Female foeticide: British journal hints India has a long way to go

Since 1991, 80 per cent of districts in India have recorded a declining sex ratio, with most severe rates seen in Punjab.

Published: 13th January 2018 11:44 PM  |   Last Updated: 14th January 2018 10:14 AM   |  A+A-

NEW DELHI: The prestigious health periodical British Medical Journal (BMJ), in a recent issue, has published a shocking ‘case report’ from India, documenting the graphic details of a female foeticide incident, over 20 years after the country banned prenatal sex determination.

The report was published by two doctors from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education Research, Chandigarh, who treated a 25-year-old patient brought in after an incomplete induced abortion. It says the private doctor offered a ‘package deal’ that included a ‘midnight home visit with portable ultrasound machine’ and ‘abortion-at-home’ through a ‘gorilla operation’. The surgery was carried out in the most unsafe and unhygienic manner under low lights. A day later, the woman had to be admitted for excessive bleeding.

“The woman was saved with proper medical intervention, but this case study highlights the fact that female foeticide continues to occur in India,” the report says.

India has been fighting selective abortion of female foetuses for over two decades. The proliferation of ultrasound scanning technology since late-1980s has led to a fall in number of girls born in the country. The Union government passed a law in 1994 banning prenatal sex determination. While all pregnant women are advised to undergo periodic ultrasound scans, the doctors are not expected to reveal the gender of foetus. They could advise an abortion in case of foetal abnormalities.

However, the 2011 census data and occasional sting operations by health activists suggest that prenatal sex disclosure and selective female foeticide continues in the country, particularly in urban pockets of northern and western states.

According to 2011 census data, the sex ratio in India (number of boys per 100 girls) is 109.9, and states like Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi fare the worst at 128.4, 119.7, 114.2 and 114.2 respectively.  This ratio is only slightly better in states like Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Also, since 1991, 80 per cent of districts in India have recorded a declining sex ratio, with most severe rates seen in Punjab, the BMJ report says.

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