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Female Foeticide: A Current Analysis

1. Introduction:

Female Foeticide is the procedure of abortion to terminate the female fetus from the womb of the mother before the birth of the child by taking a sex recognition test outside legal methods. There are many methods, ultrasonography, fetoscopy being the most popular ones. Usually the termination can be done between 14-18 weeks of pregnancy. Since these methods are cheaper and easier this has lead to the tremendous increase in female foeticide. According to the Hindu Religion and other religious scriptures a man will not be able to attain moksha if his son does not light his funeral pyre. It also mentions that if a woman gives birth only to girl children she will be left behind in the 11th year of marriage. This religious belief of the Hindu religion has given more emphasis to the birth of a male child and has lead to the practice of female foeticide. Another such practice is the Dowry system where the parents will have to pay money or transfer the property to the girl child when she gets married. As to this reason is why the girl child is being considered as a burden and a liability to the family. It is being thought that paying money for eliminating the fetus is far better than paying huge amounts of money as Dowry in the future and lifelong presentations to the daughter. These reasons points out that the never ending gender based biasness have paved the way for the increasing practice of female foeticide. According to Ancient Vedic texts a woman was given the status of goddess and was being worshipped also she was referred as Saamraajini- “The Queen of the house”.[1] Nowadays there are many temples or mandirs that is being built only for women deities and a number of festivals being celebrated in the name of only goddesses, Navrathri being the most popular of them.  The decision making of if the fetus should be aborted or not was made only by the husband and in-laws. In many families when the daughter gets married and the fetus is found out to be a female she is forced to abort or is being tortured and sometimes even sent out of the house. Women was not allowed to make decisions foe themselves and those who had no decision making power had to listen to their family. But the woman who belonged to a higher society and those who were well educated as well were able to make decisions for them.

2. Growth of Female foeticide in India:

The preference of having a boy child dated back into history and therefore the practice of female foeticide was being practiced in the Indian society for a long time. The origin of female foeticide in India started in the 1970s. In the very popular show Sathyameva Jayate hosted by Amir Khan, Dr. Puneeth Bedi, a consultant and a gynecologist in New Delhi says that during the early 1970s the practice of abortion was not popular but the concept of family planning that was being introduced by the British came into existence and this was the period when the population was increasing at a very high rate. Every Indian family gave preference to a male child so the women would conceive until she gives birth to a male child, but this lead to an increase in the growth of the population. Due to this the government hospitals started to abort the female fetus. The equipments that were being used in the early 1970s were complicated and were not risk free but in the late 1980s and 1990s the concept of ultrasound became popular throughout India and was also much cheaper and easier.[2]This practice was first followed in north India where the concept of amniocentesis encouraged even though it was being misused.

The first sex determination clinic was being opened in Amritsar, Punjab in the year 1979.[3] The first amniocentesis test was being carried out in the 1974, to detect the abnormalities of the fetus by the All India Institute of Medical Science. Later when this test was being misused there were many women organizations that tried to stop this new menace but due to the Medical Termination Pregnancy Act 1971 which permitted that the tests can be done as it was only facilitated the detection of the abnormalities of the fetus. According to this Act if there is any abnormality that is being detected within 12-18 weeks of pregnancy abortion can be done in a legal manner. Due to this reason amniocentesis could not be terminated and the Female Foeticide continued to increase at a drastic rate. According to United Nations 2000[4] unborn girls are being aborted in India everyday and 500000 of them are being aborted every year in India in an illegal manner.  Sex ratio is the ratio of females to males of a particular region and in a population of 138.485cr the sex ratio turns out to be 112males per 100 females.[5]

According to the census 2011 the sex ratio of India is 933 females per 1000 males in the urban sector, 946 in rural areas and Haryana with the lowest of 861 females per 1000 males.[6] This imbalance in the sex ratio will lead to many social, economic and political problems and will eventually lead to more crimes being committed against women. The evil practice of female foeticide and female infanticide (killing to the girl child after its born) are the main reasons for the decline in the sex ratio in the county.

On the 6th of March 2017 it was found that 16 female fetuses were being buried in the district of Sangli with the intension of disposing them.[7] Similarly 8 female fetuses were found in a plastic bag near a lake in the city of Indore, Madhya Pradesh in the year 2012. According to the reports given by NDTV a woman was caught while she was allegedly aborting a girl child in Haryana[8].

3. The Pre-Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act 2004 (PCPNDT)

There were many laws that was being implemented by the government to control this menace of female foeticide. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 allowed abortion only in case of abnormalities of the fetus or if the women conceived by rape. In the 1980s the sex screening facilities was accessed by all the common people and misused so the number of abortions at that period was high. Later in the year 1994 The Pre Diagnostic Techniques Act was being passed and was finally amended as the PCPNDT Act 2004. There were many changes such as:

  1. It brought amniocentesis and ultrasound tests under the ambit.
  2. The punishment, rules were made stricter.
  3. Prohibits the selection of sex on or after conception.
  4. No laboratory or centers or clinics are allowed to conduct any tests for the determination of the sex.
  5. The tests like ultrasound, amniocentesis will be done only to check the genetic abnormalities, metabolic disorders etc.

4. The legislations regarding female foeticide:

  1.  Indian Penal Code 1860: Any act that is not being done in good faith and has caused miscarriage then it is punishable under IPC.
  2. Under Section 312 if a person causes miscarriage then he shall be entitled to an imprisonment of 3 years or fine or both.
  3. Under Section 313 when the miscarriage is caused without the consent of the women then the imprisonment term increases to 7 years along with fine.
  4. According to Section 314 if the miscarriage has caused death of the women the imprisonment term extends to 10 years along with payment of fine.
  5. According to Section 315 if any person intends to perform any act that prevents the child from being born alive or performs any act that causes it to die it after its born will be punished with a imprisonment term of 10 years along with fine or both.
  6. A woman will be held liable if she herself has caused the miscarriage.
  7. IPC allows abortion if the carriage can cause injury or death to the woman.
  8. Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971: The mother or the father or the in-laws does not have the right to decide for abortion. This right will be vested in the hands of registered medical practitioners. The Termination of Medical Pregnancy (amendment) Bill, 2020 was being recently passed in the Lok Sabha by the minister of Health and Family welfare, Dr. Harsha Vardhan. According to the amendment the pregnancy can be terminated within 12 weeks of pregnancy only when there is an opinion given by the medical practitioners that the pregnancy can cause risk or injury to the mother’s life or the child can be born with mental abnormalities and other disorders.[9] Under this Act every state is needed to have a Medical Board. Lastly the bill also states that the medical practitioners are prohibited from disclosing the details of the woman whose pregnancy has been terminated apart from the person authorized by law.
  9. Provisions under the Indian Constitution: According to Article 14 of the constitution the state shall not deny any person equality on the grounds of sex, race, caste or place of birth. Article 21 states ones right to personal liberty shall never be denied except according to the provisions of law. Sex determination tests deprive both these rights. Articles 15, 15(3), 16, 39(a), 39(b), 39(c) and 42 are important in this regard.

5. Conclusion:

The preference of having a male child is still prevailing in many families even today. Despite the various measures that has been taken by the government the country’s sex ratio has not increased. This menace has lead to the demand for girls for marriage. As questioned by professor, Ravindra Kaur, the people are paying for getting their female fetus aborted and later pay girls to full fill their sexual desires where is the common sense in this? To prevent this menace from increasing further importance must be given to the measures that will create public awareness.[10] Proper education and employment must be given to the girl children. Public awareness camps will also help in people coming together to stop this evil practice. Unless the people realize the want and importance of female in the society this problem will not come to an end, and they should be given preference and rights that a male is offered in the society.


[1] S Garg & A Nath, Female feticide in India: Issues and concerns, Symposium: Violence against children and women (Vol. 54, Issue 4, 2008) at pp. 276-279, http://www.jpgmonline.com/article.asp?issn=0022-3859;year=2008;volume=54;issue=4;spage=276;epage=279;aulast=Garg.

[2] Purava Desai, Satyameva Jayate, hits the heart, Time of India (7th May 2012 , 13:51 IST) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tv/news/hindi/Satyamev-Jayate-hits-the-heart/articleshow/13032531.cms.

[3] Gita Aravamudan, Disappearing Daughters: The Tragedy of Female Foeticide 60, (Penguin Books, 2007)

[4] Female Infanticide Worldwide: The case for action by the UN Human Rights Council, Asian Centre For Human Rights (June 2016), http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/Femalefoeticideworldwide.pdf

[5] India Witnesses one of the highest female infanticide incidents in the world: study, Down to Earch (Sep 19, 2018), https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/health/india-witnesses-one-of-the-highest-female-infanticide-incidents-in-the-world-54803

[6]  Kavita and Ved Prakash, Imbalanced Sec Ratio in Haryana: Rural and Urban Dimensions, Economic Affairs, (Vol. 64, March 2019) at pp. 241-24, http://ndpublisher.in/admin/issues/EAv64n1zb.pdf

[7] India abortion- police find 19 female fetuses, BBC (March 6, 2017), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-39176668.

[8] NDTV Correspondent, female foeticide: woman doctor was caught while aborting girl child in Haryana, NDTV (May 15, 2012, 11:50 AM), https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/female-foeticide-woman-doctor-caught-while-she-was-allegedly-aborting-girl-child-in-haryana-482658.

[9] Ministry: Health and Family Welfare, The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, PRS India, (March 2, 2020), https://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/medical-termination-pregnancy-amendment-bill-2020.

[10] India’s Silent Genocide, Hindustan Times (Jul 23, 2011, 19:51 IST), https://www.hindustantimes.com/columns/india-s-silent-genocide/story-aWMFZ0CwLn3DEmTmIJJczN.html

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Author

Sanchita S
Student - SASTRA Deemed to be University