Day by day women population as compared to men is decreasing. If the current trend continues, the day is not far when men will find difficult to find partners for marriage. Recently, a movie “Matribhumi’ presented the worst consequence of decreasing women population. The only reason for decreasing women population is killing of girl foetus before birth. Owing to the advancement of science and technology and subsequent development of ultrasonic technique, it is very easy to know the sex of the foetus within few months of its formation, so that couples who do not want to have girl child abort the fetus. In other words, they get their child murdered in the womb. Although girl foeticide is illegal in India and culprits can get several years of punishment, it is very difficult to prove it. The two parties, the doctor and the couple, involved in the crime find it mutually beneficial.
None of them complain and realize that it is a very heinous crime even more heinous than “murder because it can create imbalance in nature, it has potential to destroy humanity”. Female Foeticide is thus, the act of aborting a foetus because it is female. This is a major social problem not only in India but the entire world. Foetal sex determination and sex selective abortion by medical professionals has today grown into a Rs. 1,000 crore industry. Social discrimination against women and a preference for sons have promoted.
According to the decennial 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 such as Punjab and Haryana (126.1 and 122.0, as of 2001). It estimated that more than ten 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. Origin
This process began in the early 1990’s when ultrasound techniques gained widespread use in India. There was a tendency for families to continuously produce children until a male child was born. The Government initially supported the practice in order to control population growth.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. .
It is defined as aborting a female foetus after sex determination test or pre natal diagnostic test which includes:-
• Placental tissue sampling
Female Infanticide:-Infanticide is the practice of intentionally killing of infant. Therefore female infanticide is the inhuman killing of the baby girl after she is born. In the absence of genetic testing, infanticide was the only inhumane option for discarding the female child. Female Foeticide: Need to change the mindset of people
One of the greatest threats to our contemporary civilization is the menace of skewed sex ratio. The increasing imbalance between men and women is leading to many crimes such as illegal trafficking of women, sexual assaults, polygamy and dehumanization of society. These acts have been increasing making this world unsafe for women. Female foeticide is one of the most nefarious crimes on this earth; perhaps what is detestable is that the people who commit crime belong to the educated class.
To this menace our ancestral and biased view about male child, lack of education, ever increasing population and dowry have been good propellants. Some measures and their enforcement have to happen immediately. The ineffectiveness of the Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act is very much evident. Hence there needs to be quick reformation in the attitude of people to look beyond the legacy and transform this world as a better place to live in.
Growing menace of Female Foeticide:
•Evil of Dowry
In order to continue possessing one’s property, even after death, the need of an heir, a son, became necessary. The birth of a son is regarded as essential in Hinduism and many prayers and lavish offerings are made in temples in the hope of having a male child. Islam permits polygamy and gives women fewer rights than men. The Ramayana and the Manusmriti (the Laws of Manu) represent the ideal woman as obedient and submissive, and advocates care of a male: first father, then husband, then son.
The exorbitant dowry demand is one of the main reason for female foeticide. A girl means accumulation of sufficient resources for the dowry the parent have to give away, when the girls get married. As a matter of prestige too, more money and material goods are asked in dowry. So the girl is seen as a financial burden on. The social, cultural and religious fiber of India is pre-dominantly patriarchal contributing extensively to the secondary status of women. The patrilineal social structure based on the foundation that the family runs through a male and makes male a precious commodity that needs to be protected and given special status. Another important pillar of the patriarchal structure is marriage wherein women are given sub-ordinate status having no say in the running of their life or any control over their body or bodily integrity.
Marriage is also considered as a process where by the burden of the father is passed on to the husband for a very high price. The dowry or groom price is so staggeringly high irrespective of the class structure that generations may have to toil to repay the debts incurred during marriage. All of this has contributed to a low status for women in the society to such an extent that even the birth of a girl child in a family is sought to be avoided. A deleterious fall out of the subjugated position of women is their vulnerability to violence, rape, sexual abuse dowry harassment, domestic violence, trafficking etc with little or no mechanisms of combating the same either by way of effective laws and implementation or civil society action. Various methods were found to eliminate the girl child after her birth like starving her, crushing her under bed or giving poison etc.
Pertinently the responsibility for killing the child was fixed on the mother/women as she was considered responsible for bringing the girl child into existence. The causes for elimination of girl child indicate that the reasons are similar and different depending upon the geographical location in which female infanticide is practiced. An exorbitant dowry demand is one of the main reasons for female infanticide. Some of the other reasons are the belief that it is only the son who can perform the last rites, lineage and inheritance runs through the male line, sons will look after parents in old age, men are breadwinners etc. Strong male preference and the consequent elimination of the female has continued to increase rather than decline with the spread of education.
The recent technological developments in medical practice combined with a vigorous pursuit of growth of the private health sector have led to the mushrooming of a variety of sex-selective services. This has happened not only in urban areas but deep within rural countryside also. Female infanticide in most places has been replaced by female foeticide. Female foeticide or sex selective abortion is the elimination of the female foetus in the womb itself. The sex of the foetus is determined by methods like amniocentesis, chrion villus Biopsy and now by the most popular technique ultra sonography. Once the sex of the foetus is determined, if it is a female foetus, it is aborted. The increase in female foeticide has seen the proportionate decrease in female sex ratio which has hit an all time low especially in the 0-6 age group and if this decline is not checked the very delicate equilibrium of nature can be permanently destroyed.
Sex-determination tests and female foeticide
The most commonly used sex-determination test is amniocentesis. It was used as an aid to detect any abnormality in the unborn child. But over the years it has been used to determine the sex of the foetus. In India since 1978 the test is being used as a sex determination or sex preselecting test. Since then the test has become extremely popular and has led to a mushrooming of private clinics which perform the test all over the country. Earlier doctors employed the controversial amniocentesis test done between 14-18 weeks to determine the sex of the foetus. The ultrasound technique has also been improved. The sex of a foetus can be determined by more sophisticated machines within 13-14 weeks of pregnancy by trans-vaginal sonography and by 14 to 16 weeks through abdominal ultrasound.
These methods have rendered sex determination cheap and easy. Some sophisticated method like Erison method which separates the X and Y Chromos from the sperm and then Injects back only Y chromos into the womb to ensure a boy have also been developed. And they cost around Rupees 15,000 to 25,000.The cultural preferences for sons rather than daughters have skewed sex ratios in India. Census data show a consistent drop in the sex ratio (933F:1000M).
The intensity of sex ratio imbalance in the 0-6 age group in some states are Punjab (793),Haryana(820),Himachal Pradesh(897),Gujarat(878)The menace of Female foeticide started emerging and spreading all over northern and western India and later on all over the country. Today female foeticide is no more an urban phenomenon, rural people are also getting more and more involved in it and come all the way long to cities to get these tests done. Whether Female Foeticide is Justified or not?
Initially, the general belief was lack of education and poor economic conditions in rural areas lead to female foeticide. To some extent this belief was true, but we can see the cases for female foeticide are increasing in urban cities also where lack of education and poor economic conditions can’t be the actual reasons. In many urban areas, there still prevails a notion of men’s authority over women. The can be attributed to the fact that the average female to male ratio is 914/1000 for urban population. Still if we look at the higher education i.e. at graduation level or PG level the sex ratio is not 9/10. These unscrupulous murders of female or girls are justified on two grounds. First, it reduces the population and second is that the poor parents will be saved from the expenses which they would have to incur in the marriage of their daughter if she had born.
So the murder of a female foetus is considered to be a solution to two major problems i.e. population problem and dowry. But how far are these grounds justified. India was the first country to adopt family planning as an official programme to reduce the birth-rate. But population of the country is still growing. One of the reasons for the growth of population in India is the desire for a son. Today the sex-determination tests have provided an easy way out to know whether or not a woman will get a son. Each time a woman gets pregnant she can have the sex of the foetus determined and get it aborted if it happens to be a female child.
Abortion was punishable under Indian Penal Code but it was legalized with the passing of Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.This act along with its revised rules was envisaged as a mile stone in the modernization of Indian society through laws. Doctors are against the ban on amniocentesis because it will lead to an underground practice in the field. None of these arguments given in favour of the continuance of sex determination tests holds good. It is true that people should have every right to plan their families. If a man has a daughter and he wants son let him have it. But difficulty lies if he wants son only. How far it is correct to permit him to do so?The sex determination test is used to destroy the female foetus than to control the number of children or to have a child of the sex of one’s choice.
In India the choice is always male child and it is the female only that is unwanted child. Though it is the individual interest that is paramount but he has a duty towards the society also as a member of the society. The argument that banning the test would lead to underground practice does not mean that no law should be passed to check it. And the argument that it is a symbol of female emancipation is a nullity. Because how far is it just to be too liberal to one generation of women that they have right even to have the children of their own choice and too cruel to the other generation to which the very right to take birth and come into existence be denied. If female foeticide is continued the way it is continuing, it will render all the women and child health programmes a nullity.
•Preference for the male child:
Elimination/removal of girls from the family tree even before they are born clearly indicates the vehement desire for a boy child. In the countries where female feticide has become unbridled, the core factor is the need to continue the family line through the male born into it. Sons are seen as the main source of income. Even though women today can easily rub shoulders with men, almost in every field they set their mind to, the common misconception still remains that it is the male who will help run the house, and look after his parents. Once married, women are like cargo, ready to be shipped off to another household, while parents breathe a sigh of relief for a job well done in getting their ‘daughter’ settled.
In India, the age old custom of dowry system puts a damper on the parents’ spirits who are ‘blessed’ with a girl child. Right then and there, begin the calculations associated with marriage expenses, which may happen after a couple of decades, following the child’s first breath. A lump sum paid to the daughter in twenty years when the currency value may depreciate and inflation may skyrocket is seen as a tragedy waiting to happen. It would be so much better to get rid of them with just a fraction of the amount.
•Deteriorated Status of Women:
Males are the stronger sex when it comes to the pecking order in a country, but that does not entail a curbing of rights for women. Rather than whining about the denied opportunities, women should stand up and try to grasp the chances they want for themselves. However, this Utopian scenario is not quite easily achieved in practice. Centuries of repression has made inferiority second nature to most women. They willingly embrace the role of the meek, submissive, docile wife who works relentlessly to cater to the whims of her husband. The worst enemy of a woman is the woman herself. Female feticide happens with the explicit consent of the mother. While most mothers-to be agree to this misdeed out of a sense of duty to the family, there are many who take the initiative themselves.
•Foul Medical Ethics:
The opening conversation to this hub satisfactorily covers this point. With the legalization of abortion in India, illegal sex determination and termination of pregnancies has become an everyday reality. The professionals in the medical field are only too glad to help parents realize their dream of a healthy baby boy. Female foeticide is openly discussed amongst many in the healing fraternity and even pin boards outside certain clinics read, ‘Pay Rs.500 today to save the expense of Rs. 500 000 in the future’. The initial meager sum is the cost of a pregnancy termination, while the bigger amount specified in comparison, is the expense that the family will be burdened with in the form of dowry for the girl.
Industrialization of the health sector has further strengthened the selective sex abortion quarter. With the advent of CVS, amniocentesis and Ultrasound, sex determination of the fetus has become much easier than it was earlier. This goes on to show how the manufacturers of high-tech equipments and gadgets, used to run these tests, benefit from the woes of future parents and their unborn child. Many hospitals are known to sign long term contracts with the firms involved in the production of these types of medical machinery.
Often, a healthy percentage of the profit is shared with the hospital and both parties enjoy the fruits of rewarding a death sentence. As opposed to CVS and amniocentesis, the ultrasound technology is cheaper and within easy reach of the lower economically backward strata of society. It is also easily accessible in a hospital/clinic nearby with mediocre credentials. Unfortunately, the probability of accuracy of the ultrasound is not always 100 per cent until the fetus is twenty weeks old. Consequently, the child aborted by those enthusiastic parents may just be the little prince they were hoping for. •Female/Women Trafficking:
The steep decline in the number of girls makes them scarce for the teaming number of males eligible for marriage. As a solution to this issue, illegal trafficking of women has become commonplace in many regions. This is a graver matter than the ideology of mail order brides. Women, often young girls who’ve just crossed the threshold of puberty, are compelled to marry for a price fixed by the groom-to be. They are usually bought in from neighboring areas, where the number of girls might not be as miniscule as the host region. Child marriages become a rage and child pregnancies, a devastating consequence. The moment when a land participates in the trade off of its women population, it is a sure path laid ahead with pitfalls.
•Increase in Rape and Assault:
Once women become an endangered species, it is only a matter of time before the instances of rape, assault and violence become widespread. In the backdrop of fewer available females, the surviving ones will be faced with the reality of handling a society driven by a testosterone high. The legal system may offer protection, but as is the situation today, many cases might not even surface for fear of isolation and humiliation on the girl’s part.
With no mothers or wombs to bear any child (male or female), there would be fewer births, leading to a decline in the country’s population. Though a control in the demographic statistics is currently the goal of many nations like China and India, a total wipeout of one sex is not the way to achieve this target. Science would then have to look up solutions to do away with the swarming number of men, should such a worst case scenario happen.