Female Infanticide: Still a threat to India

Female Infanticide

Yatra Naryastu pujyante ramnte tatra DevtahWe Indians come from a land where the women are considered as a person of prime importance, as goddess, as a blessing but the practices we Indians inculcate is bit different and contradictory to the above mentioned quotation. India has been under the influence of patriarchal society for too long that shows cultural bias towards women since ancient times. Women were always seen as a bane for the family and as a result the girl child was either sent to the deathbed soon after her birth or if is she survived she has to face all sort of brutality and torments from the society. The time has changed and we are living in a modern 21st century but still seeing various infanticide cases all over India, shows that the notion of people still has not changed and women are still seen as a profanity to the society.

Female infanticide after all these years continues to be a serious issue in India. It is killing of a girl child intentionally. Besides using several measures to kill a girl child soon after her birth, the other methods used to kill the child in the womb after determining the sex are also prevalent. Today because of this deliberate elimination, there are more than 160 million girls who went missing in India which has created an imbalance in the sex ratio.

Reasons for female infanticide

There are various possible reasons for this problem. The reason lies in the cultural, economical and religious roots of India. Females are always seen as a burden to the society. A male child is considered to bring wealth, reputation and wellbeing and labour in the family while a female child is always seen to bring bad luck to the family, also it is a general conception of people that if a female is born they have to spend more on her education which will be waste as the ultimate aim of her parents is to get her married. The root cause thus of the female infanticide is Dowry system in India. There is a system in India in which grooms side has to be given dowry from the bride’s side at the time of her marriage as demanded and thus creating a problem for the poor families who can’t afford this.  A female is always seen as a financial obligatory by the parents. Another reason can be that a male child is considered as a path to heaven, under Hindu mythology a male child is given great importance as he is considered to give his parents the moksha (soul salvation).  A male child is also considered important as he will carry the family line. Also in 1975 due to one child policy only the female children were killed due to these aforementioned reasons. At that time, various novel technologies were introduces, ultrasound machines were installed, and people were thus made aware of various sex determination techniques and trapped in such misapprehensions, ultimately the poor female foetuses were killed in the womb even.

These convictions were not the things of past but in present scenario too people blindly believe these things and the same is contributed by illiteracy which turns out to be the major cause now for the female foeticide. Further in today’s world, corruption is going on at a rampant stage and due to the same reason though the sex determination is banned, private doctors are using it as an illegal way to mint money and the coarse part is even the educated and well-to-do families are doing it.

Effects of female foeticide

The major effect of female infanticide is that it is leading to an imbalance in the sex ratio which is increasing. The number of female children per male child has decreased from 972/1000 to 929/1000 in 1991 and 914 per 1000 boys in 2011 census and it is still decreasing.  Female infanticide is causing a stiff decrease in the female’s population which is a great concern. The child sex ratio is not uniform across the states in India. The states like Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, the ratio has declined to 900 girls per 1000 boys. There are more number of boys than that of girls due to which the difficulty of finding girls for marriage is increasing and this in turn is becoming one of the major causes of female trafficking in India. In areas like Haryana the females are being sold illegally from areas like west Bengal and Assam. This situation is further creating social deprivation for girls.

Talking about social effects, female foeticide pressurises women (by their own families) to have a son as a child and they are being subjected to mental, and physical torture and abandonment as well when she refuses to have sex determination test. Female infanticide thus in a way is augmenting social maltreatment of women. The gender imbalance caused due to infanticide is demonstrating patriarchal norms of the society even more strongly and women being afraid of the discrimination, ill-treatment that her girl would be facing are supporting the idea of pre natal determination of sex.  The crime rate against women are increasing and rape, abduction, trafficking, sexual exploitation are some of the major crimes women are facing right now and which is a matter of great lookout.

Laws and policies made by the government

Understanding the earnestness of the situation and due to above mentioned effects various laws and policies are passed in this regard. Government passed its first law – ‘Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971’, that made abortion legal in almost all states across the country, subject to certain conditions like – medical health of the mother and rape. But as there are certain loopholes in this Act as due to the advancement in technologies there are chances of people misusing it majorly. In 1980s sex diagnosis technologies were made available which led to massive abuse and an increase in number of female foeticide cases. Due to which Government passed ‘Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act’ in 1994. The law was amended in 2004 and is now known as ‘Pre-Conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) (PCPNDT) Act. A law named ‘Female Infanticide Prevention Act 1870 was passed in British India to prevent Female infanticide in India. Some of the other Acts passed for the controlling this are – ‘Dowry Prohibition Act 1961’, Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1986, ‘Ban on Ultrasound testing 1996’ and many more.  In Indian constitution and Indian Penal Code also there are certain provisions regarding the same. Article 21 of the constitution talks about right to life thereby giving certain rights to a pre born child as well. Section 312 read with Medical termination of Pregnancy Act,  imposes certain restrictions limiting the time of 20 weeks in every abortion other than the ones pertaining to medical conditions. Sections 312- 316 of the IPC 1860 deals with miscarriage where section 312- deals with causing miscarriage, Section 313- talks about causing miscarriage without women’s consent, Section 314 with death caused by an act with intent to cause miscarriage, Section 315 -Act done with intent to prevent child being born alive or to cause it to die after birth and Section 316 talks about ‘Causing death of quick unborn child by act amounting to culpable homicide.

Conclusion

India has always been a male dominant country and since ages women were persecuted towards the patriarchal norms. But now women are fighting back these notions of the society and are being ahead in every filed. The policies initiated by the government and laws made to fortify and escalate the women are becoming backbone of the women. But still there is a lot that is needed to be done to curb such social evils in India from the roots. But the laws and government are not enough to eradicate these evil practices; this won’t stop unless we choose to stop it. We need to educate people, we need to create social awareness at our level and we should support girls so that they would be empowered and be independent. Women are pride of our country. Our culture considered women as Shakti, as wealth and therefore the onus is on us to save the girl and prevent a taboo in our culture. We should remember ‘Don’t kill a girl in the womb when she can bring the country to gloom’.

“The views of the authors are personal