Women face injustice and violence throughout the world, from the practice of female genital mutilation in Africa to the acts of sexual abuse in Mexico. But the undeclared winner of brutality against women is one of the largest democratic country in the world, India. Many women are being murdered almost every day in India by the evil practise of female feticide. As described by Ahmad (2010), female feticide is “a practise that involves the detection and abortion of female foetus due to the preference for male babies and from the low value associated with the birth of females” (p.14). From the first census which was taken in 1871, India has consistently demonstrated an “abnormal” sex ratio. The 2001 census showed that there were 927 girls per 1000 boys. This sex ratio in India is lower than other countries such as China, Bangladesh and Nigeria. The prevalence of female feticide is reflected in its low sex ratio. From the Fertility and mortality survey of 1998, we infer that an estimated 0.5 million female births go missing yearly ( Nath & Garg, 2008). The socio-economic background in India has been the villain behind female feticide. The factors which trigger such an act are the beliefs and rigid caste system existing in India, the preference of a boy child and financial dependence of women coupled with the advent of technology development in prenatal sex determination and easy availability of ultrasonic machines. In this culture, females not only face inequality in society but are also denied the right to be born. But what’s ironic is that in the 14 years of the enactment of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technology Act (PNDT) which declares female feticide to be a penal offence, only 23 cases have been registered (Ahmad, 2010).
Problem 1: Shortage of women
Due to the sex selective abortion of female foetuses there is an imbalance in the sex ratio of India. This had led to a “gender-gap” in the country’s population. The New York Times (Agnivesh, Mani & Koster-Lossack, 2005) in 2005 reported that the 1990 census of India showed that there were 25 million more males than females present. And yet by 2001, even after the enactment of PNDT, the gender gap has risen to 35 million and now experts estimate it to hit as high as 50 million. This marked gap between males and females has national wide implications. Let us consider a situation wherein10 percent of men are not able to find brides. This would lead to depression among men, an increased suicide rate among men and emotional emptiness inside of them, as they now have to live single lives and cannot produce off springs. They wouldn’t be experiencing the joys of intimacy, family life or raising children which should be a part of every life (Ahmad, 2010). The shrinking pool of marriageable women have lead to another problem of kidnapping women and later being exploited as sex workers or sold for marriage. Girls are being trafficked from the tribal areas in India, impoverished neighbouring countries like Bangladesh or Nepal, or from the unfortunates and sold into marriage in regions like Haryana which suffers a high lack of women. They are priced about $200, which is lesser than buying a buffalo, which costs about $1,000 in India (Agnivesh, Mani & Koster-Lossack, 2005). These prices also show us the low value of women in India. This existing juvenile sex ratio is potentially disastrous for the country. India, being the second most populous country and deficient in women, is doomed to an eventual extinction.
Problem 2: Increased sex crime rates
A society with a large number of unmarried youth becomes a social nuisance and thus is prone to particular dangers against women. The lack of having a female partner creates a feeling of aggression in them. There has been an increase of violence against women such as rape, gang rape, sexual harassment, increase in immortality and prostitution. It has thus lead to the spread of diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis. These rates of increased crimes have been directly proportional to the increased gender gap found. This can be noted that in Delhi, the capital of India there has been a sharp rise in sex crimes in recent times declaring Delhi to be the most unsafe city of India. Delhi not only reports the lowest sex ratio among all states, of 845 girls per 1000 boys but also has the highest crime rates against women. The India Today (Lama & Bagga, 2011) in 2011 reported that “a woman is raped every 18 hours in Delhi or molested every 14 hours”. The number of rape cases reported in the Indian capital went up to 489 in 2008, then jumped to a 459 in 2009, and reaching 489 cases in 2010 while cases of molestation rose to 585 in 2010 from 528 cases that were reported in 2009. It is seen that the number of sex offenders are getting out of control in India and the crimes reported are ever increasing. Delhi, being the capital of India brings shame to the country. Therefore, the lack of females due to female feticide is causing another concern of creating a safe environment for women.
Problem 3: Violation of Human Rights
Female Feticide is a gross violation of many human rights. Firstly, it takes away the right to life of the unborn child (Ahmad, 2010). Even before the child can open his eyes to the world and enjoy the pleasures of life, it is killed inside the mother’s womb. And, even when a girl child is born in the family she is not given as much rights that she would have enjoyed if she was a son. Daughters are often not educated completely, and if they are sent to school they are burdened with household chores, which force them in being drop-outs (Agnivesh, Mani & Koster-Lossack, 2005). Secondly, it takes away the mother’s right on her own body. Most of the time the decision of killing the female child by the women is done under pressure of her culture, husband or a mean mother in law (Ahmad, 2010). Even with the unwillingness of mother, she has to her sacrifice her girl child because her family insists. This ethical issue involved in female feticide is very depressing.
The Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in his 63rd Independence day speech rightly said that “As soon as possible we have to remove this blot. Our progress will be incomplete till women become equal partners in growth” (Ahmad, 2010). India has a long way to go in her fight against the termination of female foetuses yet time come to declare crusade against it. It is a tragic case in which technology has been misused. The cultural and social background of India is creating a problem of gender gap in the society. The ever worsening sex ratio has devastating effects on the country. This leads to a deficiency of brides in the matrimonial market and in turn aggravates crimes against women. Female feticide is a violation of human rights for both the women and the child. Some steps that need to be inculcated collectively or individually is to, discourage people from doing sex selective abortions, spread awareness among the people to change their attitudes, saying no to dowry and to try and empower women. Government should stride in providing more opportunities for women and to provide a safe environment for them for them to grow. Improvements should be made to make the laws stricter and overcome its loopholes. The PNDT must try to register as many births as well as ultrasonic machine. Government and the Indian Medical Council interference should be done in hospitals. The need of the hour is to save the girl child before they becomes a “scarce commodity”.
Agnivesh,S ., Mani, R., & Köster-Lossack, A.( 2005, 25 November,). Missing: 50 million Indian girls. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/24/opinion/24iht-edswami.html?scp=1&sq=female%20foeticide&st=cse
Ahmad, N. (2010). Female Feticide in India. Issues in Law and Medicines. 26(1), 13-17. Retrieved from: http://ezproxy.aus.edu/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.aus.edu/pqdweb?did=2317026361&sid=1&Fmt=3&clientId=19323&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Garg, S., & Nath, A. (2008, October). Female Feticide in India: Issues and Concerns. Journal of Postgraduate Medicine, 54(4), 276-279. Retrieved from: http://ezproxy.aus.edu/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.aus.edu/pqdweb?did=1590098711&sid=1&Fmt=3&clientId=19323&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Lama, P., & Bagga, B. A woman is raped every 18 hours in Delhi. India Today. Retrieved from: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/story/a-woman-is-raped-every-18-hrs-in-delhi/3/125779.html
Student, American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]