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Sex-Selective Abortion

  • IASbaba
  • March 9, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Governance

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Sex-Selective Abortion

  • Context: Recent case of infanticide in Tamil Nadu’s Usilampatti, historically notorious for its crude methods of killing female babies. 
  • The killing of one-month child took place through inhuman practice of feeding female infants with the toxic milk of a local herb

Sexselective abortion is the practice of terminating a pregnancy based upon the predicted sex of the infant. It usually happens when a female child is detected during pregnancy.

Present Scenario 

  • Data on sex ratio at birth (SRB) culled from the Civil Registration System, show an alarming fall over the years. From 903 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2007, it dropped to 877 in 2016.
  • Four States have an SRB equal to or below 840: Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan (806), Bihar (837), Uttarakhand (825) and Tamil Nadu (840). 
  • While infanticide may have come down, sex selective abortion at scan centres continues as the preferred vehicle for parents obsessed with son preference.

Some of the reasons attributed to sex-selective abortion & female infanticide:

  •  Preference for Boys: In a Patriarchal society girls are generally considered liability until they are married off.
  • Availability of latest technology
  • Lack of effective implementation of existing laws designed against such crimes
  • Absence of family planning tools
  • Absence of Women in decision making

Impact of female foeticide:

  • Decline in Sex ratio
  • Early marriages of women often at the cost of their educational empowerment
  • Trafficking of women for sexual work and marriage. 
  • Increased crimes against women like sexual harassment, lewd remarks against women, and instances of eve teasing.
  • Increased fragmentation of land due to increase in male members in household
  • Decline in moral & ethical standards of the society as a whole
  • Perpetuation of Patriarchy and gender inequality

Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act

  • The act was enacted in 1994 in response to the decline in Sex ratio in India, which deteriorated from 972 in 1901 to 927 in 1991
  • The main purpose of the act is ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion.

Salient features of the act:

  • It regulates the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, like ultrasound and amniocentesis by allowing them their use only to detect few cases.
  • No laboratory or centre or clinic will conduct any test including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of the foetus.
  • No person, including the one who is conducting the procedure as per the law, will communicate the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman or her relatives by words, signs or any other method.
  • Advertisement for pre-natal and pre-conception sex determination facilities will attract fine of Rs 10000 and imprisonment upto 3 years.
  • The Act mandates compulsory registration of all diagnostic laboratories, all genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories, genetic clinics and ultrasound clinics
  • The Act was amended to bring the technique of pre conception sex selection and ultrasound technique within the ambit of the act. 
  • The 2003 amendment also empowered the central supervisory board and state level supervisory board was constituted.

Other measure taken by government to improve condition of females:

  • ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign 
  • The objectives of this initiative are to prevent of gender biased sex selective elimination, and to ensure survival and protection of the girl child. The strategies involved in this scheme are:
    • Implement a sustained Social Mobilization and Communication Campaign to create equal value for the girl child & promote her education.
    • Place the issue of decline in CSR/SRB in public discourse, improvement of which would be a indicator for good governance.
    • Focus on Gender Critical Districts and Cities low on CSR for intensive & integrated action.
    • Mobilize & Train Panchayati Raj Institutions/Urban local bodies/ Grassroot workers as catalysts for social change, in partnership with local community/women’s/youth groups.
  • Legislations for creating a safe and secure environment for females.
    • POCSO Act (Prevention of Children from Sexual offences)
    • Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 
    • Changes in the Criminal Law on the recommendations of Justice Verma Committee
  • Enhanced Focus on Health & Education of Child
    • Provision of better nutrition through ICDS, MDM, 
    • Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram 
    • Scholarship schemes like Pragati  
    • Special girl’s school like Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas 
  • Political Empowerment: Reservation of seats for women in Panchayats and Urban Local bodies are provided to enhance the decision making powers of women which leads to increased awareness among women about their rights especially reproductive rights

Way Forward:

  • Need to ramp up awareness building exercises 
  • Use technology to monitor every single pregnant woman right down to taluk levels until at least one year after birth.
  • Stricter enforcement of the PCNDT act
  • Reservation for women in State Legislative Assemblies and Parliament

Conclusion

While punitive aspects might offer a measure of deterrence, true change can only be brought about by a change in attitude. 

Connecting the dots

  • Reproductive rights of women
  • Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and its recent amendments 

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