A major social problem in Indian society, the preference for a son as a norm continues to grow, leading to female foeticide (aborting the female foetus). Despite being prohibited by law since 1961, we still witness an alarming rate of the deteriorating sex ratio. Using prenatal diagnostic techniques to determine the sex, these clinics and practices have become more than a 1000 crore industry. According to the 2001 census the sex ratio in parts like Punjab, Haryana and Delhi dropped to less than 800:1000
Given the traditional customs and beliefs, its not surprising that approximately 10 million female foetuses were aborted over the past two decades. Religion also plays an important role in influencing the sex ratio, the highest being among the Christians and the lowest being among the Sikh and Jain communities.
The root cause of this is the mentality of the girl child being a burden. Due to the dowry system and being considered an economic liability , many poor families delve into the practice of female foeticide and infanticide. Though in Vedic times worshiped as goddesses, the status of women went through a significant decline resulting in them being treated worse than slaves. Boys on the other hand are considered as a pillar of support for the household and his parents at old age.
Increased availability and advancement of technology are also major factors contributing to this evil. Methods like trans-vaginal sonography and abdominal ultrasound have proved to be accessible, inexpensive and feasible in determining the sex of the unborn child. More widespread among economically well off areas, it gained popularity and widespread usage in the early 1990s, becoming an unstoppable trend replacing the tendency for families to continuously produce children until ‘blessed’ with a male child. Corrupt doctors also often gave in to this and kept their pockets full. All this coupled with the traditional gender bias forms the factors responsible. The debate on improvement in literacy rates among women to change the sex ratio has no solid standing since a study showed educated mothers in Punjab are more prone to discriminate than the uneducated ones. On the other hand matriarchal societies like in the south and northeastern states have a comparatively better sex ratio due to the high social standing of women.
Female foeticide leads to a surge in trafficking due to the decrease in female population. A report from 2011 shows 15000 women bought and sold as brides in north Indian states like Haryana from states like Assam and West Bengal, places with a balanced sex ratio. This also leads to a high level of female exploitation due to our patriarchal and now male dominated society. To curb this major social evil, its not enough to merely keep a check on the practice of prenatal sex determination but it is also necessary to provide measures aimed at improving the status and standing of women in the society.
The Indian government has taken a few steps like
Laws In India For The Unborn
1.Increasing awareness highlighting the issue of female foeticide and the skewed gender ratio. This can be done through various campaigns by celebrities and influential people to combat this social evil. Plays, commercials and television shows like Satyamev Jayate hosted by Amir Khan are a few examples demonstrating how media has an extremely important role to play here.
2.Efficient method of registration of nursing homes and hospitals, defaulting which rigorous action would be taken.
3.Government to provide more financial support and reservation to educate the girls belonging to poor families, focusing on women empowerment.
4.Stringent laws for dowry and other crimes against women.
In a country where people worship various forms of goddesses, its an irony that such an evil exists. A shortage of girls would lead to a shortage in brides making them a ‘scarce commodity’. Women are equal to men in all ways and have fundamental rights like health, education and dignity which need to be upheld with utmost importance. India still has a long way to go in the fight against pre-birth elimination of females but with proper social action, mass appeal and awareness this problem too can be tackled.