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Female Infanticide

Page: 1/9

Hindu Women > Issues and Politics > Issues > Female Infanticide

The following article is taken from Hinduism Today, with premission.

Will India's Ban on Prenatal Sex Determination Slow Abortion of Girls?

Dowry Drives the Deaths as Ultrasound-Equipped Trucks Ply Villages Pitching the Spiel, "Spend 500 Rupees Now, Save Five Lakhs Later"

By V.G. Julie Rajan, Pennsylvania

United Nations statistics estimate that in 1995 the Indian sexual ratio was 106.9 males per 100 women--having slowly increased from 102.9 in 1901. Approximately fifty million women are "missing" in the Indian population. Generally three principle causes are given: female infanticide, better food and health care for boys and maternal death at childbirth. The situation is similar in China and other Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Prenatal sex determination and the abortion of female fetuses threatens to skew the sex ratio to new highs--with unknown consequences. One source states that worldwide fully 42% of all unborn girls are aborted, compared to 25% of boys. Recognizing and seeking to control this perilous trend, the government of India outlawed prenatal sex determination on January 1st, 1996. The new law makes it illegal to advertise or perform the tests (with a few exceptions), and punishes the doctor, relatives who encourage the test and the woman herself with fines from ten to fifty thousand rupees and jail terms from three to five years.

The problem has arisen in just the past two decades. Prenatal techniques for sex determination were introduced into India only in the early seventies. Although touted officially as an aid in reducing genetic defects, much of the Indian public has turned to these tests to find out if "It's a boy" or not. It is an incidental irony that women are "blamed" for delivering baby girls, when it is now established medical fact that the man's semen always determines the child's sex.

At first, mostly affluent women had access to prenatal tests. When the non-invasive and cheaper technique of ultrasound was introduced twenty years ago, Indian families quietly turned to it to fulfill the desire for sons. Before the law came into effect, an alarming number of pregnancies underwent these simple tests as more and more couples customized the make-up of their families by terminating unwanted fetuses. It's a gut-wrenching fact that in a patriarchal country like India, where sons are prized and daughters devalued in society for a variety of reasons, it is likely that couples will choose to abort only females. In fact, on January 6, 1994, an episode of "ABC News PrimeTime Live," a weekly television news journal shown in the United States, it was estimated--guessed, really, since accurate figures are unavailable--that over three thousand female fetuses are aborted every day in India--one million per year.

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