FEMALE FOETICIDE AND INFANTICIDE BY HARSHITA JAIN @LEXCLIQ

Crime against women is an issue of national shame. However, gender selective abortions and infanticide are even more despicable. Female Foeticide and infanticide is the ugly and earliest manifestation of discrimination against girl or female members of our society. Female foeticide refers to ‘aborting the female in the mother’s womb’; whereas female infanticide is ‘killing the girl child after her birth’. Active methods of killing girls through selective sex abortion and passive methods like discrimination in care and nutrition are used to eliminate the girl child. This malaise is reflected in the sex ratio indicators. Sex ratio in India stands at 940 in 2011 and child sex ratio has shown more continuous decline since 1961 but more alarmingly after 1991. Starting from 1991 the CSR has been constantly lower than overall sex ratio and has decreased by 21 points.

This process began within the early 1990s when ultrasound techniques gained widespread use in India. There was tendency for families to continuously produce children until a son was born. This was primarily due to the large sexist culture that exists in India against women. This is reflected by literacy rates among women as well as economic participation, which are both particularly low in states where female foeticide is prominent and an unequal population ratio exists alongside. The government initially supported the practice to regulate increase. The Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act was passed in 1994, making sex-selective abortion illegal. It was then amended in 2003 holding medical professionals legally responsible. However, the PCPNDT Act has been poorly enforced by authorities.

Ideological Preference for Boys

The patriarchical society in India generally shows cultural bias against women. Girls are generally considered liability until they’re married off. Any kind of investment in girl’s education and empowerment is considered as investment in failed enterprise. Their physical security is added responsibility on the family. Practice of dowry puts extra burden on the parents and all these results into general preference for son and girl foeticide and infanticide.

  • Availability of latest technology

This preference combined with specialise in birth control , availability of latest technology facilitating sex identification and abortion, failure in stringent application of PCPNDT act all have resulted into increased cases of female foeticide.

  • Socio-economic conditions

Along with this the socio-economic conditions also are the explanations behind this. In economically poor families there’s absence of birth control tools. In such families the discrimination in child care and nutrition results in increased cases of female infanticide.

  • Absence of women in decision making

Absence of women in decision making circles results into their voices being ignored. Women advice are not solicited or ignored in families and societies. They are forced to hold on foeticide against their choice. At higher levels in political circles and police & administration these issues are hushed up because of absence of will to strongly enforce the provisions of the laws.

  • Gender inequality in India

Economic opportunities available to women are very few as compared to men and it was reflected in UNDP’s GII (Gender Inequality Index) 2012 in which India was ranked at 132 out of 148 countries. This creates an environment of disabilities for women and effects their overall empowerment. These further results into discrimination and events of female foeticide and infanticide.

Laws In India For The Unborn
The Constitution of India, 1950
Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 read with the Medical termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 where all the restrictions imposed therein, including the time limit of 20 weeks, other than the ones to ensure good medical conditions, infringe the right to abortion and the right to health, which emanate from right to life as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. Right to abortion is a species of right to privacy, which is again proclaimed a continuance of the right to life under Art 21 of the Constitution.

The Indian Penal Code, 1860
Sections 312-316 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deal with miscarriage and death of an unborn child and depending on the severity and intention with which the crime is committed, the penalties range from seven years of imprisonment and fine to life imprisonment.

Section 312. Causing miscarriage
Whoever voluntarily causes a woman with child to miscarry, shall, if such miscarriage be not caused in good faith for the purpose of saving the life of the woman, be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both, and, if the woman be quick with child, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine. Explanation:-A woman who causes herself to miscarry, is within the meaning of this section.

Section 313. Causing miscarriage without woman’s consent

Whoever commits the offence defined in the last preceding section without the consent of the woman, whether the woman is quick with child or not, shall be punished with [imprisonment for life] or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years.

Section 314. Death caused by act done with intent to cause miscarriage
Whoever, with intent to cause the miscarriage of woman with child, does any act which causes the death of such woman, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

If the act is done without the consent of the woman, shall be punished either with [imprisonment for life]or with the punishment above mentioned. Explanation: – It is not essential to this offence that the offender should know that the act is likely to cause death.

Section 315. Act done with intent to prevent child being born alive or to cause it to die after birth.
Whoever before the birth of any child does any act with the intention of thereby preventing that child from being born alive or causing it to die after its birth, and does by such prevent that child from being born alive, or causes it to die after its birth, shall, if such act be not caused in good faith for the purpose of saving the life of the mother, be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years or with fine.

Section 316. Causing death of quick unborn child by act amounting to culpable homicide
Whoever does any act under such circumstances, that if he thereby caused death he would be guilty of culpable homicide, and does by such act cause the death of a quick unborn child, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years.

The Pre-Conception And Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation And Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994

To combat the practice of female foeticide in the country through misuse of technology, done surreptitiously with the active connivance of the service providers and the persons seeking such service, the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act was enacted on September 20, 1994. The Act was amended in 2003 to improve regulation of technology capable of sex selection and to arrest the decline in the child sex ratio as revealed by the Census 2001 and with effect from 14.02.2003, due to the amendments, the Act is known as the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act,1994.

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