Female Foeticide in India

Author: Eshika Nandy, Student, Amity University, Kolkata


What is female foeticide?

In simple words ‘female foeticide’ means abortion or killing of a female foetus on a selective basis. On the whole, it is not a process of selecting the sex of the foetus, rather detecting the sex of the foetus through sex determination tests and removing it from the mother’s womb before birth if it is a girl.

Origin of female foeticide in India: –

It was broadly acknowledged that during the 1970s India was suffering from crucial social and economic difficulties due to its population surge or due to its increasing population. Indian families attach greater importance to a son than a daughter. For that, giving birth to multiple children was common until it was a son. So, it became a major threat to society by causing speedy growth of population. And in this situation, Government hospitals found the abortion of female foetuses as an applicable solution for this. Although, due to the unavailability of advanced technology and risk-free equipment’s, the cases of female foeticide were low. However, by the 1990s, the practice of female foeticide had expanded rapidly throughout India, owing to the increasing use of ultrasound techniques[1].

Causes behind female foeticide: – Many factors cause female foeticide in India. The reasons behind it are given elaborately below –

  1. Gender Discrimination – In India the social structure is mainly dominated by men. Generally, the son inherits all the family property. In India, a girl is treated as the weaker sex. Participation of girls is not allowed in certain types of activities such as joining the army and all other physically tough activities. They have not been given any space to brighten their family names and fame.

  2. A vogue idea of discontinuing the family lineage In our society, after marriage, girls are generally made to leave their parental home and go to their matrimonial home resulting in disconnection of family lineage from them.

  3. Importance of a male child In Indian society a son is given more importance than a daughter because the families believe that a son is the main earner for the entire family. They also believe that their son will look after them in the future. So, they desire a son and it is one of the main reasons for female foeticide.

  4. Dowry system The dowry system is one of the prevailing practices in Indian society. It is a curse. In a family when a girl child is born the parents have to think about saving money from the very day of her birth to pay dowry at the time of her marriage. If any parents can’t fulfil the demand for dowry the girl and also her parents are tortured and mentally harassed.

  5. Alien money (Paraaya Dhan) In our society female children are not considered as a family member of their parental lineage because they have to go to their matrimonial home after marriage. So, the family members believe that spending money on a girl child is a waste of money.

  6. Issues of safety Girls are the main victims of various crimes such as sexual, physical and mental harassment. Parents have to be concerned about the protection of their girl child. It is another major reason for killing female foetuses in the womb of a mother.

  7. Scarcity of education Female foeticide still prevails because a major percentage of the population in India are illiterate and they live with some old fashioned vouge ideas.

  8. Misuse of ultrasound technology Ultrasound technology is used to lean or gain some information some information about the early foetus during pregnancy. But it is misused to determine the sex of the foetus and female foetuses are aborted as the parents don’t want a girl child.

  9. Manipulation in the medical system Some doctors are responsible for the abortion of a female foetus by taking a huge amount of money.

Impact of female foeticide:

Female foeticide is a disaster for our society and its effects are long term in nature. Decreasing female population is one of the major effects of practising female foeticide in India. Due to this, the male population is dominating the society. On the other hand, it also increases the illegal trafficking of the girl child. They are mainly trafficked from the neighbouring states where the child sex ratio is low. 15,000 Indian women were bought and sold in those areas where the number of female members were low due to female foeticide in 2011[2].

Laws for female foeticide in India: – To control female foeticide a number of laws have been passed in India.

The law relating to abortion was passed in the year of 1971 named the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act[3] In this Act, abortion was not illegal for the reasons of medical risks to the mother and child conceived by rape. But the availability of sex screening technology in India made the law ineffective. Under these circumstances, Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PNDT)[4] was passed in India in 1994. It was amended from time to time and in 2003 it became the Pre-Conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) (PCPNDT)[5] to prevent and punish for prenatal sex screening and female foeticide.

Implementation of the Law: –

With time The Pre-Conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PCPNDT),2004 was amended. Central and State Supervisory Board were formed to regulate the circumstances. Though so many changes were implemented this act has become ineffective as our society has not changed. Even the courts become hesitant to send the offenders to jail which led to a negative reaction. Various social activists and lawyers demanded strict punishment for the above-stated cases.

Judicial pronouncement: – The judiciary is playing a pivotal role to prevent female foeticide.

In Centre for Enquiry Into Health And Allied Themes (CEHAT) v. Union of India & Others[6], case the petitioners, thinking about the proper enactment of the Act, moved the Union of India to court to implement and to execute the provision of the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act,1994 which was not capable to prevent female foeticide. The court gave a warning to the Centre, State and Union Territories to obey the mandates of the Act properly and gave power to the competent authorities to take criminal actions against those who violate the laws. As a result of this, the Act was amended to Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act,1994 in 2003.

In the case of Voluntary Health Association of Punjab v. Union of India & Others[7], a writ petition was filed before the Supreme court of India to look for ways where State Governments have clarified the problem of sex-selective abortion in India. In this case Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan gave various orders and directions to shut down the clinics that were not registered and ultra-sonography machines would not be sold to them. According to Justice Dipak Misra, the awareness campaigns against female foeticide would be effective to enforce the laws.

Government Schemes to prevent female foeticide: – To change and improve the social outlook towards women, both the Central and State governments have introduced some welfare schemes. Such as –

  1. Balika Samriddhi Yojana[8]: – It is a Central Government Scheme. This scholarship scheme has been initiated to uplift the social state of the girls. The financially weaker young girls and their mothers (mainly those who are below the poverty line) are bestowed financial aid through this scheme. And the other aim of this scheme is to increase enrolment of girl children in schools.

  2. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Yojana[9]: – The Central Government has introduced this Scheme for the betterment of girls’ education throughout the country and to prevent female foeticide. This scheme mainly targeted those states having low sex ratio.

  3. Karnataka Bhagyalaxmi Scheme[10] – Karnataka Government gives a monthly health insurance of a maximum of Rs. 25,000 and also depending upon the age up to 10th standard an annual scholarship of Rs. 300 to Rs. 100 was given through this scheme to a girl child who belongs to a family below the poverty line. In case of accidents and natural death respectively Rs. 1 lakh and Rs. 42,500 is paid to the parents of the girl child. This scheme was introduced to promote the birth of girl child among below poverty line families.

  4. Ladli Scheme of Haryana[11]: – The families having a second girl child born on or after 20th August 2015 are mainly benefited by this cash incentive scheme of the Haryana Government. For a period of five years, 5000 rupees would be deposited annually in a Kishan Vikas Patra. And once the concerned girl child becomes a major, these deposits along with interest are to be released.

Effectiveness of laws and Government schemes: –

In spite of giving various rulings by the Supreme court and High courts to make the law effective, the reality does not say so. Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act,1971[12] permits to abort where pregnancy carries a high risk for women and this made ultrasound machines available throughout the country. The various Governments launched different schemes for the upliftment of the girl child. But most of the Schemes highlights factors which encourage dowry demands.

Conclusion: –

Female foeticide is a burning problem in India. Various safety measures such as awareness campaigns, various laws against violators, government schemes are being taken. But if we study the sex ratio of the country, it is observed that the number of female members are decreasing in comparison with male members. We should understand the fact that like males, females are also another wheel of the nation. And without a wheel, a cart will not be able to go ahead. Similarly, without a woman, a nation will not be able to develop. So, we should respect and protect the rights of the female members of our society.

References: –

[1] Dr. Ishita Chatterjee, The Evil of Female Foeticide In India: Causes, Consequences And Prevention, Legal Service India, (Feb. 04, 2022, 9.30 PM), https://www.legalserviceindia.com.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.

[4] Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994.

[5] Pre-Conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 2003.

[6] Centre for Enquiry Into Health and Allied Themes v. Union of India & Ors. on 10th September,2003, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 301 of 2000.

[7] Voluntary Health Association of Punjab v. Union of India & Ors. On 8th November,2016, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 349 of 2006.

[8] Vekaspedia, https://vikaspedia.in (last visited Feb. 05, 2022)

[9] Ibid.

[10] Supra note 8.

[11] Creditmantri, Ladli Yojna: Scheme objective, Awards, Eligibility – CreditMantrihttps://www.creditmantri.com (last visited Feb. 05, 2022)

[12] Ministry Of Health & Family Welfare, Government Of India, MTP ACT, 1971 | Ministry of Health and Family Welfare | GOIhttps://main.mohfw.gov.in, (last visited Feb. 04, 2022).


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