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Technology and its Impact on Female Foeticide in India

India has always possessed the hateful legacy of killing the female child. Earlier, because scientific techniques were not advanced and it was impossible to determine the sex of child , the killing of female child took the form of adding opium of the infants milk or by suffering the infant under the mother after birth else by plainly ill –treating daughters .

The truth is disheartening, but nonetheless the truth the technique used to diagnose the condition and sex of the foetus, medically termed amniocentesis , is now primarily conducted foe sex determination and the consequent termination of a female foetus.

The blind killing of female foetuses has led to a precarious situation .where the male and female ratio of the population is also affected. The need of the hour is to change such narrow mindsets of people. This will help in empowering females. The government of India is trying to come up with various schemes to reduce discrimination against females and to change the preconceived notions people have about them. Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao is one such initiative that aims at providing survival, safety, and education to girl children.

What is Female Foeticide?

Female foeticide is the procedure of abortion to terminate female fetus from the womb of the mother before taking birth after the sex recognition tests like an ultrasound scan. Female feticides and even any sex recognition test is illegal in India. It is the shame for the parents who are despairing for a baby boy as well as doctors doing abortions especially for this.

Causes of Female Foeticide:

Female foeticide has been in practice for periods especially for the families who have a preference only male child. Several religious, social, financial and emotional are the reason for female foeticide. Therefore the time has been changed now much however, many reasons and beliefs are ongoing in some families.

Some main reasons for female foeticide are:
Generally parents don't want a girl baby because they have to give a big amount as a dowry at daughter's marriage.

There is a faith that girls are always consumer and boys are the only producer. Thus Parents understand that son will earn money for the whole life and care their parents however girls will get married a day and will have a separate family .There is a belief that the son will carry the name of the family in future however the girl has to carry the husband's family .This is a prestige issue in society for parent and grandparent to have a boy baby in the family besides having a daughter.

There is a stress on the new bride of the family to give birth to a male child so she is enforced to go for sex recognition and abort if girl baby. Illiteracy, insecurity, and poverty of people in society are also major reasons for girl baby burden. Science and Technological advancement and utilities have made this very easy task for parents.

Impact of female foeticide on the sex ratio:

Sex ratio denotes the ratio of females to males in a specific region. Many practices like female foeticide and female infanticide (killing a baby girl after her birth) have had a contrary influence on the sex ratio. Thus it rises and promotes many social evils.
As per the decennial Indian census, Sex Ratio of India is 107.48. It means 107.48 males per 100 females in 2019. Therefore India has 930 females per 1000 males. So, India has 48.20% female population compare to 51.80% male population.

Effective Measures to Control:

As we all know that female foeticide is a crime and social evil for the future of women. Hence we should notice the causes for female foeticide in Indian society.
Female infanticide or female foeticide is primarily because of sex determination.

Some measures are:
  1. Law must be implemented and one should be surely punished if found guilty for this unkind exercise.
  2. Permanent cancellation of license should be done if it is going on in medical practice.
  3. Marketing of medical tools specifically for illegal sex determination and abortion should be a bane.
  4. Parents must be fined who want to kill their girl baby.
  5. Campaigns and seminars should be regularly held to aware of young couples.
  6. Women should be aware so that they can be more attentive to their rights.
Social pressures in India, and the presence of low-cost technologies like ultrasound, have led to sex-based abortion of female fetuses, and an increasingly smaller percentage of girls born each year.

Prevalence and Spread of Female Foeticide

In India, the practice of sex-selective abortion or female foeticide (in which an unborn baby is aborted or killed before birth simply because it is not a boy) is only the latest manifestation of a long history of gender bias, evident in the historically low and declining population ratio of women to men. Moreover, the medical fraternity in India has been quick to see entrepreneurial opportunities in catering to the insatiable demand for a male child. Until recently, the technology was prohibitively expensive.

The three chief pre-natal diagnostic tests that are being used to determine the sex of a fetus are amniocentesis, chronic villi biopsy (CVB) and ultrasonography. Amniocentesis is meant to be used in high-risk pregnancies, in women over 35 years. CVB is meant to diagnose inherited diseases like cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy. Ultrasonography is the most commonly used technique. It is non-invasive and can identify up to 50 per cent of abnormalities related to the central nervous system of the fetus. But sexing has become its preferred application.

A ban on the government departments at the centre and in the states, making use of pre-natal sex determination for the purpose of abortion - a penal offence to the commercialization of the technology, private clinics providing sex determination tests through amniocentesis multiplied rapidly and widely.

These tests are made available in areas that do not even have potable water, with marginal farmers willing to take loans at 25 per cent interest to have the test. Advertisements appear blatantly encouraging people to abort their female fetuses in order to save the future cost of dowry. The portable ultrasound machine has allowed doctors to go from house to house in towns and villages. In a democracy it is difficult to restrict right to business and livelihood if the usual parameters are fulfilled.

Female Foeticide and Law

Responding to this alarming situation where the dignity and rights were being violated even before of the girl child , women activities took up cudgels against it.
Parliament too, realizing the grave implications of the misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques attempted to limit the use of same only for medical purposes. The government realized that the abuse techniques, which were originally used to detect genetic disorders or chromosomal abnormalities or congenital abnormalities or sex – linked diseases, was leading to female foeticide which was discriminate against the female sex and also affected the dignity and statues of women.

There has been an inability to discuss the issue of foeticide without the larger debate on abortion, which is legally allowed and has been seen as a triumph of women's rights movement in the Country. India has allowed abortion on broad medical and social grounds since the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act was passed in 1971. The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act .and Rules 1994 (PCPNDT) mandates that sex selection by any person, by any means, before or after conception, is prohibited.

But while the Act seeks to regulate and prevent misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, it rightly cannot deny them either. The PNDT Act allows pre-natal diagnosis only for chromosomal abnormalities, genetic metabolic disorders and congenital abnormalities. The law, overview permits ultrasound clinics, clinics for medical termination of pregnancies and assisted reproductive facilities as a routine matter and as a legitimate business.

Judicial Concern:

The challenge to the constitutionally of the pre- conception and pre-natal diagnostic techniques (Prohibition of sex selection) Act ,1994 on the ground of violation of Article -21 of the constitution was rejected by the supreme court in Vinod soni vs Union of India {1}

Expressing concern over this issue , the supreme court in Cehat And Ors. vs Union Of India {2} moved in to stop illegal sex determination and directed all states to confiscate ultrasound equipment from clinics that are being run without licenses . The Health Secretaries of Punjab , Haryana, Delhi, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh,Kerala, were present to explain the steps taken in implement the Pre- natal diagnostic techniques ( regulation and prevention of misuse) Act 1994.

Chitra Agarwal v/s State Of Uttaranchal {3}

The petitioner, a practicing doctor having an ultra- sound center was registered under the pre- conception and pre-natal diagnostic techniques (Prohibition of sex selection ) Act 1994. The registered of the petitioner was first suspended and the cancelled. There were criminal proceedings pending against the ultra sound center. The action is directed against registration of the ultrasound center not against owner of the center. The pendency of criminal proceeding should not deter the appellate authority from deciding the appeal filed the cancellation of registration.

End notes:
  1. 2005 cri LJ , 3408 (Bom).
  2. 2003 (10) SCALE 11, (2003) 8 SC 412
  3. AIR 2006 Ut 78

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