Vol 1 Issue 1 January 2006
1 and Renu Sharma2
The girl children become target of attack even before they are born. Numerous scholars have observed that the latest advances in modern medical sciences – the tests like Amniocentesis and Ultra-sonography which were originally designed for detection of congenital abnormalities of the foetus, are being misused for knowing the sex of the foetus with the intention of aborting it if it happens to be that of a female. The worst situation is when these abortions are carried out well beyond the safe period of 12 weeks endangering the women’s life. This paper theoretically analyses the magnitude of the incidence of female foeticide and infanticide in India.
crimes against girl children
Foeticide; Infanticide; Ultra-sonography; sex selective abortion;
Incidence and Magnitude
Interestingly, Bandewar (2003: 2075-2081) found that 64 per cent of the abortion service providers were against sex selective abortions; 10 per cent said they were against it but had to do it and the rest about 24 per cent approved the practice of sex selective abortions. Although there was not much variation among service providers working in public/private health care facilities or rural/urban location but difference was found among men and women service providers.
About 28 per cent men approved of sex selective abortion practice whereas it was only 17 per cent in case of women providers. Thus it was higher percentage of women providers (68 per cent) compared to men (61 per cent) who were against such a practice. Those who disapproved of the practice of sex selective abortions but engaged in it against their principles expressed their compulsions and helplessness for two reasons:
1. Due to pressures arising out of unhealthy competition in the health care service sector it was said that if they did not provide abortion care services, some others would have provided them, and
2. Implications in terms of persistent abuse and exploitation that the women have to face back home in case they did not get the abortion done.
Many talked of compulsions that women have at their ends to go for sex selection abortions. These arise either out of social norms fostering son preference or because their lives are put at stake in case they do not produce a son. Some also said that unwanted girls ran the risk of severe ill treatment at their natal homes causing them emotional and mental trauma. Hence the service providers empathised with the woman’s social needs for sex selective abortions (Economic and Political Weekly, 2003). Nearly 10,000 cases of female foeticide have been reported from Ahmedabad alone (Gangrade, 1988: 63-70).
crime is committed, the penalties range from seven years to life imprisonment for fourteen years and fine.
Thus both these laws were meant to protect the childbearing function of the woman and legitimise the purpose for which pre-natal tests and abortions could be carried out. However, in practice we find that these provisions have been misused and are proving against the interest of the females.
In Tamil Nadu, the overall juvenile sex ratio has fallen down sharply from 948 in 1991 to 939 in 2001 (Census of India 2001). Sen (1989: 123-149) estimated that about 30 million women were missing from the Indian population. Such violent criminal acts have attacked the dignity of women as human beings and have left them more vulnerable and fearful (see Thilagaraj and Sasirekha, 2002; and Kapur, 1995: 246-257). A study conducted by Premi and Raju (1996) in Bhind district in Madhya Pradesh and Barmer and Jaisalmer districts in Rajasthan found that female infanticide was community specific. Villages that were inhabited entirely or predominantly by Gujars, Yadavs (Ahir) and the Rajputs had the lowest sex ratio. In multi-caste villages the chances of female infanticide reduced very substantially. The twin process of ‘elimination of unborn daughters’ and the ‘slow killing’ through neglect and discrimination of those that are born has become a matter of concern.
State-wise incidence Analysis of Crime against Girl Children
Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Meghalaya, Punjab, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal have reported only infanticide cases and no foeticide cases have been reported from these states, whereas only foeticide cases have been reported from Orissa and Chandigarh. It is worthwhile exploring why crimes against the born and the unborn do not exist in some states and why some states have reported only infanticide cases or only foeticide cases. Can it be because of non-reporting of cases or because of cultural and social variations that may be specific to these states? These are some of the issues that need to be looked into. Among the states/Union Territories (come directly under central government rule) that report prevalence of both infanticide and foeticide, the highest rate of prevalence is found in the states of Maharashtra, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Bihar and the Union Territory of Delhi.
Incidence (I) Percentage Contribution to All India (P) of Crimes
STATES I P I P
2 Assam 0 0.0 4 3.8
3 Bihar 1 1.1 4 3.8
4 Gujarat 0 0.0 4 3.8
5 Haryana 13 14.3 1 1.0
6 J& K 0 0.0 1 1.0
7 Karnataka 1 1.1 2 1.9
8 Kerala 0 0.0 2 1.9
9 Madhya Pradesh 14 15.4 31 29.8
10 Maharashtra 41 45.1 20 19.2
11 Orissa 1 1.1 0 0.0
12 Punjab 0 0.0 6 5.8
13 Rajasthan 9 9.9 5 4.8
14 Sikkim 0 0.0 3 2.9
Vol 1 Issue 1 January 2006
16 West Bengal 0 0.0 2 1.9
17 Chandigarh 1 1.1 0 0.0
18 Delhi 2 2.2 2 1.9
1. Economists who apply the law of demand and supply and recommend that the reduction in the ‘supply’ of women will enhance their status need to review anthropological evidence that shows that the regions in India wherethe sex ratio is extremely adverse are notorious for some of the most inhuman practices against women. These include forced polyandry, gang rape, abduction, dowry murders, and the degraded status of widows and deserted women.
2. Techno-doctors who promote non-reproductive technologies for commercial reasons cash in on anti-women biases that reduce the Indian women to a “male child producing machine” They treat a healthy woman as raw material, not as a human being, converting her into a pathological case. They violate the code of medical ethics by violating women’s dignity and bodily integrity and also become a party to aiding and abetting the process.
3. Advocates of population control whose target is to achieve a Net Reproductive Rate of Zero (NRR-0) by supporting foeticide and whose cynical logic is “Fewer women = Lesser Procreation” have placed Indian women in the category of “endangered species”.
Another effort by a voluntary organisation in Tamil Nadu has been reported by Giriraj (2004: 13-14 & 35-45) who conducted the study in Kadayampatti Panchayat of Salem district on 42 families identified by a voluntary organisation ‘World Vision’ as rescued families who were provided facilities, assistance and awareness with a view to set their mind against female infanticide. His study revealed that 63.91 per cent of the respondents were in the age group of 20-30 years and 26.19 per cent were above 30 years. Of these only 19.05 per cent of the respondents were married at the age of 19 years and above. Majority of them married between 16-18 years (52.38%), and (28.57%) below 15 years. A large majority (95.24%) had nuclear families and nearly two third (71.43%) had 2-3 girl
spite of the fact that their own educational background was very dismal, 83.33` percent were illiterate. Employment status showed that more than half (52.38%)
worked as coolies whereas 42.86 per cent were unemployed. The monthly earnings in majority of the cases ranged between Rs.1000-2000.
Almost all the respondents stated that burden of dowry and poverty were the two main reasons for female infanticide however, 76.19 per cent stated fear of
safety for the girl as a reason for female infanticide and 83.33 per cent accepted son preference because it is the male who carries the family lineage.
Overwhelming majority (83.33%) of the respondents believed that they would have committed female infanticide if the voluntary organisation would not have intervened and provided economic assistance/incentives and awareness generation.
Only 4.76 per cent of the respondents said that they were afraid of the laws enacted by the government.
Most of the women reported that they killed their babies under pressure from their husbands. Many a time the husbands would beat up their wives and force them to kill the female child because she is an economic burden. Such situations occur more so among poverty stricken families. Srivastava (2001: 7-12) states that, “the spectre of domestic violence chocks their voices and silences their opposition to attitudes and practices derogatory to their dignity. This social reality does not allow women to protest against any suggestion or coercion to get the female child aborted. It is unthinkable that any woman would readily agree to be a party to the crime. They do so under male pressure, coercion and domination”.
Thus willingly or unwillingly they become party to the crime for they have no control even over their bodies.
amniocentesis for sex determination;
Prevent cases of female foeticide and infanticide and ban the practice of
feeding practices, expand nutritional interventions to reduce severe
malnourishment by half and provide supplementary nutrition to adolescent
girls in need;
End gender disparity in infant mortality rate; eliminate gender disparities in
and ensure immunization against all forms of serious illnesses; and
Reduce deaths due to diarrhoea by 50% among girl children under 5 years
The launching of the Balika Samriddhi Yojana in 1997 is a major initiative
of Government to raise the overall status of the girl child. It intends to change
family and community attitudes towards her and her mother. Under this scheme
about 25 lakh girl children born every year in families below the poverty line are
to be benefited. The first component of the scheme, which has already been
launched, is to provide Rs.500/ – as a post-delivery grant to the mother of the girl
child as a symbolic gift from Government. The other components proposed under
the scheme are provision of annual scholarships to the beneficiaries when they go
to school and assistance for taking upon income generating activity when they
attain the age of maturity.
Besides having specific legislation and policy proclamations to deal with this menace, the precipitating factors such as dowry, poverty, and woman’s
economic dependence etc., leading to the problem of foeticide and infanticide have been addressed by enacting various legislations as:
Provide safe drinking water and ensure access to fodder and drinking water
Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961(Amended in 1986);
Hindu Marriage Act, 1955;
Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956;
Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1986
These and various other legislations and policy proclamations intend to bring about women’s economic and social empowerment to the maximum and it is
hoped that such measures would equip women to exercise their rights.
Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 etc.
generation, mass appeal and social action. In addition to this all concerned i.e. the
religious and social leaders, voluntary organisations, women’s groups, socially
responsible media, the doctors; the Medical Council/Association (by enforcing
medical ethics and penalties on deviant doctors) and the law enforcement
personnel should work in a coordinated way.
2003, pp. 2075-2081.
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