Volume 5, No. 10, October 2004


 Girl Child - An Endangered Species



Gone down the drain

It is a rather distressing and shameful fact that some 40-50 million girls and women are "missing" or should we say callously eliminated, from the Indian population. A study conducted by the United Nations Statistical Office and population division points out that the declining sex ratio in India suggests that it is an exception to the global rule of girls surviving better than boys owing to their biologically stronger constitution. In most countries the sex ratio tends to be in favour of women with an average of about 1050 women for every 1000 men. In the capitalist countries, for example there are on an average, 106 women for every 100 men; in sub-saharan Africa, there are 102 women for every 100 men; and in South East Asia, 101 women for every 100 men. In India, on the contrary, there are less than 93 women for every 100 men in the population, or 930 per 1000.

Studies have shown that where men and women have equal access to nutrition and health care women certainly are better than men and live longer. Infact it is only in societies where there is a systematic and specific discrimination against women that their population dwindles down. Declining child sex ratio is a glaring expression of this violent discrimination against the feminine gender, from womb to tomb.


Table 1

Study this table carefully. See how the female population have steadily declined over the century and how so-called independence has not brought in any difference. What with all advancement in technology and communication how can the fall be explained except by rampant exploitation and oppression at the behest of a reactionary social system worst governance. In a population of 102 crores even a 1% decline means lakhs of lives unduly lost.

Sex ratio in India 1901-2001

Census year

     Sex ratio (females per 1000 males)























Statistics source : census of India 2001

The child sex ratio (CSR) in India has been indicating a negative trend towards girl children for decades now. The sharp decline in CSR from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001 as brought forth by the 2001 census hit the public eye.

It was an avowed expression of the devalued, vulnerable, oppressed status of women, with even the female fetuses not spared.

If one takes a closer look at the child sex ratio in different states it becomes apparent that large declines between 1991-2001 have occurred mainly in Punjab, (from 875 in 1991 to 793 in 2001 in 0-6 age group, the worst record in India) Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharhastra, Chandhigarh and Delhi, all of which are relatively well developed. Fall in child sex ratio in the above states mainly points towards rampant practice of female foeticide along with certain amount of infanticide as elsewhere.

Table 2

Child sex ratio, 1961-2001

(girls per 1000 boys aged 0-6)

A reflection of the degraded status of women in society


Census year















2001  927


Female Foeticide amounts to the elimination of the girl child right at the foetal stage after determining the sex through varied diagnostic methods easily available in any of the unscrupulous genetic clinics and so called counselling centres which have mushroomed under varied names in cities and towns. It is mainly the middle class and elite sections here which resort to this practice owing to strong patriarchal notions, etc . In poor households in rural and urban areas it is primarily poverty coupled with patriarchy that drives them towards female infanticide which amounts to the killing of the child soon after it is born through varied crude means.

In both cases feudal and imperialist economic, social, cultural systems boost up the phenomena to serve its own ends. The government which is supposed to be a guardian of the system acts as a spectator, enacting toothless laws at the insistence of activists who take up cudgels against the barbaric practice of doing away with foetus \ infants simply because they happen to be female. A number of doctors and nursing homes have availed both this rush to detect the gender of the foetus and then to destroy it if it is female , to quickly pile up wealth. Women who are often more victims than willing participants in the crime cannot speak about it. Men/families who encourage or coerce the women into it remain behind the screen. Doctors who abet the crime hush up the whole matter. Thus hardly any statistics is available regarding the actual number and extent of female foeticide increasingly occurring in this country. Incidence of Female infanticide also far exceeds the available data.

Table 3

Child Sex Ratio (0-6 years), India and major states




 Decline/Increase of CSR2001Over CSR 1991








































Madya pradesh




















Uttar pradesh




West bengal




Source: Census of India 2001, series 1, paper-1


Now Only Child Mortality Rate (CMR), Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Child Sex Ratio (CSR) have come to speak voluminously on the crime. The decline in CSR should also be attributed to IMR, and CMR which are higher when it comes to girl children owing to gross neglect in terms of basic food and health care.The role of sexual violence on girl children cannot be overlooked either.

Female infanticide was underlined as the most heinous crime against women in India during the Beijing conference. Common people especially poor rural women were held as the main culprits. It was the highlight of all pep talk on women by the politicians who did not care to go into the fundamental reasons behind such episodes. Not much was said about female foeticide either, that was a much more booming business entailing large profits and spreading like an epidemic.

Socio-political dynamics behind the morbid killings

The fact remains that the living conditions of women in general and young girls in particular have deteriorated over time. Women have a lowered status in the family and society.They lack opportunities for education and employment. They are denied a share in property. They have no access to any resources. Bound by highly discriminative and exploitative social and cultural norms women fall prey to a host of indescribable physical and mental violence. The great disregard and disrespect for the lives and contribution of women to family and society has also openly projected itself as not just dowry menace but rape and female foeticide and Infanticide in the commodity world. They labour more, often eat less and the returns are always poor. Ultimately women who are the producers and creators of much value including human beings are seen as and made to see themselves as a worthless burden, a use and throw commodity under the rule of patriarchy.

Consequently an unfair, illogical and unreasonable demand for male offsprings has also ensued. Social pressures, fear of continued harassment by the husband and inlaws, lack of selfworth, frustration at the future that awaits a girl child in general which is marked by domestic and sexual violence have all led to the quick elimination of the girl child right at the foetal or infantile stage.

Table 4

Infant mortality rate (IMR) and age specific death rate (ASDR) in the age group of 0-4 and 5-9 by gender in India for the year 1998.



 ASDR (0-4)

 ASDR (5-9)















There is a larger political dynamics behind this phenomenon. There are economic constraints involved .There are also social pressures and cultural norms which are pervasive, and which operate within this larger political and economic framework whatever be its political, economic, social or cultural, or all combined which lead to the erosion of the girl children born or unborn, patriarchy is the common refrain that precipitates it. Whether the CMR is low in semi-feudal Rajastan or in ‘agriculturally advanced’ Punjab and Haryana or in relatively ‘industrially advanced’Gujarat or Maharastra, as statistics indicate patriarchy holds sway, rearing its ugly head from both the backward and relatively developed platforms.

Female foeticide and infanticide are a manifestation of gender bias. There is a common saying that bringing up a girl is like watering the neighbour’s plants. Sons are considered an asset while daughters are treated as a liability. A son under patriarchal culture is favoured , for he is viewed as the saviour of the family, the carrier of the lineage, the customary performer of the last rites, the inheritor of wealth if any, etc while the daughter is viewed as a financial burden what with dowry and marriage expenses and a security problem as violence on her abounds. To add to this is the fierce population policy pursued by the government. A two child norm is promoted through both coercive and persuasive measures in overt and covert forms. Small family is both a need and a must in the present cultural and economic mileu for a sizable section. And so if the couple intend to stop with one child it has to be a son , and should they limit it to two, it could be a son and a daughter, or two sons but cannot just be two daughters. Some even insist on the first born being a son only.Thus generally if the second child is also a girl the concerned woman is scoffed upon and should the third turn out to be one she is under threat. A female foetus or infant has a limited fixed quota. Beyond that it has no place in the womb or world. This is the unwritten statement behind the killings.

The decade of economic reforms with a significant decline of all state expenditure on public health, education, with its subsidy cuts on food, farming, electricity and irrigation, with its indiscriminate opening up of the economy to the vagaries of the global imperialist market, with the abdication of all responsibility by the state for minimum survival, employment and any development has created havoc in people’s lives. There is a crisis in both the agriculture and industry. This economic offensive against all working people and poor has particularly affected the female population which is more vulnerable. The structured gender inequity in the system has placed the women at a survival disadvantage with the impact of reform policies having a more severe impact on them.

So economic deprivation and poverty combined is one of the major reasons for growing female infanticide in India. Especially rural masses who have neither access to sophisticated tests or the money to afford such , wait until delivery to confirm the gender after which it is retained or rid of ,depending on whether it is a boy or girl. Some of the common methods used to kill the new born is by feeding it the poisonous milk of Calotropis (erukkampal) or oleander shrub, or giving it a few grains of paddy which will induce vomiting, convulsions and subsequent death, or feeding it tobacco paste or pesticides, suffocating it to death with a wet towel or strangulating it with the umbilical cord, or just leaving it in open space in winter to die in cold, or dumping it in the dustbin. Such inhuman acts done with impunity shows the extent of despise towards females and the devalued status they have assumed. Even the midwife is unhappy because she is paid lesser if a girl is delivered and even amongst the rich the house goes into a celebration if a boy be born and mourning if it be a girl. When the sources are meager it is considered a burden and waste to nourish a girl. Dowry has also become a nightmare even amongst dalits and tribals as never before, causing them to push the girl child as a curse, quickly to its grave. Girl children who are allowed to survive are often the butt of abuses, utter neglect, undue ridicule and hard labour which could rob them off their life. Horrible as it may sound flesh trade is the only area where a girl child fetches a higher rate and therefore sought after.

Tamilnadu is highlighted on the chart of female infanticide. It is essentially a post 1960 phenomenon in Tamilnadu. Evidence from the field and the primary health centre records on causes of infant death suggest that every year around 3000 female infanticide cases occur in Tamilnadu. More than two thirds of these deaths take place in the districts of Salem [average 1100, 1995-99] and Dharmapuri [average 1200, 1995-99] with Madurai, Theni, Dindigul, Erode, and Namakkal on the south of the above and Vellore on the north forming a contiguous region and accounting for all the remaining FI deaths.

Parallelly, capitalist development has brought with it a strong consumerist culture. A decrepit value system based on gross consumerism has emerged, which on the one hand encourages expensive and wasteful rituals and lifestyle within a patriarchal framework and on the other offers female foeticide as one solution in the quest of such "good life". The blatant advertisements for sex selective foeticide which emerged in the 1980’s in urban Maharastra and Delhi were the explicit expressions of this consumerist value base.

Thus while female infanticide [FI] is the dominant survival threat to baby girls in rural belts and amidst urban poor, Female Foeticide [FF] serves as the capitalist market strategy through which the desired sex composition is achieved by the urban elite and educated classes. Both are a product of patriarchy and an inequal, unjust socio-economic structure but while FI is often prodded by poverty, FF is promoted by profit motives. Now let us dwell a little more deeply into the foeticide market.

Diagnostic techniques create disaster

All reproductive technology have been basically market-oriented, highly capitalistic and patriarchal enterprises ostensibly in the service of women and outrightly exploiting them. Womens rights over her reproductive health is still under debate and lacks recognition in our country.Women persay even those educated are not adequatetly informed of all the experiments that are being conducted over their bodies, the medicines dumped, the tests conducted and the risks that they invariably impose. Being a prey to family, social and cultural pressures they yield subjecting themselves to painful procedures, traumatic experiences, even to be the often unwilling accomplices of the murder of their female foetuses and infants.

In many countries, modern techniques of ultrasound scans and inutero sex testing basically to make pregnancy safer are ironically abused to involve added risks through female foeticide. The sex determination techniques arrived in India primarily for the purpose of determining genetic abnormalities. But the strong patriarchal environment combined with the medical industry’s search for newer pastures to profit led it in no time to abuse it to determine the sex of the foetus and thereafter destroy if it is a female.

The pre-natal diagnostic techniques involve the use of technologies such as ultrasonography, amniocentesis, chorion villi biopsy, foetoscopy, maternal serum analysis,etc. These are supposedly meant to facilitate the detection of foetal abnormalities and subsequent therapeutic interventions. All methods employed for sex determination are highly intrusive, risky, quite expensive and socially destructive. Not even 1% of them are utilised for the purpose they are meant which is to diagnose foetal health except ultrasonogram which is extensively used for all and sundry. The other pre-pregnancy sex selection methods commonly used are X-Y separation of sperms, embryo biopsy and sex selection through sprays. Pre-conception sex selection methods have currently invaded the market and no law applies to them. None of these are said to be safe and aid as much in causing gender and social disparity apart from causing havoc on woman’s health. Often there is no scientific validity either.

The pre-natal diagnostic techniques have thus come to cause more harm than good .They expose women to serious health risks and complications. There is an increased risk of abortion or congenital malformation in the foetus. There are serious adverse effects on the reproductive organs due to intrusive procedures and late abortions.

Haemorrhage , chronic infections and inflammation, hormonal problems, menstrual disorders and tumours to say the least are not uncommon. For instance amniocentesis which is commonly used is normally carried out in the 16th week of pregnancy;wherein amniotic cells are removed from the amniotic fluid and cultured in the laboratory for 3or more weeks before the sex of the foetus can be determined. Apart from other complications it could pose there is an inherent risk in carrying out the abortion after this period.And ultrasound which happens to be the most widely misused technique at present, [even as it is known to cause problems in nerve conduction] for it is easier and relatively less expensive can help diagnose the sex of the foetus only after 26-28 weeks of pregnancy .The complications of an induced abortion after this period has to be only imagined .There is infact a big racket going on in private clinics where the "culture" is not properly done or premature conclusions are drawn based on feeble evidence, the foetus is declared to be a female and hence aborted. The heavy fee pocketed ofcourse is welcome enough for all kinds of malpractice fuelled by the patient’s anxiety and helplessness. Apart from this ,such selective destruction of female foetus has grave social ramifications. It leads to serious demographic imbalance affecting the health and life of society as a whole.The growing decline in male-female ratio will also result in more and more atrocities against women in the form of increased violence, rape, prostitution, oppression, and suppression.

According to one estimate, between 1978-82 nearly 78,000 foetuses were aborted in the country after sex determination. Between 1986-87 30,000 to 50,000 female fetuses are apprehended to have been aborted. Between1982-92 the number of clinics for sex determination grew many fold. In the city of Bombay alone it multiplied from less than 10 to around 300 in no time. A study reveals that in a clinic in Bombay out of 8000 abortions performed 7,999 were that of girls. Between 87-88 nearly 13,000 PND tests were estimated to have been conducted in 7 Delhi clinics alone.Reports also say that Delhi has the highest rate of female foeticide and infanticide among all 7 union territories. Incidentally Delhi has one of the highest numbers of dowry killings too. Recent statistics would definitely show an enormous increase in all statistics in a number of clinics, in number of such tests conducted, and numbers of girls evacuated, not withstanding so called laws passed.The ever declining child sex ratio between 1961 -2001 stands a testimony to this fact.[refer table 2]

There are numerous arguments offered by the promoters of sex-determination and considered acceptable by their clients. Some of them are that it is helpful in controlling overpopulation and attaining the family planning targets and hence valid, that it helps the woman to avoid unwanted pregnancies in the search after a son , that it helps assure the "quality" of the child etc .And convolutedly the most vigorous argument revolves around the reproductive rights of women and her ‘choice’ in the matter. Here one should also be aware of the danger in the argument against sex determination that goes to question and criticise the very right to abort by women which is mainly voiced by the Anti-abortionist fundamentalist right wing in the USA and elsewhere and picked up by others. The Anti-women substance in both should be clearly addressed, while taking the right steps to counter the commercial interests in the foeticide racket.

Historically speaking

Like umpteen other evils that ensued from class society and patriarchy, foeticide and infanticide in general were also byproducts of the same and compelled on women. They basically reflect a pattern of violence on women and utter disregard for her needs and interests, her physical and mental wellbeing. Whatever may have been the varied specific reasons underlying this gruesome practice, in different societies at different times, feudal moral impositions on women, conditions of virtual slavery, capitalistic exploitative norms, and pregnancies through rapes have all been some of the common causative factors along with the social and cultural conditioning they created. Hence many have been the desperate attempts by women to miscarry or get rid of the just born at the risk of their own lives owing to fear and helplessness-both in the west and east. Evidences of this are available in history and literature. But the targeting of girl children in particular have become more pronounced only in later periods. While the sharp escalation in female foeticide has been the contribution of modern technology to boost patriarchy, female infanticide has been the one that has been prevalent even as early as the 18th century. It was identified among Jadagas of kutch and kathiawar, among certain communities of North- western provinces-Punjab, Oudh and Rajastan,and Kunbis of Gujarat. Caste pride and prejudices, racist connotations compounded by lowered status of women, thus exerting social and financial pressures on marriage of girls led to their elimination in these communities. It was found that in Punjab among 2000 bedi families living in a certain division there was not a single girl. These crimes were committed in private under pressure by generally adopting the method of smearing opium before breast-feeding or tightening the umbilical cord over the infants neck or mouth thus strangulating it.

Humanitarian considerations provoked some British administrators and Indian reformers to recognize and attempt to abolish this obnoxious custom. The earliest attempts to eradicate were made in Kathiawar and Kutch by Alexander walker, chief resident of Baroda as early as 1808. Penalties were imposed .An ‘infanticide fund ’ was created to defray marriage expenses. A scheme of awarding parents of girls with cash was initiated. But there was no official policy against it. The special Act of 1870 drafted by John Strachey for prevention of female infanticide was enforced on 17th April,1871.It provided for increased surveillance, restrictions on marriage expenses, monitoring of pregnant women by village authorities, meticulous registration of births and inquests if the child died within a week etc. Periodic census was mandatory. Local government was vested with legal powers to enforce the measures and disobedience of any provision was punishable by Six months imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1000 or both .It made midwives, chowkidars, patwaris, dais and a range of village officials and functionaries responsible and they were directed to discourage abetting of the crime. Thus this law made the whole community liable. As such incidences of killing generally had a social sanction. It was an effective instrument in curbing the practice .But by 1906 the Act was withdrawn as the crime was deemed to have been eliminated thus making it unnecessary by the local governments in some provinces .This ended the British initiative against female infanticide. It has taken decades before the matter has come into the limelight again necessitating special laws. But, in general, laws have minimal effect for dealing with problems that have social sanction. It is only a wide social movement that changes the status of women in society and does away with dowry that can effectively put an end to infanticide and foeticide. Today laws exist against amniosynthisis and dowry — yet both are rampant.

Laws and loopholes

It was only after a prolonged and systematic campaign against sex determination and sex pre-selection which were growing at an alarming rate by women’s groups and forums formed for this purpose especially in Bombay that the Maharashtra government was pressurised into passing a law, the first of its kind on this issue, in India. It enacted a law called Maharastra Regulation of Prenatal Diagnostic Technique Act,1988 which was passed on 10th May,1988. It banned the use of medical techniques for the determination of the sex of the foetus, banned advertisements relating to the facilities of sex-determination, but allowed the regulated use of techniques approved and licensed genetic counseling centres ,clinics and laboratories. This Act was repealed by the Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse)Act,1994 which was passed on 20th September1994 applicable to whole of India except the state of Jammu&Kashmir.

Other laws that existed prior to this and pertaining to the issue were the relevant sections from Sec 312 to Sec 316 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which hold the practice of sex determination by Amniocentesis followed by abortion in case of female child as not only illegal but a criminal offence, punishable with imprisonment and fine. Also in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act,1971.Under this Act, all abortions carried out not only require the consent of women and any abortion after 20 weeks is illegal. There are other conditions such as risk to the life of pregnant women, injury to her physical or mental wellbeing , substantial risk to the physical or mental wellbeing of the child etc to allow an abortion by registered Gynaecologists and Obstetricians. Thus Amniocentesis is also an offence under the MTP Act as it is generally carried out in the 16th week of pregnancy. After which the entire process, culture and tests etc normally takes another 6 to 8 weeks based on which the decision to abort if it is a female is made. It thereby violates the MTP Act which stipulates that abortions have to be carried out within 20 weeks.

But as these Acts did not suffice to regulate the use of Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques for the purpose of detecting Genetic, congenital, metabolic disorders and prevent its misuse for the purpose of Prenatal sex determination leading to female foeticide and matters connected therewith a separate Act called The Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act,1994 was passed. It provides for compulsory registration of all genetic counseling centres, genetic laboratories and clinics. It laid down specific conditions such as the age, health of the pregnant women etc on whom the PNDT could be conducted. It prohibited the communication of the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman or her relative. It prohibits the seeking, encouraging and the conduction of any test including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of the foetus. Ironical as it may seem, the very organisations which were instrumental in getting the PNDT Act passed are now forced to struggle against the same with discontent and demands for changes in it .A closer look at the Act will make the reasons behind this self-evident.

This new law, just as dowry law with its many amendments, only barks and does not bite. It is only symbolic and serves as an eyewash. First of all, it does not address the problem of sex determination in a comprehensive way but only superficially. It does not even possess the basic mechanisms necessary for its own effective implementation. It infact leaves adequate grounds to ensure that its purpose or claim is defeated. The list of conditions under which PNDT can be conducted, and abnormalities to detect which it can be performed both can be expanded by the central supervisory board and thus is left open. The legislation does not question the techniques in any manner, address the risks involved, deliberately closes its eyes to the mushrooming commercial interests taking advantage of it and fails to address social pressure and prejudice working against women. It has infact granted renewed legitimacy to a great private sector expansions in the trade contrary to the demands put forth by many concerned social organizations and activist groups that the tests permissible for the other sex determination be confined to government hospitals alone so there is better monitoring. There is no provision for registering any of the sophisticated equipments used on the grounds that they are also meant for other purposes. There is nothing to challenge the techniques of sex pre-selection or pre-conception which are being practiced in various parts of this country. There is no provision for any local vigilance committee or for third party complaints both of which can contribute for better implementation of the Act. And more than all while leaving many gaping holes through which the promoters, profiteers and practitioners of selective female foetal elimination with PNDT can escape, the law comes down heavily on the women who are for most part the victim and not the perpetrator of the crime. She has little or no choice in decisionmaking. Often she is compelled to destroy the foetus or kill the infant and the methods adopted make it difficult to prove. Law refuses to recognise this fact of social coercion especially when it comes to female infanticide where while the father and the rest of the family are excluded the woman is penalised. This even prevents the woman or those concerned about her from reporting the crime.

With the Judiciary being patriarchal in its attitude this will only help it to use the law against the women. For instance in Satya v Sriram, the court held that aborting a foetus without the consent of the husband amounts to cruelty and therefore the grounds for divorce under Hindu Marriage Act. It even observed that there was a need to protect the right of the father to enjoy the spiritual benefit of having a son! In V.Krishnan v G.Rajan, the Madras high court held that the MTP Act does not confer or recognise the absolute right to terminate the pregnancy in any person including the pregnant woman even in the first trimester. There is no question of abortion on demand. Thus it took a conservative stance towards the women’s right over her own body. In Karupayee v state, where although the father was guilty, the court acquitted the father and punished the mother stating that the two day old infant was under her care only and no one else had access to her! In all the above the typical anti-woman stand is expressed clearly by the court with no heed either to the general vulnerable low social status of women, their powerless vulnerable position in the family or any sensitivity towards the specific circumstances in which the concerned woman lies trapped in particular cases.

But on the whole it is not only that there are inherent weaknesses in the law but that the implementation remains poor. There is neither the political will nor the social commitment to implement it. The existing socio-economic structure with its deep-rooted inequality and injustice and exploitation to prosper and profit at the core, is in no way interested in securing its implementation or betterment. Thus the continued apathy of the government to implement even its own laws properly providing the necessary infrastructure, and the persistent patriarchal mindset and attitude of the functionaries of such laws collaborates with the violent patriarchal family and social structure that demands many things from women including a reproduction of offsprings of its choice, at its will.

Hence on the one hand there has not been a single conviction for female foeticide anywhere in the country years after the law was passed although complaints have been registered with the police .On the other, contrary to the law, any number of shady clinics have mushroomed, multiplied, with the sole business of Pre-natal sex determination, sex selection etc and they are not registered as required. Despite countless demonstrations, advertisements relating to sex determination keep on proliferating. New technologies arrive on the scene year after year.

For instance last year a US based company ran a series of advertisements in the ‘Times of India’ for a gender selection approach which said that it is "safe", "easy to use" and "upto 96% effective", "gender selection is now a realty" etc along with a photograph of a bonny baby boy. Gen-select the company provides sketchy details about its product both in its advertisement and on its website all dressed up in pseudo-scientific jargon. The advertisement provoked immediate protests from women’s and child rights groups in Bangalore against the product and the paper. The Times of India subsequently stopped running the advertisement but in its editorial it justified its decision to carry the advertisement by arguing that women must be given the "freedom of choice" etc.

The promoters Jill and Scott Sweazy conveniently claim ethicality and exemption from the PNDT Act on the premise that the procedure is preconception and not prenatal. Leading gynaecologists and obstetricians said preconception sex selection technologies are only ‘hit or miss’ techniques, with no scientific validity and the genselect spray is risky and could cause infertility. Anyway the company has so designed the kit that it can easily escape should the method prove ineffective or induce problems.

Recent developments of less intrusive ultrasound facilities have spread like weeds all over the country. Yet according to the estimates only 1% of the machines in use are licensed. Various new techniques like X-Y separation and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis are also abused for the purpose of sex determination.The end result is that female fetuses continue to be exterminated and female infants hounded to death at an alarming rate.

Various state sponsored schemes which have been initiated to tackle the issue have not been very successful either. Many like ‘Balika Smriddi Yojana’ by the I.K.Gujral Govt in 97, the ‘Apna bheti apna dhan’ scheme by the Haryana Govt etc promised monetary incentives which were not fulfilled, or not continued or were not of immediate value etc. In any case grants for allowing the female to be born, to live as such is a crude way of addressing the issue, indirectly endorsing the anti-female stereotype and does not seek any basic change or motivate towards it. The pseudo ‘Cradle Baby Scheme’ much propagandised by the Tamilnadu Jayalalitha Govt seeks to offer shelter and give the girl child in adoption instead of killing her, thus once again sanctioning the notion of not wanting the female child. The underlying problem thereby remains untouched. The fact remains that this scheme also has failed due to its bad implementation and neglect of the abandoned child as against the tall claims made. Official figures reveal that out of 133 children 70 died due to neglect under this scheme, while unofficially it is reported to be much higher. Recently considering the sharp declining sex ratio in Punjab in the 2001 census the Akal Takth jathedar has notified the Sikh community that , " the act of female foeticide is violative of Sikh principles and the offenders would be excommunicated ". What impact this has on the community and whether it favours women remains to be seen, given the political position of religious organisations as such towards women. Thus the overall picture still remains bleak and calls for a great deal of attention.

Intervention and struggle a must

And again now the central and state governments are hardpressed by the appalling child sex ratio statistics to shed crocodile tears. Whether female foeticide or infanticide, the state is primarily responsible for the ever degrading status of a growing violence on women. Glossy superficial reports over the issue and mindboggling statistics will not help.

Law by no means is an end in itself nor will it be sufficient to tackle the issue. But better monitoring and indictment of the real culprits will signal a warning to the rest.The burden of proof should be on the culprits as the crime as such is difficult to prove. Here it should be made compulsory to register births and deaths. Complaints from a third party should be entertained and agencies and clinics trading on sex determination &selective elimination should be stringently punished. Pre conception sex selection techniques should be brought under the purview of the PNDT act. Community responsibility and local vigilance committees with concerned citizens could be introduced. But so long as women are systematically oppressed and exploited by the patriarchal and other dominant structures of power, laws and policies purported by the same forces, can assume little meaning or purpose in relation to their victimisation. The main arena for effective change must be at the social level in the battle against partriarchal values and thinking towards equality in man-women relations.

At the social level active campaigns against sex determination techniques are necessary. Awareness about the hazards they induce should be created through print, audio and visual media. Publicising the XX-XY chromosome theory which says that sex of the child is determined by the genes of the man and not the woman can help hapless women victimised should they bear daughters. The underlying problem of patriarchal mindset, attitudes, cultural practices and social sanctions should be consistently addressed and fought.The state that silently colludes with the forces of exploitation and market interests and the disguised ideological discourses in favour of patriarchy should be exposed and challenged. The complex contexts through which oppression and exploitation gets produced and reproduced should be countered.

Ultimately Conscious vigilance and continued struggles against patriarchal values and practices within oneself, in neighbourhood and society must multiply. So the real hope lies only in conscientious citizens who could come forward to fight this evil and much more at ground level, if innocent little children should be given an option to survive, be prevented from being wiped off the face of the earth.





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