Female foeticide is the practice of figuring out the foetus’ gender and heading for abortion if it is a girl. Though unacceptable, it continues to be practiced by many people. Besides this, some cultures practice female infanticide-the custom of killing the baby girl after she is born. This fact is highlighted by the research results of the 2001 census which show that for every 1000 men there are only 933 women in this country. In addition, data from the Census (2011) showed a significant reduction in the Child Sex Ratio (CSR), estimated as the number of girls per 1000 boys between 0 and 6 years of age, for an all-time low of 918 in 2011 compared to 976 in 1961.
This downward trend in the sex ratio means that we are not only depriving girls of human rights, we are also robbing them of their right to live. Over the latter months of last year, all the children born in a region in northern India were boys, a survey found, and stoking fears of rampant female feticide. Oppressive mentality and technology are to blame, experts say.
Uttarakhand is a Northern Indian Himalayan state. The erratic weather and hard terrain mean a tough life for the inhabitants of the area, numbering more than 10 million. Women in the state have predominantly been the economic backbone of their communities, earning money, running houses, collecting firewood and transporting water for thousands of metres every day. Historically, they have taken part in many social movements, including the popular tree-hugging or “chipko” movement in the 1970s, when women in the Chamoli district tied to trees to prevent large-scale deforestation.
In later years, women have been involved, among others, in a social movement against building the Tehri dam and hydroelectric power plant. Women in Uttarakhand, however, as in most parts of India, struggle from the low status they are granted in Indian society and culture.
India’s last census, carried out in 2011, showed that the child sex ratio of Uttarakhand (the number of girls per 1,000 boys) fell from 908 in 2001 to 890 ten years later. Recent figures were all the more disturbing. A government survey carried out recently in 132 villages in the state’s Uttarkashi district disclosed that none of the 216 children born over three months in those villages were girls. The problem is not confined solely to Uttarakhand, but it encompasses state borders. A son is regarded the upholder of the family name in Indian culture, which he passes on to his son, and so on.
The preponderance of this mindset in India means that women are seen as the submissive gender and must comply with the rules that society has set for them. Economic advancement and better physical infrastructure have not been able to change the mind-sets of people.
Data from the 2011 census show that relatively wealthy states such as Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra have a very poor child sex ratio, while some of the less developed regions such as Chhattisgarh and the northeastern states have a much stronger child sex ratio. India ranks fourth in the world, after Liechtenstein, China and Armenia, in terms of slanted birth sex ratios, according to data. There are 112 boys in the world’s second most populous nation, for every 100 girls.
In an official 2013 report, India’s health department found out that sound discrimination, neglect of the girl child resulting in higher mortality at younger age, female infanticide, and female foeticide were the primary reasons for the skewed sex ratio. The government passed legislation banning the use of ultrasound testing to ascertain the sex of a foetus and sex-selective abortions. Sociologists warn that skewed sex ratios can, over a period of time, lead to a deterioration of women’s rights in these cultures, and make them more vulnerable to sexual harassment.