Female Foeticide

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Female Foeticide in India
Submitted by admin on 1 May, 2004 - 05:25
• India
• IHN 2004.2 May
• International Humanist News
Female Foeticide in India
By Indu Grewal and J. Kishore
Some of the worst gender ratios, indicating gross violation of women’s rights, are found in South and East Asian countries such as India and China. The determination of the sex of the foetus by ultrasound scanning, amniocentesis, and in vitro fertilization has aggravated this situation. No moral or ethical principle supports such a procedure for gender identification. The situation is further worsened by a lack of awareness of women’s rights and by the indifferent attitude of governments and medical professionals. In India, the available legislation for prevention of sex determination needs strict implementation, alongside the launching of programmes aimed at altering attitudes, including those prevalent in the medical profession. Background

The killing of women exists in various forms in societies the world over. However, Indian society displays some unique and particularly brutal versions, such as dowry deaths and sati. Female foeticide is an extreme manifestation of violence against women. Female foetuses are selectively aborted after pre-natal sex determination, thus avoiding the birth of girls. As a result of selective abortion, between 35 and 40 million girls and women are missing from the Indian population. In some parts of the country, the sex ratio of girls to boys has dropped to less than 800:1,000. The United Nations has expressed serious concern about the situation. The sex ratio has altered consistently in favour of boys since the beginning of the 20th century (see Table), and the effect has been most pronounced in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. It was in these states that private foetal sex determination clinics were first established and the practice of selective abortion became popular from the late 1970s. Worryingly, the trend is far stronger in urban rather than rural areas, and among literate rather than illiterate women, exploding the myth that growing affluence and spread of basic education alone will result in the erosion of gender bias. Sex Ratio (females per 1000 males), India 1901–2001

Year Sex Ratio Sex Ratio
in Children (0–6yr)
1901 972 –
1911 964 –
1921 955 –
1931 950 –
1941 945 –
1951 946 –
1961 941 976
1971 930 964
1981 934 962
1991 929 945
2001 933 927
Source: Registrar General of India
Status of Indian Women
The adverse sex ratio has been linked with the low status of women in Indian communities, both Hindu and Muslim. The status of women in a society can be determined by their education, health, economic role, presence in the professions and management, and decision-making power within the family. It is deeply influenced by the beliefs and values of society. Islam permits polygamy and gives women fewer rights than men. Among Hindus, preference for the male child is likewise deeply enshrined in belief and practice. The Ramayana and the Manusmriti (the Laws of Manu) represent the ideal woman as obedient and submissive, and always needing the care of a male: first father, then husband, then son. 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. Modern medical technology is used in the service of this religion-driven devaluing of women and girls. Religion operates alongside other cultural and economic factors in lowering the status of women. The practice of dowry has spread nationwide, to communities and castes in which it had never been the custom, fuelled by consumerism and emulation of upper caste practices. In the majority of cases, the legal system has no impact on the practice of dowry. It is estimated that a dowry death occurs in India every 93 minutes. The need for a dowry for girl children, and the ability to demand a dowry for boys exerts...
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