The Indian government wants to tighten its ban on sex determination. The move follows reports that the number of girls in India in relation to the number of boys is plummeting. The government says a growing number of abortions of female foetuses is to blame, despite a ban on this practice which has been in force since 1994. The Ministry of Women and Child Development now wants to put the brakes on the sliding sex ratio.
Taken from RNW's Love Matters
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described India’s falling sex ratio exposed by the 2011 census as “a national shame”.
Abortion in India
• Allowed in the first 12 weeks with one doctor’s consent
• Allowed between 12 and 20 weeks, with two doctors’ consent, to save the woman’s life, to preserve her mental health, if she’s been raped, or for economic or social reasons
• Two-thirds of the 6.4 million abortions a year happen illegally
• Clinics routinely refuse women an abortion if they come alone or aren’t married
• Doctors often ask for the husband’s consent even though it’s not needed by law
The Ministry of Women and Child Development is to look at ways of making the ban on sex determination more effective. This might include tightening the policy on abortion, for example by making it compulsory for women to have counselling before an abortion, to check up on their motives.
The national average sex ratio in India stands at 914 girls to every 1000 boys. The government will focus its efforts on the parts of the country where the ratio is equal to or worse than average, like the northwest, including Delhi.
A woman can have an abortion on request in India – as long as a doctor agrees – when she is up to 12 weeks pregnant. But you can't tell the sex of a baby in an ultrasound scan under 12 weeks.
Abortion is legal up to 20 weeks, but then two doctors have to agree that the woman is in danger or the baby would be seriously handicapped.
This shows the law against sex determination is being widely flouted. To make matters worse, many people anyway opt for illegal sex determination scans and unsafe backstreet abortions.
As a result, according to conservative estimates, every year half a million too few girls are born in India. Yet last year fewer than 100 cases of female sex selection were actually detected.
Women in India are commonly put under heavy pressure by family to abort female foetuses. A major reason for families to want sons rather than daughters is that sons bring in a dowry when they marry – even though the practice of dowry was outlawed in India half a century ago.