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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.

if you found this article interesting and if you own a blog/website you can copy this article and publish it there and also leaving comments on the possible ways to help prevent female foeticide.

Please leave your comments



One of the most common dilemma, medical students and practitioners face across the globe is over the ethics of abortion. while some say that practicing medical termination of pregnancy, within the legal parameter’s are justifiable, there are a group who advocate that the entire act of elimination of a fetus to be “satanic’

Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo, resulting in or caused by its death. An abortion can occur spontaneously due to complication during pregnancy or can be induced, in humans and other species. In the context of human pregnancies, an abortion induced to preserve the health of the gravida (pregnant female) is termed a therapeutic abortion, while an abortion induced for any other reason is termed an elective abortion. The term abortion most commonly refers to the induced abortion of a human pregnancy, while spontaneous abortions are usually termed miscarraiges.

The abortion, I’m referring to here is the Therapeutic abortion or induced abortion or medical termination of pregnancy.

before i explain the pro’s and cones of  this, i want to specify the explanation of MTP and why is it applied in the first place.

The entire explanation of the legal abortion in India can be obtained from the link provide below.

http://www.mohfw.nic.in/MTP.html

in short, below is the extract mentioning, When pregnancies may be terminated by registered medical practitioners –

(1)               Notwithstanding anything contained in the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), a registered medical practitioner shall not be guilty of any offence under that Code or under any other law for the time being in force, if any pregnancy is terminated by him in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

(2)               Subject to the provisions of sub-section (4), a pregnancy may be terminated by a registered medical practitioner, –

(a)                Where the length of the pregnancy does not exceed twelve weeks if such medical practitioner is, or

(b)               Where the length of the pregnancy exceeds twelve weeks but does not exceed twenty weeks, if not less than two registered medical practitioner are,

of opinion, formed in good faith, that –

(i)               the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury to her physical or mental health; or

(ii)       there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities to be seriously handicapped.

Explanation 1 – Where any pregnancy is alleged by the pregnant woman to have been caused by rape, the anguish caused by such pregnancy shall be presumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman.

Explanation 2 – Where any pregnancy occurs as a result of failure of any device or method used by any married woman or her husband for the purpose of limiting the number of children, the anguish caused by such unwanted pregnancy may be resumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman.

(3)               In determining whether the continuance of a pregnancy would involve such risk of injury to the health as is mentioned in sub-section (2), account may be taken of the pregnant women’s actual or reasonable foreseeable environment.

(4)               (a)        No pregnancy of a woman, who has not attained the age of eighteen years, or, who, having attained the age of eighteen years, is a lunatic, shall be terminated except with the consent in writing of her guardian.

(b)        Save as otherwise provided in clause (a), no pregnancy shall be terminated except with the consent of the pregnant woman.

so, how is it done?

An abortion can be done in many ways.

1. surgical abortions

2. non-surgical abortions.

A pregnancy can be intentionally aborted in many ways. The manner selected depends chiefly upon the gestational age of the embryo or fetus, which increases in size as it ages.

so, lets come to the main issue of the topic?? Is it justified??

Again, as i started my article, i said about the dilemma it causes. On one side you stand with the responsiblity to do what is good on behalf of your patient and on other side certain morals, you believe in.

As far as I’m concerned, i would prefer abortion if it is done according to the clauses mentioned according to the clauses mentioned in the MTP act of Indian Government, but i dont justify when it is done in

1. Sex-selective abortion and female infanticide

2. unsafe abortion

A clinician actually lives in a world of dual entente.

in one part of the gynecology ward, he has to attend to a delivery and see a joy face of a life being born and on another side of the hospital he has to attend a D&C to abort a foetus.

There are debates on the hypothesis of chance for breast cancer or fetal pain for fetus while abortion.

some of the other debates involved are

  • Are embryos, zygotes and fetuses “persons” worthy of legal protections?
  • Should the potential to be a person give embryos, zygotes and fetuses a right to life?
  • Does a fetus gain rights as it gets closer to birth?
  • Does a woman have an absolute right to determine what happens to her body?
  • Is abortion acceptable in cases of rape, incest, contraception failure?
  • Is abortion acceptable in cases where the foetus is deformed?
  • Is abortion acceptable in cases where if the pregnancy were to continue, it would pose a direct threat to the life of the mother?

In many of the cases it would be hard to reach a conclusion because most of them are like two sides of a coin. you cant determine the right one. Personally, it would be appreciable if the parents of an fetus decide whether he should be born or not.

Parenting, is a huge responsibility and not a burden. Both the husband and wife have to make contribution. As far as the important issues are concerned, i believe that at most of the places in the world, there are still on going foeticides because the fetus is female.

Amniocentesis, and other advanced techniques are largely misused. A technology that was developed so that the actual status and health of a developing fetus be understood is largely used for sex determination. In most of the developed world, there is no difference, whether the chld is a girl or boy. But the same is not the condition on other parts of the world.

In 1991, the male-to-female sex ratio in India was skewed from its biological norm of 105 to 100, to an average of 108 to 100. Researchers have asserted that between 1985 and 2005 as many as 10 million female fetuses may have been selectively aborted. The Indian government passed an official ban of pre-natal sex screening in 1994 and moved to pass a complete ban of sex-selective abortion in 2002.

The main reason for the preferences of male child in India, include social conditions like Dowry, which is the amount paid by a brides family to the groom as a ‘compensation’. Also, there are other aspect like economy and family earning.

This is a major issue in India. But today at most of the places the scenario is changing. Better education and living standard as well as the upliftment of women from the corridors of home, to be working community have improved the sex ratio.

Another major area of concern is the unsafe abortion. Sometimes, due to fear of public exposure of sexual status, some women resort to unsafe methods of abortion. These include certain practices, which are largely unhygenic, certain abortificant, which are potent toxins etc.

The world health org (WHO) defines an unsafe abortion as being “a procedure … carried out by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards, or both.” Unsafe abortions are sometimes known colloquially as “back-alley” abortions. This can include a person without medical training, a professional health provider operating in sub-standard conditions, or the woman herself

Unsafe abortion remains a concern today due to the higher incidence and severity of its associated complications, such as incomplete abortion, sepsis, hemorrhage, and damage to internal organs. WHO estimates that 19 million unsafe abortions occur around the world annually and that 68,000 of these result in the woman’s death.

Personally, it would be for me to conclude it this way. Every life is precious. We all have our role to play in this world. In a way, we all are linked to each other. It is the choices we make that makes us  special.

Please consult a doctor in need of expert opinion on the requirement of abortion. There are a lot of ways to avoid unwanted pregnancies. It is easier to apply any of them, rather than conceiving and aborting a fetus. In other conditions such as a medical condition that may be harmful for the mother, it would be left for the family to make a choice. i also believe that the law  must be made stronger so as to prevent incidents such as rape and domestic violences. Stronger punishments must be implied on people who break the rules of the society. Rape or any domestic violence, foeticide, etc cannot be tolerated in society. People with sexually transmitted disease must never hide it  from their partner and seek medical care immediately. Being honest with your partner is the best way to  express your love for them.

Hope my article was of any help for you. thank you for reading. Your comments are always welcome on the topic.

take care and God bless you.