Why Is Female Feticide Continuing In India?

In 2021, There have been some outstanding developments around the globe. The White House now has a female vice-president. The world is battling a deadly virus with vaccines made by the scientific contributions of women. Big strides have been made. We presume that there remain little roadblocks in her life in contemporary times. But in reality, we couldn’t have been more wrong. While women continue to progress in their fields, their mere presence in the womb is diminishing due to female feticide. 

Female feticide - A baby moving in the womb

Nature has never been partial towards any gender. However, social norms have dictated otherwise. This is the reason why female feticide in India has led to nearly 4.6 crore females ‘missing’ in 2020.

As per a report by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), female feticide reasons in India range from a preference for a son to gender inequality due to an existing patriarchal structure.

Due to this scenario, India accounts for one-third of the total 142.6 million missing females in the world. Female feticide in India now ranks second after China and this shocking number explains the extend of sex-ratio imbalance at birth. This is due to illegal pre-natal sex determination and excess female mortality stemming from post-natal sex-selection.

The onus of producing a male heir is on the women:

Partiality towards male babies doesn’t just occur at birth, but it exists as an entire system. This system forces mothers to produce male heirs, and in failing to do so, undergo female feticide. This is one of the biggest female feticide reasons. Take this example of a woman who had to lodge a police complaint following abuse and torture by her husband for giving birth to a daughter. Such stories of women facing abuse at home, and being forced to undergo multiple pregnancies are rampant. This practice is silently overlooked and continues through the generations.

In another case, a woman in Rajasthan (anonymous) was forced to give birth to eleven kids. She could put a halt only when she gave birth to a son at the age of 42. Social stigma for not having a male heir to carry the family name haunted her. It is reasons like these and many more that add to female feticide in India. 

Female feticide - A Pregnant woman touching her bump
Women are forced to give birth to babies till they produce a male heir.

Where does India stand now?

As stated earlier, stigma, taunts, and abuse from both family members and society often become female feticide reasons. Sometimes even women aid in the heinous act due to financial constraints and dependency. Adding a daughter to the family will result in another mouth to feed along with the burden of dowry. This thought could deteriorate the parent-child relationship leaving the girl child vulnerable to sexual abuse. The female feticide in India carries on for these many reasons and much more.

Statistics show that India’s sex ratio at birth (the number of girls born alive for every 1,000 boys) had fallen from 946 in 1949 to 887 in 2014.

Source : Population Census 2011

The effect of the same extends beyond the womb and birth. The country’s child sex ratio is also at its lowest since Independence. In 1947 it stood at 914 girls (below age 6) per 1000 boys. As per a report by IndiaSpend, increasing income levels lead to fewer girls being born. Families now had access to sex-selective procedures such as amniocentesis. This partly explains female feticide in India. 

What does the Female Feticide Act say?

Female feticide is not new in India and it is a social evil. The Indian government recognized it and passed the  Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PNDT) in 1994 also known as the Female Feticide Act. This act essentially banned prenatal sex determination.

Female feticide is a social evil
Female feticide is a social evil

The ambit of the law extended to genetic counselling, laboratory and clinics engaged in counselling or conducting pre-natal diagnostics techniques. The centres often involved in procedures like in vitro fertilization (IVF) with the intention of sex selection before and after conception also comes under the purview of the PCPNDT Act. Sex determination is strictly banned across the country to stop female feticide in India. It aimed to prevent sex detection after conception and sex-selective abortions by wrong-fully using prenatal sex diagnosis. Those found guilty can face up to three years of jail term and a penalty of up to Rs 50,000.

The walk ahead to eradicate female feticide:

Even though the female feticide act banned prenatal sex determination some experts argue that it shifted the responsibility. It made medical institutions liable for the prevention of female feticide. It succeeded in spreading awareness but societal mindset change remains to be seen. Slow or absence of prosecution of those found guilty added to the problem. The need of the hour rests on society mending its ways. It needs to stop seeing female babies as burdens or lesser beings. This calls for an overhaul of the existing patriarchal system and timely reporting of the crime. Surprisingly, the majority of the women are unaware of the helpline numbers available for their service. It’s our duty to educate, empower and encourage them to stand up against this felony. By doing this, we shall see India progress to an equal society.

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16 thoughts on “Why Is Female Feticide Continuing In India?”

  1. These evils are so deeply rooted in society’s mindset that it would take years to abolish. Women are fighting at all levels for their rights, right from the wombs.

  2. The facts and figures about female foeticide is stressful. Yes it does prevails in our society. Awareness is much needed

  3. studies have now found, as does people’s own experiences, that daughters make better caretakers and continue to care, long after the son’s have taken off on fancy flights! Alas, mindset shift is something that will take time – and it is something that we need to keep talking about to bring in that change.

  4. It indeed is painful to see how female Feticide is prevalent in our country and how few families still expect and think of male child as the heir of their family.

  5. The government has made the Act, but the need is to implement it strictly. There r still many clinics which conduct the sex determination test.

  6. It’s a shame that in this century and time when women are touching the sky, other people are still aborting a girl child. Why is a girl child considered a burden and a boy a blessing. When god created no bias, why the Society does so fails me big time. I am blessed with both , a girl and a boy and see no difference in their love and affection.

  7. This is such an evil deed still some people are following in our country and I just wish and pray it stops as soon as possible.

  8. This is really sad reality of our system. But it is really great that now rules are so strict and things are changing for better. Hope future generations will not have female feticide issues.

  9. It’s sad that people still consider boys as the preferred gender. I mean, I have gotten both and love them both equally. I don’t see why one would abort based on gender.

  10. It’s sad and alarming that even in this day and age female foeticide happens in our country. However, just having an act won’t help prevent it. Strict enforcement is necessary to curb this evil too.