Male children are preferred in our society. Myths declare that a parent’s soul is liberated when a son performs the last rites of his parents. Several women have broken this myth. Another is that the male child keeps the home. This myth too has been smashed. There are other factors i.e. dowry the deep rooted devaluation of women which also leads to the killing of a girl child either in the womb or at birth. The onus of ensuring the chastity of the girl child is seen as a burden by some parents apart from the dowry. Social practices and customs undermine the existence of women in our society.
The child sex ratio shows a substantial reduction and this is a serious cause for concern. Pre -selection and sex selection tests lead to abortions. The two child norm is also responsible for aborting the female foetus especially if it is the second child the first being a girl. Female foeticide and infanticide causing gender imbalance is social decay and needs to be treated not as a social evil but a serious offence as serious as murder.
Studies have shown that there are sonography centres owned by untrained persons. Ultra sound which was a technology for human good is being misused to make money and eliminate female foetuses. There has to be a process to curtail such centres. When abortions are conducted in secrecy it is difficult to trace or apprehend the doctors or patients for violating the PNDT . The MTP Act 1972 and the PNDT Regulation and Misuse Act 1994 need to be strictly enforced. Female foeticide is performed and legalized through medical technology and some doctors term this annihilation of women as “medical practice”.
Rashmi Talwar in her article’ Enemies of their own kind ‘, published in the Chandigarh edition of the ‘Tribune’ states that the decision to resort to sex determination tests and female foeticide is made on their or in consultation with their husbands and that women show a strong desire for a male child. Women also claim that social constraints, traditional demands and family pressures are the reasons for wanting a male child. It has been observed that they were more concerned about the composition of the family with regard to the sex of the child then its size. They harbored no guilt or remorse for committing female foeticide but their only remorse was that they would again have to try for a son. This and other studies shatter the belief that women who commit female foeticide are hapless victims of societal or family pressures.
We need to erase all the social, economic, superstitious factors that lead to female foeticide and infanticide.
A need is felt to invest in the girl child’s education, health and nutrition. Tamil Nadu Government has introduced the Cradle Baby Scheme to address this problem. The Government of India has introduced Balika Samridhi Yojana, Janana Suraksha Yojana and some other Indian States also have such schemes .
The social and cultural implications of the declining sex ratio can be arrested through watch groups in communities. Social censure against families for aborting a female foetus. A strict legislation ot only to ban sex determination tests but to punish criminals who perform female foeticide/ infanticide be it the parents/relatives or the doctors. An effective vigilance system to regulate, review and take effective action on policies and programs needs to be put in place. Media which plays a vital role in society and social change can create awareness to stop this menace now. Laws to prevent the giving and receiving of dowry need to be implemented. The elimination of aminocentesis and other tests if used as a murder weapons against the female foetus is required. Above all, education of women and their sensitivity will help to eradicate the murders of female fetuses or female babies.