Inside Story on AlJazeera.com, January 11, 2013
"Supreme Court judges in India have summoned the health secretaries in seven states over a worrying fall in the number of young girls in India. They are demanding details about clinics flouting the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act -- to determine the sex of unborn babies -- with potentially fatal consequences. The judges are blaming what they call rampant foeticide and infanticide, and they say the mindset of parents and society need to change. The UN children's charity UNICEF says the culture of favouring males in India is costing the lives of millions of young girls. The agency says more than 2,000 illegal abortions are being carried out every single day, and it is dramatically altering the balance of the population. It warns: 'Decades of sex determination tests and female foeticide that has acquired proportions are finally catching up with states in India. This is only the tip if the demographic and social problems confronting India in the coming years.' Speaking in April 2011, Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, called for a crusade against the widespread practice of foeticide and infanticide. 'The falling child sex ratio is an indictment of our social values. Our girls and women have done us proud in classrooms, in boardrooms and on the sports field. It is a national shame for us that despite this, female foeticide and infanticide continues.'
The 1991 Indian census showed there were 945 girls for every 1,000 boys, aged up to six. Ten years later, it dipped even further to just 914 girls for every 1,000 boys. But that is just the average. The figures are far worse in some states. The 2011 census found there were 830 girls for every 1,000 boys in the northern state of Haryana. It was 846 in neighbouring Punjab state. And in the national capital territory of Delhi the figure was 866. India has very strict abortion laws. Until 1971, terminating pregnancies was only allowed if the mother's life was at risk. Other exceptions were then allowed: for fetuses with potential birth defects; for babies conceived through rape; and for pregnancies in unmarried girls below 18. In 1994 the government passed a new law making it illegal to use ultrasound scans to determine the sex of the baby – a crime carrying a jail term of up to three years. So what needs to be done to change the centuries-old mindset of favouring boys? [...]"