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Female Foeticide

Female Foeticide

The frequency of female foeticide in India is increasing day by day. In India and in the society as well preference towards a male child is the major reason behind female foeticide. To carry forward the generation, families in general prefer the birth of sons over daughters. The male child is also required by the Hindu family to perform the last rites of father in the absence of which, it is believed that the father would not attain salvation after death.The Indian census data suggests there is a positive correlation between abnormal sex ratio and better socio-economic status and literacy. This may be connected to the dowry system in India where dowry deaths occur when a girl is seen as a financial burden. It is an inhumane act of terminating the life of an unborn girl child due to conservative outlook or greed.

The parents of the girl child do not realise that they will have to make equal efforts in rearing and settling their child irrespective of gender.It is one of the most rampant social evils in the country. It is rooted in the patriarchal mind set where boys are preferred over girls for various irrational reasons, not only in rural but urban areas too.Urban India has higher child sex ratio than rural India accordingto 1991, 2001 and 2011 Census data, and thedata implying higher prevalence of female foeticide in urban India. Similarly, child sex ratio greater than 115 boys per 100 girls is found in regions where the predominant majority is Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian; furthermore “normal” child sex ratio of 104 to 106 boys per 100 girls are also found in regions where the predominant majority is Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian. We have a wait until 2021 for India’s next census to be conducted, the previous census shows an imbalance of 927 girls to 1000 boys.

Female foeticide takes place when a foetus is aborted after it is determined to be female. Under this illegal practice, the sex of the unborn child is determined by using the technique of ultrasound and if it happens to be a female foetus, it is aborted through medicine or surgery. We have to raise awareness levels against the regressive practice of female foeticide, enforce laws far more stringently and provide much more incentives to the households for the birth of a girl child.There are many causes of this sex imbalance like greater malnutrition of girls, the issue of sex-selective abortions, despite legal prohibitions.
Main reasons of female foeticide:

  • 1. Growing Menace
    There is an increasing trend of families in urban as well as rural regions across the country going for the illegal practice of sex-determination test and the unscrupulous murder of female foetus. On its part, the government has attempted to regulate the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for legal or medical purposes through the PNDT Act 1994 and has also set up a central body to check killing of female foetus through abortion.
  • 2. A legal and immoral Act
    As per the provisions of Pre Natal Diagnostics Techniques (PNDT) Act, it is a crime for the couples who request for abortion of the female foetus as well as for the doctors who perform it.
  • 3. Poor Enforcement of law
    Sex screening technologies, though meant to investigate pre-natal complications, became liable for misuse facilitating abortions of female foetuses in India.The Government of India passed the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PNDT) in 1994. This Act underwent further amendment as the Pre-Conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) (PCPNDT) Act in 2004 with a mandate to deter and penalise prenatal sex screening and female
    foeticide.
    4. Interrupting Life
    Female foeticide is no less than an act of cutting short life, a case of life interrupted but the people indulging in it find willing partners in their crime who are blinded by the lure of money.
    5. Signs of Change
    The Central and the state governments are running various programmes and schemes for improving the lot of women in the country and the voices against female foeticide are becoming louder by the day.The outlook of society towards the girl child is beginning to changeand gradually with women proving their worth in all professions, many of which were earlier considered to be the exclusive domains of men. There is increasing awareness with regard to the rights of a girl child for providing them equal opportunities for upbringing, health, education and jobs.Consequently, there is marked change in the attitude of women with regard to their abilities to break all barriers in their all-round development.
    6. Inadequate enforcement
    Eliminating female foetus in the womb of a woman is possible with the help of simple techniques starting from ultrasound and then some medicines which forces the foetus to die.To stop the evil practice of female foeticide, strict punishment in the form of fine or jail to the person requesting abortion of the unborn girl child is prescribed under Pre Natal Diagnostics Techniques (PNDT) Act. The practitioner who helps in sex determination for this purpose is also required to be punished equally.
    7. Cultural preference
    Generally, male babies were preferred because they provided manual labor and success the family lineage. The selective abortion of female fetuses is most common in areas where cultural norms value male children over female children for a variety of social and economic reasons. A son is often preferred as an “asset” since he can earn and support the family; a daughter is a “liability” since she will be married off to another family, and so will not contribute financially to her parents. In some cultures sons are expected to take care of their parents in their old age. These factors are complicated by the effect of diseases on child sex ratio, where communicable and non-communicable diseases affect males and females differently.
    8. Disparate gendered access to resource
    Gendered access to resources appears to be strongly linked to socioeconomic status. Specifically, poorer families are sometimes forced to ration food, with daughters typically receiving less priority than sons. The poorest families are typically less bound by cultural expectations and norms, and women tend to have more freedom to become family breadwinners out of necessity. Women tend to outlive men at all stages of life after infancy. Resources are not always allocated equitably. Thus, some scholars argue that disparities in access to resources such as healthcare, education, and nutrition play at least a small role in the high sex ratios seen in some parts of the world
    9. Winds of Change
    The winds of change have now started blowing in the society with girls doing well in diverse professions, which were considered male-bastions up until now, such as boxing, wrestling, martial arts, armed forces, etc. ‘BetiBachao, Beti Padhao’ (Save and educate the girl child) has become a countrywide movement.
    10. Let’s stand by the girl child
    It is a social and moral responsibility of every citizen of this country to put an end to the practice of female foeticide and also spread awareness about the need for believing in the merits of women to play multiple roles in the life of the nation as they have proven to be outstanding performers in different professions. Nature too has gifted women to play different roles of a daughter, sister, wife and mother with equal ease and success.
    Study of Surveys:
    According to studies, India’s middle class has a greater gender bias in favour of boys, and that one in 10 girls conceived by Indian-born women in Britain as their third or fourth baby is missing. While this could still have an economic component, the middle class has more money and hence more to lose , an honest look at the social attitudes that lead to girls becoming an economic drain must also be assessed as part of the problem.A study conducted in 2012 in Delhi slums found an increasing son preference with increasing age among women, with adult women revealing such pressure primarily comes from their mother-in-law to carry out female foeticide. Another study conducted in 2013 in Maharashtra, discovering that 37.85% of women justified female foeticide, with mothers-in-law being the greatest pressurising family member. Both studies confirm the primary reason for this being propagation of the family name and dependence in old age, which is already well-known. Study of family structure in affecting sex-ratios, particularly in relation to women’s treatment towards other women, is clearly a topic which requires closer investigation.
    India making rapid progress in science, technology and other fields, the picture that we see of India as of now is not one that can be appreciated especially in terms of its treatment to the fairer sex. Discrimination against girl children, parents, neglect of the girl child, illegal abortions
    and female infanticide are clear instances. The practice of female foeticide is illegal and is still prevalent in our country.
  • India’s Human Development Survey-II (IHDS-II) demonstrated that only 1.8% senior women in households surveyed play a role in deciding the number of children. This may indicate that women are simply carriers of female-sensitive topics within a family unit rather than decision makers behind the decision to abort the girl child. The lack of focus on the family structure, however, means that the identity imposed on the unborn child is not fully realised in current debates. After all, these decisions are familiar, whether they come from a male or female figure in the family.Acknowledging all identities imposed on the foetus and its perceived threat to the family, and possibly mothers-in-law particularly may be powerful in bolstering and personalising existing campaign efforts. Let’s hope we soon also begin to hear ‘potibachao, potipadhao’ (save the granddaughter, educate the granddaughter).
    There has been no shortage of debate and discussion on the topic of female foeticide in the country, with Bollywood star Aamir Khan weighed on the discussion in 2012 on his talk show, Satyamev Jayate. Gone are the days when women were considered ‘parayadhan’ — meant to take care of their in-laws’ family; they are now individuals in their own right, who are leaving a distinct mark in all professions, while managing their homes and families too. They are bringing laurels to their parents as well as their country.

By – Assistant Professor – Ms. Kumud Misra
Department of B.Ed.
Uttaranchal College of Education
Uttaranchal (P.G.) College Of Bio-Medical Sciences & Hospital

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