Female foeticide in India

November 1, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Female foeticide in IndiaGirl babies have traditionally not been preferred by Indian parents primarily owing to the prevalence of the social evil of dowry in our society despite the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. The preference for sons has resulted in 12 million girls being aborted over the past three decades in India, resulting in a skewed child sex ratio of 918 girls to every 1,000 boys in 2011, versus 962 in 1981. (The Lancet, UK Medical Journal)

It is reported that there are entire villages in Rajasthan that have not allowed girls to be born for several years resulting in acutely skewed sex ratios that have led to other despicable practices like wife-sharing.

According to the Indian census, the sex ratio in the 0-6 age group in India went from 104.0 males per 100 females in 1981, to 105.8 in 1991, to 107.8 in 2001, to 109.4 in 2011. The ratio is significantly higher in certain states like Punjab and Haryana (126.1 and 122.0, as of 2001). A UNICEF report estimated that “7,000 fewer girls were born every day because of the spread of cheap, prenatal sex-determination technology”.

Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act was enacted to stop female foeticide and arrest the declining sex ratio in India. The Act banned prenatal sex determination and permits the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques only to detect specific biological abnormalities and disorders. Any person who advertises pre-natal and pre-conception sex determination facilities could face up to three years in prison.

The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 (PNDT), was amended in 2003 to the PCPNDT Act to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection. It regulates the sale of ultrasound machines only to registered bodies. It has made provision for more stringent punishments and also empowers appropriate authorities with the power of a civil court for search, seizure and sealing the machines and equipments of violators. Despite all these steps, very few violators have been prosecuted.

There is therefore an urgent need to create awareness in the public at large and especially among  young couples and teenagers who will become parents in the next 10 years to cause a paradigm shift for the generations to come. Strict enforcement of the law to put violators including doctors behind bars will definitely serve as a huge deterrent. This has started to happen thanks to the tireless efforts of a few social activists and advocates who use unconventional methods (with pregnant mothers volunteering as decoys to conduct sting operations on doctors who are serial offenders) to protect the voiceless and hapless unborn girl child.

It is also pertinent to mention here that the Indian abortion laws falls under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971 which was enacted with the intention of reducing the incidence of illegal abortions. The MTP Act came into effect from 1.4.1972 and was amended in the years 1975 and 2002.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act of India clearly states the conditions under which a pregnancy can be ended or aborted, the persons who are qualified to conduct the abortion and the place of implementation. It is legal only up to twenty weeks of pregnancy under specific conditions and situations which are broadly defined as:

  • the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury of physical or mental health, or
  • there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in October 2014, proposed to bring certain amendments in Medical Termination Pregnancy Act, 1971. The Medical Termination Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2014 proposes to exceed the limit for termination of pregnancy to twenty four weeks. It seeks to amend Section 3 of Act of 1971 which deals with Termination of pregnancy by a registered medical practitioner. It also proposes to substitute the ‘registered medical practitioner’ with ‘registered health care provider’ and sub section (2) which says that a pregnancy may be terminated by a registered health care provider (a) On the request of a woman, where the length of pregnancy does not exceed twelve weeks. (b) (i) where the length of pregnancy exceeds  twelve weeks but does not exceed twenty weeks or; (ii) where the length of pregnancy exceeds twenty weeks but does not exceed twenty four weeks and the woman falls in the categories, as may be prescribed.

Several studies have linked abortions as a risk factor in suicidal behaviour, anxiety and depression, even potential life threatening disease such as cancer.  In addition, increasing the upper limit of the gestational period of the pregnancy for termination only creates more opportunities for unscrupulous persons to pressure or induce women to abort their female babies. This sweeping provision leaves the door open for parents-to-be or families of the parents-to-be to determine the sex of the child at any point in the pregnancy and then lawfully abort the female child on the pretext of failure of contraceptive devices.

– alliance defending freedom (India)

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