Female foeticide is the act of aborting a foetus just because it is female. In India, China, and many other Oriental countries there is a traditional preference for a son rather than a daughter, unlike in Western countries. It is because sons would help the family in earnings in future while a girl is a burden to the family as she has to be married and would go to the groom’s family usually with a dowry. This has connections with the dowry system which is ingrained in Indian culture, despite the fact that dowry has been prohibited by law since 1961.
Now female foeticide has been occurring through the use of medical technologies. Pregnancies are planned by resorting to ‘differential contraception’. Thus social discrimination against girls and a preference for sons have been promoted. Foetal sex determination and sex-selective abortion by medical professionals have grown into an Rs. 1,000 crore ($ 244 million) industry. Since 1991, 80% of districts in India have recorded an increasingly male sex ratio. According to the decennial Indian census, the sex-ratio (in 0-6 age group) in India has raised from 104 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 such as Punjab and Haryana (126.1 and 122.0 as of 2011). The sex ratio in Western Rajasthan dropped to 883 girls per 1,000 boys in 2011.
This process began in the early 1990s when ultrasound techniques gained widespread use in India. There was a tendency for families to continuously produce children until a male child was born. This was primarily due to the large sexist culture that exists in India against women. This is reflected by literacy rates among women as well as economic participation, which are both particularly low in States where female foeticide is prominent. An unequal population ratio exists alongside. The government initially supported the practice to control population inflation. Later on, the gravity of the situation was considered, and the Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act was passed in 1994, making sex-selective abortion illegal. It was then modified in 2003 holding medical professionals legally responsible. However, the PCPNDT Act has been poorly enforced by authorities. According to the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Female Foeticide “has its roots in India’s long history of strong patriarchal influences in all spheres of life.”
The magnitude of the problem is growing day-by-day. It is estimated that more than 10 million female foetuses have been illegally aborted in India. Researchers for the Lancet journal based in Canada and India stated that 5,00,000 girls were being lost annually through sex-selective abortions. It is most prominent in Gujarat and the North Indian states, which, according to census data, have an alarmingly low ratio of female children. Certain castes regularly practised female infanticide and later female foeticide. The castes with a much lower proportion of female children to male children included the Rajputs in Gujarat, Jats, Khutries and Brahmins in Punjab, and Gujjars in Uttar Pradesh.
Now we should see the social effects as female foeticide has led to an increase in human trafficking. In 2011, about 15,000 Indian women were bought and sold as brides in areas where foeticide has led to a lack of women.
Government response to the problem has come into force, but not sufficiently. Although several Acts have been passed to combat the situation, many of them are not enforced strongly enough. There are some loopholes too through which the practice of sex-selective abortion continues. An example of one of these loopholes would be on the pretext of checking for genetic disorders in the foetus, and, as by this, one can secretly be involved in sex-selective abortion. Though gendercide has been acknowledged as a national shame, the police and sometimes the judiciaries do not implement the law strictly because they also believe in the same thing. Authorities often let the unlawful parents and doctors off with light punishment. In addition, mothers who give birth to girls are prone to face violence. Even if she gives birth to baby girls, the in-laws in the family do not report the births and even murder them!!
However, the response from other concerns can be seen nowadays. Increasing awareness of the problem has led to multiple campaigns by celebrities and journalists to combat sex-selective abortions. Amir Khan devoted the first episode “Daughters are Precious” of his show Satyameva Jayate to raise awareness against this widespread practice. The Beti Bachao or ‘Save Girls’ campaign includes rallies, posters, short videos and the media, some of which are sponsored by the State and local governments and other organisations.