How Uttar Pradesh's Proposed Law Would Impact The Birth Of Girls

August 2021

The northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh recently announced that it would enact the Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilisation and Welfare) Bill, 2021, which is purportedly aimed at addressing the issue of overpopulation. However, such a law, if enacted, would undoubtedly have a fatal impact on baby girls in the state. 

The draft Bill proposes to bar people with over two children from contesting local body elections, applying for, and getting promotion in government jobs and availing government subsidies, including government food rations at subsidized rates. Similar laws and policies also exist in eight other Indian states namely Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand. 

However, far from making development accessible to all citizens of India, such coercive laws and polices can result increased sex-selective abortion and female infanticide, given the deep-rooted and overwhelming preference for male children.  

A 2020 study by Nirmala Buch, a former senior IAS officer, found that the adoption of a two-child policy by states for panchayat elections resulted in a rise in sex-selective abortions; men divorced their wives to run for local body elections and families even gave up children for adoption to avoid disqualification in the election.

Situation in Uttar Pradesh

The state of Uttar Pradesh already has very poor child sex ratios.

As per the 2011 Census, Uttar Pradesh’s sex ratio for the overall population is 902 girls for every 1000 boys. As the per the Sample Registration System Statistical Report 2017 (SRS) released by the Census office in 2019, the child sex ratio had dropped to a dismal 878 girls for every 1000 boys in the state. 

A 2020 study by academicians from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia predicted that highest deficits in female births will occur in Uttar Pradesh, with a cumulative number of missing female births of 2 million from 2017 to 2030.

The introduction of coercive measures will only increase this number exponentially.

By penalizing the birth of additional children, such population control policies will result in families taking extreme measures to ensure the birth of a son, including choosing sex-selective abortions.

This is apparent in even the suggestions received by the UP law commission, that permission be granted to have more than two children if the two children are daughters. These suggestions from the public clearly reveals the bias that exists against female children. 

A 2021 article in the Lancet, noted that “...sex-selective abortion appeared to be more pronounced for third-order births than for second-order births after an earlier daughter or daughters. Sex-selective abortion continued to be more common in richer and more educated families than in poorer and less educated families, in contrast to differences in childhood survival and health-care access. The main determinant of missing female births in second-order and third-order births was an earlier daughter or daughters.” 

The Way Forward 

Researchers have repeatedly highlighted the need to strengthen policies that advocate for gender equity to counter the rise in sex selective abortions. To overall social development and a better standard of living, especially for the women, the governments should instead focus of education, ensuring no child marriages, access to contraceptives, and opportunities for employment for men and women.  

However, for real change in the culture each of us need to ensure that we pledge to save our #VanishingGirls by giving them LIFE – Love, Inheritance, Freedom and Equality.

We invite you to join the Vanishing Girls Campaign by signing the Pledge and supporting our work to bring legal awareness to women.

Interview With Dr. Ganesh Rakh - A Doctor On A Mission To Save The Girl Child

Dr. Ganesh Rakh runs a hospital in Pune, Maharashtra with a unique mission to save as many girl children as he can. In the past decade since he launched Mulgi Vachva Abhiyan (Marathi for "campaign to save the girl child"), Dr. Rakh and his team have delivered over 2,000 baby girls without charging any medical fee.

ADF India had the honor to interview Dr. Ganesh Rakh and hear from him as part of its Vanishing Girls (VG) campaign.

VG: What is the inspiration or motivation behind what you do?

Dr. Rakh: The biggest challenge for a doctor is to inform the family of a patient’s death. I used to be equally worried when I had to tell them that a girl was born. The relatives’ faces would turn sullen, the mother would start crying, and sometimes they even refuse to pay the bills. They would be so disappointed. On the other hand, male baby births were welcomed with jubilation and distribution of sweets! This is when I decided that I would waive off the fee if a girl is born in our hospital. Like how a male birth was welcomed, we cut cake, distribute sweets and celebrate the birth of the girl.

VG: What would you say is the root cause of daughter aversion or female feticide in India?

Dr. Rakh: In the past 10 years, India has lost over 630 lakh girls because of son preference*. This is because of a combination of many things. We hear in the news of 3–4-month-old baby girls being raped. The violent incidents against women and girls have shown that India is not a safe place for them. Parents assume that from birth to marriage and even after, there is much stress and tension associated with bringing up a daughter. From the moment a girl is born, parents worry about the dowry they’d have to arrange for her marriage. After marriage, they worry that she might give birth to a daughter. It is a vicious cycle! Instead of worrying, we should come up with ways to empower her so that she can stand on her own and not be bogged down by outdated traditions.

I used to think that female feticide was a rural problem, but I learnt that it was more common in the cities amongst middle- and upper-class societies. It is sad to see a high level of sex-selective abortion taking place even in other countries wherever the India population is high. Daughter aversion is an evil mindset in Indian society that needs to be uprooted. Only then will we see effective change.

VG: Through the Vanishing Girls campaign, we often share positive stories so that we can inspire people to do the same. Can you tell us how your work has impacted the families of the baby girls who were delivered in your care?

Dr. Rakh: It is a joy for me when parents pay me a visit to tell me that their daughters are doing well and accomplishing wonderful things. They tell me that they are glad they did not go through with the abortion because now their daughters bring much comfort and joy to them.

VG: How important has your family been to your work in this journey?

Dr. Rakh: I have a young daughter, Tanisha. Every baby girl I deliver or any young girl I get to help, I view them as my own daughter. My wife, Trupti, has always supported me despite all the challenges we faced. She has stood beside me and managed the hospital superbly all these years. Without them, it would have been impossible.

VG: What is your message for other doctors?

Dr. Rakh: As long as there is a demand for sons over daughters, the industry will always find a way to meet this need. There are many people willing to pay any amount to have a son and no law will be able to end this greed unless there is a collective change in our mindset. Committing the crime of sex-selective abortion is equally evil as murder. I urge doctors to shoulder the responsibility by understanding the gravity of the problem and choosing to save the girl child if faced with such an opportunity.

VG: Has the current covid pandemic led to an increase in sex-selective abortion?

Dr. Rakh: I believe so because the medical fraternity is occupied with tackling the pandemic. The census which was supposed to be released this year is also delayed because of Covid. When the Government publishes the report, maybe in a few years’ time, we will know the real numbers.

VG: We work with various influencers and artists to raise awareness on the topic of sex-selection. Do you think their role is important to fight this battle?

Dr. Rakh: Celebrities and influencers or artists with large number of followers on social media obviously have the capacity to impact people’s thoughts and actions. It is encouraging to see many of them use their platform to do good. If they share the message of saving the life of the girl child, even if one girl is saved, that is progress. Who knows? That girl may grow up to be a Prime Minister.

VG: Doctor, thank you for giving us your time. We are inspired by your story and your work. How can people support you or donate towards your work?

Dr. Rakh: It is not only I who can do such work. If my story has inspired you even a little bit, my only request is that you do what you must do in your own field or region. If everyone can shoulder the responsibility to save the lives of our baby girls, we can win the battle against sex-selection.

As part of the Vanishing Girls campaign, ADF India regularly conducts training for ASHA workers (Accredited Social Health Activists) workers and seminars with doctors to raise awareness against the practice of sex-selective abortions and to advocate for effective implementation of the Pre-Conception Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.

*Economic Survey 2017-18

Young Mother Disowned For Giving Birth To A Girl

Bhavna*, a young mother in Dhanbad, Jharkhand was disowned by her husband of three years in May 2020. She was abandoned for giving birth to a girl against the wishes of her husband and his family.

Bhavna with her daughter

After their marriage, Bhavna and her husband began living with his family, which included his parents, his elder brother and sister-in-law. Just two months into the marriage, Bhavna, 23 at that time, started getting harassed daily by her in-laws who demanded more dowry from her. Bhavna’s parents had already given her husband’s family 1.5 lakh rupees at the time of their marriage. She had to endure severe emotional and physical abuse in her marital home because she and her family could not meet their demands. Many times, they even forbade her from eating food or drinking water. Bhavna’s husband made no effort to protect her, instead he himself regularly inflicted abuse on her.

Bhavna’s struggles in her marital home worsened when she became pregnant. On January 25, 2020, halfway through her pregnancy, her husband and in-laws ganged up on her and beat her up. Blood poured out of her mouth as she was being attacked. She feared for her baby’s life and herself and managed to call her sister who came and rescued her. Bhavna had to be hospitalized because of the severity of the injuries she sustained from the attack. Thankfully, she did not lose the baby. Bhavna began staying with her parents after this incident. 

Bhavna gave birth to a girl on 28 May, 2020. Her parents had no means to support her daughter or the baby. Bhavna herself is uneducated and unemployed. In an effort to reconcile, Bhavna’s parents reached out to her in-laws on the phone. However, her husband refused to even come to see the baby. 

On 1 August, 2020, Bhavna’s parents took her back to her marital home with the baby. Her husband and in-laws, on finding that it was a girl, refused to accept the child as theirs. They said a girl child was of no worth to them. The in-laws also harshly informed them that they were looking for a more suitable bride for their son to marry, a bride who could bring a handsome dowry with her. They humiliated Bhavna’s family further by spewing insults at them and threw them out of the house.

This was the last straw of injustice for Bhavna. Gathering courage, she decided to fight for her daughter and herself. She filed a complaint at the Women’s Cell on 2 August, 2020. The authorities advised her husband to reconcile with his wife and take care of her and the child. However this led to no effective outcome. 

Recently, Bhavna heard of ADF India’s legal aid services through a friend and reached out to us. Our allied lawyers helped her file another complaint with the Women’s Cell and are preparing to file a Domestic Violence petition against her husband and in-laws seeking monetary damages for what she had to undergo at their hands. An application seeking maintenance will also be filed on her behalf.

Carrying out sex-selective abortions and demanding dowry are punishable offences under Indian law, but very often these crimes go unreported and therefore unpunished. In India, every day, 7000 girls are killed in the womb, just because they are girls. More than 20 women are killed everyday in our country due to the evil practice of dowry. These statistics reflect the low value that Indian society places on women and girls. Their right to equality is routinely violated even 70 years after the Indian Constitution came into force. There is no denying the fact that women in India have made considerable progress in the last fifty years but they continue to struggle due to social evils like son-preference and dowry. 

A research study has shown that the most immediate cause of son-preference or sex-selective abortion is the perception of daughters as economic and social liabilities due to factors like dowry costs, protection of daughter’s chastity and concern about her marriage. Mothers bear the full brunt of the scorn and shame that come from the birth of a female child. They consequently become victims of abuse, beatings, abandonment and sometimes, even murder.

“You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women.”  - Jawaharlal Nehru

ADF India is committed to cultivating a future where human dignity is affirmed for all women and girls. Through our Vanishing Girls campaign, we advocate for the right of all women and girls to be loved, to have equal rights to the family inheritance, and to have their freedoms protected and promoted.

ADF India provides free legal assistance through our panel of allied lawyers to women like Bhavna who suffer for giving birth to girls. For more details, visit www.adfindia.org/legal-aid.

*name has been changed to protect the privacy of individuals

5.5 Million Girls Missing At Birth In India In 10 years

May 14, 2021

The Lancet, a leading medical journal, recently released a report documenting the trends in missing female births in India since the 1980s.

Here are some of the key learnings from the report:

  1. The total number of missing female births in India witnessed an increase of nearly 60%, from 3·5 million in 1987–1996 to 5·5 million in 2007–2016.
  1. North Indian states such as Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, and Rajasthan had the most skewed sex ratios. However, in almost all Indian states, families who already had daughters became more male-biased.
  1. During 2012-2016, the average sex-ratio at birth witnessed a drop with each new-born in the family:
  1. Girls with older sisters are at an increased risk of adverse health and survival outcomes.
  1. Missing female births are more common in richer and more educated families than in poorer and less educated families.
  1. The most cogent explanation for missing female births is prenatal sex determination followed by selective abortion.

India has had a long history with daughter-aversion stemming from social and cultural practices that enforce rigid norms of son-preference.  

ADF India’s Vanishing Girls campaign aims to eradicate sex-selection and save the lives of thousands of girls who are aborted every day. We are advocating for the strict enforcement of the Prohibition of Sex-Selection Act. In the past year, the campaign has impacted over 1,700 persons by raising awareness on the issue through various campaign events, training workshops and social media.

We provide free legal assistance, through our panel of allied lawyers, to women who are being forced to undergo sex-selective abortions and suffer abuse for choosing to give birth to girls. For more details, visit www.adfindia.org/legal-aid.

Sign the pledge to protect the Girl Child: www.vanishinggirls.in/sign-the-pledge

Interview with Media Production expert, Sharon Angel

Vanishing Girls had the pleasure to host an interview with Sharon Angel, Founder of A North Production, Author, TV Show Host, Entrepreneur, Humanitarian, Motivational Speaker and all round Media Production expert. The interview was part of a number of events organised under our “Isn’t She Precious!” campaign.

Sharon is a dynamic, young leader and a voice for this generation. Sharon’s passion lies in bridging societal divides between people of different status, faith, caste, race, age and gender. Her goal is to give voice to those who are destitute and faced by  oppression, and help facilitate their journey toward rehabilitation, employment and leadership through her work in media and justice.

In this interview, Sharon shares her experience of what it's like to work, as a female, in the media industry. You may watch the video interview here. A transcript of the same is available below.

VG: Media production is still a new field for women, especially, in India. Did you face any challenges when you decided to choose this line of work?

Sharon: I certainly faced many challenges being a female in the media production industry in India. I started very young when I made it a career being in front of the camera — telling stories, singing songs and hosting television shows. I was probably just 10 years old. And if I had an opinion, if I had an idea, or a thought, it wasn't taken seriously because I was a girl and I was very young.

Not just my gender, but my age was also against me because everybody who was working with me had 10 to 15 years of experience. They were older and they were male. So, their ideas, their thoughts and their plans always got heard over mine. This propagated me to get some experience. I did many internships. I pulled all-nighters learning how to edit videos. I wrote scripts, I learned how to write a story, and how to tell one. I put myself through graduate school for film and cinema television. The documentary that I made in graduate school broke many stereotypes because as a young Indian girl, they did not expect me to be good. This experience gave me a level up in my career and brought a lot of respect to Indian female women around the world.

VG: In India, 7000 unborn girls are aborted every day just because they are girls. While the law needs to be strictly enforced to curb this, what do you think could be done to change the mindset of the people and the false narrative against the girl child?

Sharon: The current narrative is that the girl child is a financial burden. We need to tell stories to change this narrative. During the recent Covid-19 lockdown period, there was an inspiring story of this young girl, who carried her old father on a cycle from their village to the town, where her father worked. The father was not physically capable of doing this himself. Because of her efforts, her father was able to continue work, and the family could receive a regular income for their livelihood.

We need to tell such stories and highlight the competence and courage of women and girls. They can contribute to the growth of the family and to society. In telling such stories, we’re impacting mindsets.

VG: As a girl, how has your family been a support to you?

Sharon: I'm grateful for the support I get from my family. If I had to list out what each of them did, it would be a long list. There were times when they did not understand why I wanted to do certain things, but even in those times they gave me the space to experiment, to explore, to fight for the things that I wanted to stand up for. That space meant trust. And that space meant that they're giving me the freedom to actually pursue my dreams. And that meant a lot to me.

Even though they were not able to walk with me through every single thing, allowing me, or giving me the space to do it meant that they were still supporting me. I encourage people who don't know how to support somebody, to simply give them the space to experiment and explore the things that they want to do. Their tenacity and their courage will get them to the place where they want to go.

VG: As we celebrate the inherent worth of the girl child through the “Isn't She Precious!” campaign, what would you like to say to the girl child today?

Sharon: All my little ladies remember that you are valuable. You are talented and you are beautiful. You are so important and don't let anybody else tell you otherwise.

Remember that your talent is valuable. If you have a talent, if you have a skill and if you have a dream, pursue it because no one else will do it for you. That avenue is meant for you to accomplish and succeed.

Always be kind! Do everything in kindness. Be gracious to people, be gracious to the people of your gender and be gracious to the people of other gender. Be gracious to people who are battered and bruised and who have gone through struggles and challenges. Your kindness will place you on a higher pedestal. Keep fighting for your cause, invest in your cause, work for it, and don't let your dream die. And more importantly, remember that you are precious.

7 Things You Should Know About The Prohibition of Sex Selection Act

In India, 7000 unborn girls are aborted every day, just because they are girls! Because of this heinous practice, India ranks fourth in the list of countries with the worst Child Sex Ratio. 

In this issue we highlight seven important provisions under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 which was enacted by the Parliament of India to prohibit sex selection and arrest the declining sex ratio in India. 

  1. No laboratory or genetic counselling centre or genetic clinic is permitted to conduct any test including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of the foetus. Thus, sex-selection is prohibited both before and after conception.
  1. The use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques such as ultrasound and amniocentesis by sonographers are permitted only to detect Genetic abnormalities, Metabolic disorders, Chromosomal abnormalities, certain Congenital malformations, Haemoglobinopathies and Sex-linked disorders.
  1. It is illegal for any person, including sonographers and other healthcare professionals to communicate the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman or her relatives by words, signs or any other method.
  1. Any person who puts out an advertisement for sex determination facilities in any form and through any media, or engages in any visible representation, can be imprisoned for up to three years and also be fined.
  1. Registration of all diagnostic laboratories, all genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories, genetic clinics and ultrasound clinics is compulsory.
  1. The prominent display of a signboard that “detection/revelation of the sex of the foetus is illegal” is mandatory in all ultrasonography units.
  1. Failure to maintain records such as the Form F (a mandatory record containing information of a pregnant person undergoing an ultrasound, such as previous children and obstetric history) or a failure to preserve the records for a period of 2 years are punishable offences. 

What can you do to save our vanishing girls and show that you CARE?

C – Conversations: Engage on social media; host an event or organize a training.

A – Ask Questions: (i) File RTIs, download a sample RTI here. (ii) Join a campaign demanding justice for unborn girls.

R – Report Violations: Email askme@vanishinggirls.in and we will be happy to guide you.

E – Ensure Equality & Dignity for Girls: Sign the pledge; write a will equally dividing your property between your sons and daughters. 

You would be happy to know that Mrs. Tehmina Arora, Director, ADF India was nominated on October 9, 2020, as a member of the Advisory Committee for the Delhi State Appropriate Authority under the PCPNDT Act which includes medical and legal experts and eminent social workers.

Under Section 17(5) and 17(6) of the Act, the Committee was constituted by a notification of the Directorate of Family Welfare, Govt. of NCT. The Committee will aid and advise the Appropriate Authority in the discharge of its function for a tenure of three years.

The Vanishing Girls campaign is an initiative of ADF India that aims to eradicate sex-selection in our lifetime and save the lives of thousands of girls who are selectively aborted every day. We are advocating for the strict enforcement of the Prohibition of Sex-Selection Act.

Celebrating Girls for LIFE

A joint national campaign to protect and empower girls

The Vanishing Girls campaign of ADF India has been actively working since 2016, in partnership with several likeminded civil society groups, to save the lives of unborn girls. Every day in India, 7000 unborn girls are aborted only because they are girls, whereas sex-determination is a punishable offence under the PCPNDT (Prohibition of Sex-selection) Act. 

There are several societal evils that work against the girl child and endanger her life, contributing to the anomaly of boy-preference in Indian society. It is critical therefore for civil-society groups addressing these different challenges to come together to craft a coordinated response.  

Hence, this year, in the lead up to the International Day of the Girl, we helped bring together several groups that work across India to protect and empower the girl child for a month-long campaign: Celebrating Girls for LIFE. LIFE is an acronym that stands for Love, Inheritance, Freedom & Equality. 

The campaign was launched on September 7, 2020, and culminated with a special online event on October 10, on the eve of the International Day of the Girl 2020. 

The multi-pronged campaign for the girl child saw the different partnering organizations lead workshops, awareness programs and webinars under different focus areas:

Another important highlight of the campaign was a Short Film Contest. Through this contest, participants were encouraged from across the country to send their original short film entries that convey the theme of the campaign. The contest drew beautiful entries with powerful films that showcased challenges faced by women and girls at birth and life—at home and in society, their strengths, achievements, and contributions. The films also focused on exposing false narratives and prevalent social evils against girls.

The panel of judges for the Short Film contest comprised of nationally renowned filmmakers:

The winning entries from the contest were felicitated and screened during the online event on October 10, as the leading filmmakers congratulated the winners of the Short-Film Contest. 

Speaking at the event, Mrs. Tehmina Arora, Director, ADF India, said: "The power of storytelling is a tool to change the world. In our society, women can change the world. As we celebrate the International Day for the Girl Child, let us pledge to tell a story of hope and power to our girls." 


The winning entries from the Short Film contest can be viewed here.

For more information on the campaign, visit www.girlchildday.in

True Independence for Girls in India

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recently released the State of the World Population 2020 report which drew attention to 19 forms of human rights violation against women and girls, one of which is son-preference resulting in sex selection. According to the report, one in three girls missing globally due to gender-biased sex selection is from India — 46 million out of the total 142 million missing girls. The number of girls missing due to female foeticide reflect the deep-rooted bias against daughters and the poor status of girls in the country.

“It should be shocking but it isn't that while 5 lakh COVID-19 deaths worldwide is causing such a furore, there is not a word on 460 lakh deaths of girls in the country”.

Kamla Bhasin, Social scientist and activist 

Tomorrow, India celebrates its 74th Independence Day. We can be proud of how far we have come as a nation. The Constitution of India resolved to assure the dignity of every individual and to secure to all its citizens:  JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; and EQUALITY of status and of opportunity. We have, as a sovereign republic, delivered on several of these constitutional promises. However, even today, women and girls in India suffer the effects of son-preference, sex-selective abortion and other rigid patriarchal norms. 

The Vanishing Girls Campaign pledge to #giveherLIFE - Love, Inheritance, Freedom, and Equality is aimed at realizing true independence for girls in India. 

Love: Every girl has the right to be born into the world and be loved and cherished just as sons are. The progress of our country would not have been possible without the contribution of women and girls. From the freedom struggle movement to the current COVID-19 pandemic, India’s daughters have been at the forefront, developing and supporting the country hand-in-hand with men. Daughters are no less than sons, and they deserve equal love, care and respect.

Inheritance: The right to inheritance is imperative for the empowerment of women and girls. India’s Child Sex Ratio continues to drop because girls are seen as an economic burden. The right to inheritance is linked to the value of daughters. Recently, in a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court of India held that a daughter will have an equal share in the family property after the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005. “Daughters must be given equal rights as sons. Daughter remains a loving daughter throughout life. The daughter shall remain a coparcener throughout life, irrespective of whether her father is alive or not”, stated Justice Arun Mishra. This is an important step towards securing equal inheritance rights for women.

Freedom: A patriarchal society like ours gives most of the decision making power to men in households, in communities and even in governments. This practice in turn suppresses women and girls to stereotypical gender roles, thereby withholding their independence. They are discouraged from speaking their minds or showing leadership skills, and limited by the dangers of a crime-ridden society. In our work with the campaign, we have even seen mothers being forced to abort their daughters against their will. 

Equality: Gender bias and inequality meted out to women and girls across the country have resulted in unequal access to resources and opportunities for them. By placing nearly half the population at a disadvantage, India will only hinder its own growth. 

There is an urgent need for policy initiatives to bring gender parity in our society. More than ever, we need to stand with women and girls to guarantee their fundamental rights, as provided by the Constitution, so that they can enjoy true freedom in India.

ADF India, through its Vanishing Girls campaign, aims to eradicate sex-selective abortion in our lifetime and save the lives of thousands of girls who are killed in the womb every day. We are advocating for the strict enforcement of the Pre-Conception Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.

On July 4, 2020, the Delhi Government’s Health and Family Welfare Department inducted Mrs. Tehmina Arora, Director, ADF India, in the Advisory Committee for District Level Appropriate Authorities under the PCPNDT Act. 

Sign the pledge to #giveherLIFE

TOGETHER AGAIN: A Mother & Daughter Reunited

Payal, her mother, and her daughter, Jaya, with ADF India allied lawyers

July 15, 2020

Unbridled tears of joy accompanied the reunion of Payal and her daughter Jaya (names changed) after 9 months of painful separation. In February 2020, we had shared the story of this indomitable young mother who would stop at nothing to protect her three daughters. Her husband and his family had tortured her for 8 years in her marital home. On a fateful evening in November 2019 she decided that her three daughters and she would suffer no longer. When she returned to her parents’ home that cold night, her husband had cruelly held back her second daughter, to force Payal to come back to him.  

Earlier today, on the long drive with her mother and lawyers to the family court where she would be reunited with her daughter, Payal was both ecstatic and nervous. She thought of all the nights when she had cried herself to sleep, longing to embrace her daughter. The joy of their reunion, two days before her daughter’s fifth birthday, would wash away all the tears. At the same time, she was worried if her husband would do something at the last minute to deny her the custody of her daughter. She had won a tough legal battle for custody after moving the district court and High Court on multiple occasions.  

On 13 July, the High Court passed an order stating that the custody of the child would have to be given to the mother before 17 July. The father had delayed granting custody of the child under various pretexts, even blaming the prevalence of COVID-19 near Payal’s parental home as a reason. The Court found no merit in these delay tactics. The father was found to have not complied with the interim order of the district court to hand over custody in January 2020. 

Payal was blessed to have the support of her parents in her struggle. Her mother stood bravely beside her at the court today when her husband and his relatives surrounded them with menacing looks. Payal also felt stronger in the company of the ADF India lawyers who were more than just lawyers to her, they were family. They had fought this battle together for 9 months and now they were celebrating her victory with her. Also, criminal proceedings against the husband and his family are to continue. 

Payal’s troubles in her marital home began when her first child was born. The abuse multiplied at the birth of her second child and reached the tipping point after the birth of her third child. Why? Because she had given birth to three daughters and her husband’s family wanted a son. And now Payal and daughters would be punished. But this mother has managed to save the lives of her daughters and her own.  

Sadly, Payal’s story is not unique. 

ADF India is committed to continue providing legal aid to mothers like Payal who suffer because they choose to give birth to daughters and love them. We aim to eradicate sex-selective abortions in our lifetime and save the lives of thousands of girls who are killed in the womb every day. We are advocating for the strict enforcement of the Pre-Conception Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.

A Country Without Balance — What the Trend of Declining Child Sex Ratio Could Mean for India in 2031

In this issue, we explore what India could look like in 2031 if we fail to protect the lives of unborn girls.  

A widespread preference for sons, combined with easy access to illegal sex-selective abortions, has led to a significant imbalance in the ratio of boys to girls born in India. According to the latest government census, the Child Sex Ratio, which shows the number of girls per 1000 boys between the ages 0-6, plunged down to 918 for India in 2011 from 927 in 2001. 

Diminishing Sex Ratio

The Sex Ratio will further dip to 898 girls for 1,000 boys in 2031, according to a Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation report

Recently, during the Coronavirus lockdown period, the government inexplicably suspended some key provisions of the PCPNDT (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Rules, 1996. This decision put the lives of thousands of unborn girls at risk. India cannot afford such lapses. 

“The decreasing Child Sex Ratio has a cascading effect on population over a period of time leading to diminishing Sex Ratio in the country,” explains the Census of India website, “one thing is clear—the imbalance that has set in at the early age group is difficult to be removed and will remain to haunt the population for a long time to come.” 

The declining Child Sex Ratio sabotages the development of our country as women contribute strongly to the economic upliftment of India. Imagine large proportions of the productive population missing ten years from now because girls were not even allowed to be born! 

Scarcity of Brides 

The growing disparity between the number of boys and girls born will have serious social implications. It will become more difficult for men, wanting to get married, to find a bride by 2031. In the coming decades, the number of men who can’t find brides in India could reach 40 million

In the book ‘Too Many Men, Too Few Women’, Ravinder Kaur speaks about this ‘marriage squeeze’. Through empirical work and ethnographic accounts by well-known sociologists, economists and demographers, this book maintains that due to the economic, social, moral and psychological importance of marriage in Indian societies, the "shortage of brides" has become one of the most significant negative impacts of the sex ratio imbalance.

Increase in Violence

Gender imbalance will have dangerous repercussions to the security and stability of our society. Studies repeatedly link regions with high sex-ratios in favor of men to instances of increase in violence, sexual exploitation of women, enforced prostitution and other forms of gender-based violence. The impending “marriage squeeze” will amplify evils like bride trafficking and polyandry.

Failure in Achieving Gender Equality

A country without balance is a country without equality. Gender equality is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that the United Nations aims to achieve by 2030. 

“Son preference is first and foremost about gender discrimination and violations of women’s and girls' human rights,” says Luis Mora, a UNFPA human rights expert. Failure to bring balance in our Child Sex Ratio would mean failure in achieving Gender Equality for our girls. 

Ms. Ravinder Kaur, a noted professor of Sociology and Social Anthropology at IIT-Delhi, has said that the consequences of skewed sex ratios are likely to be felt even more than twenty years down the line. 

Improving the status of women and girls and preventing the systematic erasure of our daughters should be a national priority.

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