoral and unethical as well as it may amount to an offence, foetus of a girl child is aborted by qualified and unqualified doctors or compounders. This has affected overall sex ratio in various States where female infanticide is prevailing without any hindrance.

The Supreme Court of India directed the Central Government to create public awareness against the practice of pre-natal determination of sex and female foeticide through appropriate releases/programmes in the electronic media.

The Supreme Court of India also directed all the State Governments/Union Territory administrations to create public awareness against the practice of pre-natal determination of sex and female foeticide through advertisements in the print and electronic media by hoardings and other appropriate means. The Governments to furnish quarterly returns to the central supervisory board giving a report on the implementation of PNDT Act, 1994. In order to strengthen the monitoring of female foeticide and girl child survival, the Registrar General of India, has made it mandatory for all the Chief Registrars of Births and Deaths to closely monitor the sex ratio at birth every month.

FEMALE FOETICIDE & INDIANS LIVING ABROAD:

Indians in other countries are going for sex selective abortions is evident by the fact that sex ratio at birth among the Indian community in New Jersey is as bad as in Punjab and Haryana.

A report in the British Newspaper, ‘observer’, hand come up with evidence that British Asian women go to India to abort their baby girls. The British Law does not allow parents to choose sex of their babies except to avoid certain gender linked diseases. This forces many to go abroad. Abortion on the ground of sex is not allowed under the Abortion Act of 1967 in the UK. But sex can be disclosed by patients if they ask during ultrasound

so, what is the our role in preventing female foeticide/infanticide.

Be aware of PNDT(regulation and prevention of misuse)Act 1994
Due to excessive female infanticide in the northern and western states of India there were strong agitations and protests to curb the evil of female foeticide.

The state of Maharashtra became the first in country to ban pre-natal sex determination through the enactment of Maharashtra regulation of prenatal diagnostics techniques act. Similar efforts at the national level resulted in the enactment of the Central pre-natal diagnostic techniques (Regulation and prevention of misuse) Act 1994.

The act has two aspects viz., regulatory and preventive. It seeks to regulate the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for legal or medical purposes and prevent misuse for illegal purposes.

In our country a girl is worshiped as a Goddess on one hand and denied her existence on the other as if she has no right to live.

Prevent the cruelties on women and treat them as equals.

I dont think having a girl child in family will ever harm anyone.

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