A preference of son over daughter is a major reason for female infanticide in many countries around the world. Dowry system in South Asia, which makes daughters “an unaffordable economic burden”, also contributes to female infanticide.
Titled “Female Infanticide Worldwide: The case for action by the UN Human Rights Council”, the report makes a continent-wise analysis of infanticide patterns. It sets the tone by stating that 117 million girls demographically go “missing” due to sex-selective abortions, as claimed by the United Nations Population Fund.
India has one of the highest female foeticide incidents in the world. The female child population in the age group of 0-6 years declined from 78.83 million in 2001 to 75.84 million in 2011. During the period 1991-2011, the child sex ratio (0-6 years) declined from 945 to 914.
Apart from Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 (PNDT Act) to address the issue of sex-selective abortion, India also enacted the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act in 1971 to regulate access to safe abortions. The MTP Act of 1971, amended in 2002, allows abortion up to 20 weeks of pregnancy in cases where “the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury to her physical or mental health”.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has acknowledged that illegal abortions still outnumber legal abortions and thousands of women die every year due to complications resulting from unsafe abortions. According to the Population Research Institute, at least 12,771,043 sex-selective abortions had taken place in India between 2000 and 2014. It takes the daily average of sex-selective abortion to 2,332.
The under-reporting under the MTP Act has also been a problem. In a bid to encourage families to have girl children, prevent female foeticide and educate the girl child, the government launched BetiBachao, BetiPadhao campaign in January 2015. It also launched several conditional cash transfer schemes such as BalikaSamriddhiYojana and Dhanalakshmi Scheme.
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