Female foeticide is a deeply entrenched social issue in India, reflecting a pervasive preference for male children over females. This practice involves determining the gender of a fetus through ultrasound and subsequently aborting it if it is female. This harmful practice is not limited to rural areas but is prevalent in urban areas as well, rooted in an autocratic mindset that irrationally favors boys. The ramifications of female foeticide are extensive and deeply troubling. Not only does it result in a significant decline in the sex ratio, but it also contributes to an array of social problems:
Increase in violence against women
Female foeticide constitutes a violation of human rights and perpetuates a culture where the value of women is diminished, leading to increased violence against them.
Impact on mental and physical health of women
The act of aborting female fetuses has severe consequences on the mental and physical health of women. It perpetuates a cycle of discrimination that adversely affects their overall well-being.
Abortion due to family pressure
In some instances, women themselves succumb to the pressure exerted by their families, opting for the illegal and immoral practice of aborting female fetuses due to societal expectations.
Contribution to declining sex ratio
The skewed sex ratio resulting from female foeticide is a significant factor in the declining balance between male and female populations.
Nearly 4.6 crore (45.8 million) females were 'missing' in Indian demography in the year 2020, mainly due to pre and post-birth sex selection practices stemming from son preference and gender inequality, a recently released United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report had said.
India accounts for almost one-third (32.1 per cent) of the total 142.6 million missing females in the world and is the second highest contributor. The biggest contributor is China at 72.3 million (7.2 crore) 'missing females' that is 50.7 per cent of all missing females in the world.
Efforts have been made by the government to curb this practice through legislative measures like the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994, amended in 2003. Section 3A of this act specifically prohibits sex selection, aiming to curb the practice of aborting female fetuses.
Additionally, societal attitudes toward girls need to undergo a paradigm shift. Traditional and conservative beliefs that consider girls a burden due to dowry demands during marriage contribute to this harmful practice. News reports frequently highlight instances of violence against women, fostering a sense of apprehension within families regarding the birth of a girl child.
Addressing female foeticide requires a comprehensive approach. Breaking free from patriarchal mindsets is essential, and efforts should be directed towards empowering girls across all aspects of life—educationally, socially, economically, and politically. Encouraging equal opportunities for health, education, and employment for women is crucial in fostering a society where gender discrimination has no place. As awareness grows and attitudes evolve, there is hope that the value of a girl child will be recognized, ensuring a more equitable and inclusive future for all.
By Seerat Riyaz