Unravelling the Persistence of Sex-Selective Abortion: A Socioeconomic Exploration 

By Adv. Robin Christopher 

Sex-selective abortion is the inhumane practice of terminating pregnancies based on the sex of the foetus. It remains a contentious and deeply entrenched issue in India. This article delves into the multifaceted nature of sex-selective abortion, shedding light on the various socioeconomic elements contributing to its persistence. 

1. Valuing Men as Caregivers in Cultural Norms 

In the Indian society at large, sons are traditionally seen as providers and caregivers for their parents in old age, while daughters are viewed as economic burdens. This preference exerts immense pressure on families, leading them to opt for sex-selective abortion when expecting a girl. 

It is difficult to understand the origin and basis of this notion as varying estimates clearly indicate that 57-81% of all caregivers of the elderly, are women. In most cases, female caregivers are wives or adult daughters of the elderly person. 

2. Economic Considerations 

Economic factors assume a crucial role, particularly with the dowry system imposing a significant financial burden on families during the marriage of their daughters. Additionally, the expectation that male children will inherit property and carry on the family lineage further contributes to son preference.  

There is an endless list of successful women to bust the myth that daughters cannot be financially dependable and successful. Follow us on social media as we constantly update informational posts on inspiring women and girls who break stereotypes and made it, despite all odds.  

3. Traditional Practices and Family Dynamics 

Some deep-seated unhealthy traditional practices significantly contribute to sex-selective abortion. In societies where entrenched customs dictate family structures and expectations, the pressure to conform to these norms can lead to the preference for male children.  

In societies where women have limited autonomy, they may be pressured into undergoing sex-selective abortions. Addressing these deep-rooted traditions is essential for dismantling the cultural factors that contribute to sex-selective abortion. 

4. Access to Healthcare and Technology 

Advancements in medical technology, such as ultrasound and prenatal sex determination tests, have facilitated sex-selective abortions. Unregulated access to this technology allows families to easily learn the sex of the foetus.   

5. Legal Frameworks and Enforcement 

While laws serve as tools to combat sex-selective abortion, challenges in effective implementation exist. Enforcement of laws against sex determination tests and sex-selective abortions is challenging due to the secretive nature of the practice and cultural norms. Often, medical practitioners and clinics fail to strictly adhere to legal guidelines. 

6. Education and Awareness 

Education and awareness campaigns are essential for challenging unhealthy cultural norms. These initiatives can shift attitudes and beliefs perpetuating sex-selective abortion. Empowering women and men with knowledge and resources can also enable them to understand the value of life and the importance of saving girl children.  

Explore the legal literacy programs provided by ADF India's Vanishing Girls campaign. Learn more here

7. Government Policies 

Government policies play a crucial role in addressing sex-selective abortion. Policymakers must implement measures that empower women and girls, improve healthcare access and enforce laws against sex determination tests and sex-selective abortions. Additionally, governments must support programs that focus on changing cultural norms and attitudes toward gender and family dynamics. 

8. Community and Religious Influences 

Community and religious influences significantly impact sex-selective abortion. Engaging religious leaders and community influencers in dialogues about gender and family dynamics can lead to shifts in attitudes and behaviours. 

Sex-selective abortion is a deeply complex issue rooted in culture, tradition, and gender dynamics. Legislation alone cannot fully address it; a multifaceted approach considering socioeconomic factors is necessary. To combat this practice effectively, society must collectively challenge harmful beliefs, empowering women to prioritize gender equity and the well-being of families and communities. 

To combat the evil of sex-selective abortion, ADF India’s Vanishing Girls campaign works with several like-minded allies, state government bodies, public prosecutors, legal and civic bodies, social activists, medical professionals and ASHA workers to provide legal support as well as training to ensure acts have been implemented to protect the Girl Child are implemented effectively and adhered to strictly.  

To collaborate with us, write to askme@vanishinggirls.in 

Robin Christopher Joseph is Deputy Director, Strategic Litigation, ADF India. He oversees strategic litigation relating to freedom of religion for South India. His interests are Criminal Law, Constitutional Law matters and civil liberty movements. He completed law from Christ College and holds a LLM from Azim Premji University. He has completed his International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford. 

Efforts made by Government and NGOs to address sex-selective abortion

By Anuja Naik

Son-preference continues to persist as a deeply entrenched issue in India, transcending both urban and rural domains as well as societal structures. This pervasive problem has been a pivotal driver of a pronounced imbalance in the nation’s child sex ratio. As per the Census of India 2011, the child sex ratio at birth (0-6 years) stood at 914 females per 1,000 males, demonstrating a clear manifestation of son preference influencing family decisions.

This article delves into the strategies employed by both government and non-governmental organizations in India and examines their impacts in addressing sex-selective abortion and restoring a balanced sex ratio in the country.

Government Initiatives

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Campaign: Launched in January 2015, BBBP is one of the flagship initiatives by the Indian Government to address the declining Child Sex Ratio. The campaign focuses on preventing gender-biased sex-selective abortions and promoting the education and empowerment of girls. Through mass media campaigns, community mobilisation, and policy advocacy, BBBP has raised awareness about the importance of valuing the Girl Child and has led to significant improvements in sex ratios in certain regions.

The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act: Implemented in 1994 and amended in 2003, this legislation prohibits sex determination tests and regulates the use of ultrasound machines to prevent sex-selective abortions. The act imposes stringent penalties on offenders, including imprisonment and license cancellation for medical practitioners involved in illegal sex determination. Although challenges persist, the PCPNDT Act has been instrumental in curbing sex-selective practices. As per a 2021 data, there have been over 617 convictions under this Act, over the last 25 years.

Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY): Launched in 2005, JSY is a conditional cash transfer scheme aimed at promoting institutional deliveries, especially in rural areas. It incentivises pregnant women to deliver their babies in health institutions, thus reducing the risk of sex-selective abortions and maternal mortality. The scheme has significantly contributed to increased institutional deliveries and access to maternal healthcare.

Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana: Introduced in 2015, this savings scheme encourages parents to save money for the future education and marriage expenses of their Girl Child. With an attractive interest rate and tax benefits, the scheme encourages parents to invest in their daughters' futures. As a result, it contributes to shifting away from the conventional perspective that raising daughters entails heightened financial burden.

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)

Save the Children: As a leading NGO working towards child rights and welfare, Save the Children has been actively involved in addressing gender inequality and promoting the well-being of girls in India. Their initiatives include community awareness programs, scholarships for girls' education, and capacity building for empowering women and girls in marginalized communities.

Population Foundation of India (PFI): PFI focuses on advocating for gender equality and reproductive health and rights. Through innovative communication campaigns and capacity building of local organizations, PFI aims to change societal attitudes towards gender discrimination and promote the value of the Girl Child.

Nanhi Kali: This NGO focuses on providing educational support to underprivileged girls, thereby reducing the economic burden on families and encouraging parents to educate their daughters. By supporting the education of Girl Children, Nanhi Kali empowers them to break the cycle of poverty and contributes to a more balanced sex ratio.

Private Sector Initiatives:

The private sector also plays a significant role in promoting the welfare of the Girl Child through corporate social responsibility initiatives. By aligning their business goals with social development, companies can make a considerable impact on girls' lives.

Some corporations sponsor girls' education, provide mentorship programs, and create safe spaces within communities. Moreover, by hiring and promoting women in leadership roles, businesses can serve as role models, inspiring young girls to pursue their dreams and break traditional gender barriers.

Community Engagement and Grassroots Movements:

Local initiatives, led by community members, can address issues like child marriage, gender-based violence, and lack of access to healthcare. By creating awareness and advocating for girls' rights, these movements not only foster change but also promote a culture that values and supports the Girl Child.

ADF India’s Vanishing Girls campaign actively works to fight against sex-selective abortions and save the lives of thousands of girls who are killed in the womb every day. With efforts to raise awareness and advocate for the rights and fundamental freedoms of the unborn Girl Child, the campaign aims to protect and promote the inherent dignity of daughters, which should not be any lesser than a son’s. 

LEGAL AID      

ADF India provides free legal assistance through our panel of allied lawyers to women whose unborn Girl Children face in any way a hindrance to L.I.F.E (Love, Inheritance, Freedom, Equality). To know more, please visit www.adfindia.org/legal-aid.   

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Anuja Naik is a human rights activist. She has worked in the Development Sector for the last 12 years and holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Sikkim Manipal University with Human Resource Management as a specialisation. She has previously worked on policy-related interventions to ensure better Centre State coordination on the issue of Labour Trafficking.

One-fifth of all babies are born in India, yet more baby girls die here than baby boys: UNICEF

by Utkarsh Singh Payal

India and China have emerged as formidable competitors not only in the domains of electronics and automotives but also in an alarming demographic aspect. As per the 2019 UN World Population Division, these two nations, being the most populous in the world, prominently occupy positions on the list of countries with the highest male-skewed sex ratio at birth. (Significantly, in April 2023, India surpassed China as the most populous country for the first time.)

While China stands at 115 males per 100 females, India is close at 110 males. (The 2021 NHFW 5 estimated that India’s sex ratio at birth has improved at 929 females for 1000 males, or approximately 108 males per 100 females).

According to a Pew Reseach Centre study, other countries that have heavily male-biased sex ratio are Eastern European nations like Azerbaijan (115), Armenia (114), Albania (111).

According to a 2020 UN Report, the span of 50 years from 1970 to 2020 witnessed an alarming statistic: a staggering 14.2 Crore girls were reported as "missing" worldwide, primarily due to sex-selective abortions and neglect. To put this into perspective, this number is equivalent to the entire population of Russia in 2021. India accounted for an estimated 32% (or one in three) of these "missing" girls, while China was responsible for approximately half of this grim statistic.  

India, in particular, seems to be the epicenter of gender disparity. UNICEF reports that even though one-fifth of all babies are born in India, about 25 million a year, it is the only large country in the world where more baby girls die than baby boys, widening the gender gap further. This leaves room for speculation about girl child neglect and female infanticide. 

In the countries that reported the most skewed sex ratio at birth, certain common factors were also observed, including: a widespread desire for sons and/or aversion to daughters; parents seeking to have smaller families; and the availability of prenatal sex detection (typically, ultrasound technology) and abortion services. Poor economic conditions and the expectation of support in old age, which socially are the mainstay of sons, lead many parents in these countries to prefer sons and reject, abort or neglect daughters.  

Besides facing many health risks related to abortion, in many cases, the mother is harassed, shamed, assaulted (or faces a worse fate) at the hands of the family for having given birth to daughters. The UNFPA Report quoted earlier tells the story of such a mother, who was persecuted by her family for having identical triplets – all girls.  

Not just the family, in this particular case, the mother also recounts the indifference to the sanctity of life displayed by her doctor – someone who would have taken the Hippocratic Oath:

“I was pregnant and during one of the ultrasounds, the doctor told me I was having not one, but three children… three daughters. Now it is banned but, in those days, they would tell you the sex of the child. The doctor offered to conduct an abortion, because she said it would be difficult for me to raise three daughters. She even explained that the procedure would be a straightforward one, similar to a delivery. For a few moments, I was scared, but God gave me strength to refuse, and I said no.” 

The mother and her three daughters survived this social and medical ordeal. At the time when this report was published, the girls were healthy 23-year-olds, living with their 58-year-old mother. 

But 14.2 crore girls didn’t have the opportunity that, fortunately, these three girls did. They vanished without a trace – became an unfortunate number in a sea of countless faces, their potential quashed, and the difference they could have made to the world voided. Over fourteen crore souls in just the past 50 years! 

We must ensure that even as technology progresses, mindsets progress faster. We need to ensure more and more people understand the long-term ramifications of sex-selective abortion, and the adversities society could face economically, socially, culturally and anthropologically, if fewer and fewer girls are allowed to live. 

We must understand, and in turn, make others understand that every human being, including each and every girl child, must be given her entitlement to L.I.F.E (Love. Inheritance. Freedom. Equality) so that life could prosper in the country, as it should. #NoMoreVanishing #GiveHerLife 

LEGAL AID AND PREGNANCY HELPLINE  
ADF India provides free legal assistance through our panel of allied lawyers to women whose unborn girl children face in any way a hindrance to L.I.F.E (Love, Inheritance, Freedom, Equality). To know more, please visit www.adfindia.org/legal-aid.   

You may also call the pregnancy helpline at 0444 631 4300 or visit www.pregnancyhelpline.in  

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An English Literature graduate from the University of Delhi, Utkarsh brings with him over 13 years of experience in creative direction and digital advertising. Besides working with brands such as Apple, Adidas, Nestle and Honda in advertising, Utkarsh has also been on the radiowaves as an RJ for AIR FM Rainbow. He now intends to offer his core competency of communication towards the cause of advocating for human rights, especially sanctity of life. 

Women Empowerment through Legal Literacy

By Jemi Thomas

43-year-old Babita did not have an easy life. She was rejected by her own father from birth because she was born a girl and not a son as he had always prayed for! She was married off at the young age of 14. Through all this, her mother remained her strength. She fought for Babita’s education and made sure she went to primary school at least.

Babita worked as a seamstress initially but her passion to serve the women in her community made her join the ASHA initiative (Accredited Social Health Activist). She has been an ASHA for over 13 years. She loves her job as it involves ensuring that pregnant women in her region get the right medical assistance and those little girls are born into this world.

At the training organised as part of ADF India’s Vanishing Girls Campaign in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, Babita was delighted to learn more about the PCPNDT Act (Prohibition of Sex Selection), saying this was the first time that someone had made things simple enough for her to understand! She was thankful to receive insights into the root causes of discrimination against the girl child and pledged her efforts to save the girl child.

In India, there are laws that ensure girls are born, prohibiting sex selection, before and after conception. Laws that prevent the misuse of technology, regulating the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques like ultrasound and amniocentesis. Any violation of these laws is a criminal offence with severe implications. There are, also, schemes that reward those who report violations of these laws.

Despite the presence of such stringent rules, India fails to curb the practise of female foeticide and suffers from a declining child sex ratio. Reuters reports that in India, 7000 fewer girls are born each day, largely because of sex-selective abortion.

One of the root causes of this problem is the lack of legal awareness. Legal awareness on female foeticide and related issues is crucial for preventing this harmful practice, protecting baby girls, and also for empowering women in India.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is DSC0108-edited-scaled.jpg
A Legal Training in progress in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan

Here are few reasons why legal trainings are a MUST to empower women:

1. Understanding their Rights: Legal training can help women understand their legal rights and the protections afforded to them under the law. This can be especially important in areas such as family law, where women may face issues such as domestic violence due to birth of a girl child.

2. Navigating the Legal System: Legal training can help women navigate the complex legal system, including understanding court procedures, filing FIRs, and presenting a case in court. As a national network of lawyers, we come alongside vulnerable communities, providing pro bono legal services.

3. Advocating for Change: Legal training can also help women become advocates for change promoting inherent worth of the girl child, such as working to change laws and policies that negatively affect girls and women. This can include issues such as inheritance rights, gender-based violence, and equal pay.

4. Increasing Access to Justice: Legal training can help women increase their access to justice by providing them with the skills and knowledge necessary to seek legal remedies for violations of their rights. This can be especially important for women who may face barriers to accessing the legal system, such as discrimination or lack of resources.

A legally empowered women stands as a beacon of LIFE (love, inheritance, freedom, and equality), for the generations of women who have suffered discrimination and for the many baby girls yet to be born.

Over the years, as part of ADF India’s Vanishing Girls Campaign, we have trained public prosecutors, state nodal officers, doctors, ASHA workers, civil society organisations, women, and the community. We have organised programs in collaboration with State PCPNDT Departments in States and regions with skewed child sex ratio.

The training focuses on understanding the reasons why our little girls are vanishing, laws that address each of the challenges present in the society, and what are the resources available for change. To collaborate with us to organise legal trainings in your region, contact us at askme@vanishinggirls.in

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Jemi oversees and develops training programs for equipping women and raising awareness against the practise of sex-selective abortions in India. She is holds a MA in Clinical Psychology, and also serves the community as a Counselor.

Challenging Son Preference: Success Stories and Persistent Challenges in Asia 

By Elina Yohannan 

Son preference remains a persistent and deeply rooted issue in many Asian countries, with serious consequences for women and girls. Although the global sex ratio at birth is around 105 males for every 100 females, several Asian countries have failed to maintain this ratio due to cultural and economic factors.  

INDIA 

In India, the birth of a son is often met with much celebration and excitement, with cries of "Beta hua hai!" (It's a boy!), while a daughter's birth, in many homes, is not always met with the same enthusiasm. This preference for sons is deeply rooted in rigid patriarchal norms and is influenced by various factors. Sons are seen as the ones who will carry on the family lineage, provide financial and emotional support for their parents in old age, and take on major family and religious roles, while daughters are considered weak and in need of protection, and are often viewed as paraaya dhan (someone else's property after marriage). Moreover, the issue of dowry, which has been banned in India since 1961, is still practiced in the form of giving "gifts." 

This preference for sons has resulted in the rise of sex-selective abortions and female infanticide in the country. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, sex-selective abortions in India have contributed to at least nine million female births “missing” between 2000 and 2019. It is predicted that by 2030, there will be approximately 6.8 million fewer girls born in India due to this practice.  

Even though sex-selection is illegal in India and campaigns such as Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save the Girl Child, Educate the Girl Child) exist to raise awareness about the importance of girls' education and the issue of declining sex ratio, India still has a long way to go to change the deeply ingrained cultural attitudes that continue to favor sons over daughters.  

CHINA 

Like India, China also has a long history of patriarchal traditions, where sons are seen as more valuable than daughters. China’s one-child policy, which was introduced in 1979, has majorly contributed to this and resulted in increased widespread sex-selective abortion and female infanticide. Studies show that in the early 1980s, there were 108 male births to every 100 females, just a little over the natural rate; but by 2000, this ratio saw a jump in the male births to 120, even crossing 130 in some provinces. This resulted in millions of girls “missing” in the country.  

Though the one-child policy is no longer in effect, and the government has made some efforts to address the problem of son preference – including a ban on sex-selective abortion and efforts to promote gender equality, the impact of these policies has been limited. A report shows that between 1980 and 2020, there have been 30-40 million more male births than females who will probably not be able to find brides within the country. 

While some countries in Asia continue to struggle with this issue, some have made significant progress in reducing son preference and its negative consequences. 

SOUTH KOREA  

South Korea is one of the pioneer countries to have made significant strides in reducing son preference. A combination of education, public policies, and urbanization has been key to reversing the trend. During the 1990s, the child sex ratio was 114 boys per 100 girls, but it has now decreased to 104 boys per 100 girls. Legal reforms played a major role in promoting gender equality within households and public life. In the late 1980s, the Family Law saw some pivotal revisions which included equal rights to inheritance for sons and daughters. With the pension reform in the 1990s, urban workers could save for their own retirement instead of depending on their sons to farm the land. The establishment of national health insurance and gradual expansion of pension plans also eroded people’s financial dependence on sons in their old age. 

TAIWAN 

In recent years, Taiwan has also progressed well in addressing the issue of son preference. The government has implemented policies to promote equal opportunities in education and employment. A study showed that the proportion of desiring more boys than girls declined from 27% in 1992 to 12% in 2002. The study also showed that education reduces son preference and leads to a higher degree of gender neutrality. 

Though these are tremendous developments, there is much that still needs to be done to address the root causes of son preference in Asia, and to promote basic human rights for girls and women, gender equality, public health, and socioeconomic growth.  

In India, the Vanishing Girls campaign actively works to fight against sex-selective abortions and save the lives of thousands of girls who are killed in the womb every day. With efforts to raise awareness and advocate for the rights and fundamental freedoms of the unborn girl child, the campaign aims to protect and promote the inherent dignity of daughters, which should not be any lesser than a son’s. 

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Elina organizes trainings and events to build network with community leaders, lawyers, and students in South Asia. She also coordinates operations for Areté Academy Asia – a training programme for young professionals & students. Elina earned her master's degree in social work from Madras School of Social Work, specializing in Community Development.  

Rights of the Unborn Child

By Adv. Loreign Ovung

Child rights are imperative in today's society, especially in terms of protecting the unborn child in the mother's womb. While there is a general belief that life begins at birth, the significance of the womb where life originates is often overlooked. We may provide the utmost attention and every possible facility to a newborn baby to ensure their happiness, but what about an unborn baby still inside the mother's womb? Should they be considered a person and rewarded the same rights as a normal human being?

Unborn children rights are the ethical rights or legal privileges of the human foetus under regular and common law. The term foetal rights came into wide use after the point of interest case Roe v. Swim that legitimized foetus removal in the United States in 1973. The idea of foetal rights has developed to incorporate the issues of maternal medication and liquor abuse. The just worldwide bargain particularly handling foetal rights is the American Convention on Human Rights which conceives the privilege to life of the baby. While global human rights instruments do not have a general incorporation of the embryo as a man for the motivations behind human rights, the baby is allowed different rights in the constitutions and common codes of a few nations. (Legal Status of Unborn Children in India - LawBhoomi)

In India, while there is no specific legislation or statute that specifically defines the rights and the position of an unborn child under the law, statutes like the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 and the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 recognize and mention the unborn and have defined it to be a legal person by fiction. Under this, the state can and is required to interfere in inheritance matters once the unborn child has attained the stage of viability. As such, as per the Medical Termination of pregnancy (MTP) Act, abortions after 20 weeks pose certain legal restrictions. The right to life of a foetus is covered under Article 21 of the Constitution. Hence, the parens patriae power of the state extends to protecting the life of the foetus from the time it becomes viable, especially after the period of 20 weeks. The State’s parens patriae responsibility is to protect the life and liberty of those who are unable to look after themselves, including the voiceless, defenceless child in the womb.

In India, an unborn child, including a female foetus, does not have legal rights as such, but is protected under certain laws. The Indian Constitution provides for equality before the law and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex. The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act of 1994 prohibits sex-selective abortions and makes it illegal to determine the sex of a foetus for non-medical purposes. 

It is also worth noting, the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act of 1994 targets the practice of female foeticide, and it is illegal to conduct sex-selective abortions. However, it's still a major issue in India and more efforts are needed to ensure that the law is enforced and that female foetuses are given the same protection and value as male foetuses.

The right of an unborn infant is a subject of a lot of debates, and it is debated whether an unborn child should get the same right a person should get. The rights of an unborn child are well recognized in various legal contexts which are as under:  

From the above context, after discussing the rights given to the unborn child for the protection of the life and property rights, it is clear that even the unborn child has certain rights of the unborn child. The unborn foetus should be considered as a normal person and should be made entitled to every right which a normal person is entitled to. Laws should be amended to ensure that the foetus is allowed to develop itself in a healthy environment and there should not be any harm to the life of the foetus.

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.  

Loreign holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Calcutta and is also law graduate from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University with an experience of over 12 years. She has previously worked for a commercial law firm, handling litigation matters in corporate law.

Why India’s latest sex ratio of 1021 girls per 1000 boys is only a partial win

The latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) data for 2019-21 indicates that India has more females than males (1021 females per 1000 males), but ironically, also points towards a slightly improved yet dangerously skewed sex ratio at birth – 929 females per 1000 males. 

The report also highlights that the states of Jharkhand (899), Telangana (894), Odisha (894), Haryana (893), Rajasthan (891), Tamil Nadu (878), Himachal Pradesh (875), Goa (838), Chandigarh (838), and Daman & Diu (817) show fewer than 900 girls being born for every 1000 boys. Kerala shows the sharpest decline with respect to sex ratio at birth – falling 96 points from a robust 1047 girls per 1000 boys in 2015-16 to 951 in 2019.  

While it is a commonly known fact that naturally, more males are born than females in the human species, the sizeable gap between the number of boys and girls born in India clearly points towards the prevalence of the practice of sex-selective abortion. Couple that with the decline in India’s Total Fertility Rate, and we may face even fewer girls being both conceived and born.  

India has implemented the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 that has illegalised sex-selection, both before and after conception. This Act, although a step in the right direction, is by no means enough by itself to curb this inhuman practice.  

Law and Culture must work together to make people realise the morbid future that female foeticide will plunge the nation into, and ensure that this evil is eradicated not only in practice, but from people’s mindset. Then only, will every Girl Child conceived will be guaranteed L.I.F.E. (Love, Inheritance, Freedom, Equality). Then only will the country truly enjoy stability and development in all aspects. 

Raising awareness is critical right now.  

To combat the evil of sex-selective abortion, ADF India’s Vanishing Girls campaign works with several like-minded allies, state government bodies, public prosecutors, legal and civic bodies, social activists, medical professionals and ASHA workers to provide legal support as well as training to ensure relevant laws are effectively implemented to protect the women and the unborn girl child. 

Our training focuses on:  

Our legal experts would be glad to collaborate with you and organise free legal trainings for your organisation, church group, school, college, etc. to raise awareness about sex-selective abortion and empower the attendees in taking a strong stand against it.  

To know more about organising trainings with Vanishing Girls, you could:  

Read more about our past trainings here.

In a society where raising girls is considered ‘a lot of work’, we must not shy away from the hard work necessary to ensure L.I.F.E. to her

The year was 1973. Some elders of a nomadic Rajasthani community considered the situation of a ‘sapera’ (snake-charmer) who was away for work, and his wife, who lay unconscious after giving birth to a baby girl – the seventh child of the family. They decided that the girl (born only a few hours ago) would be ‘a lot of work’. So, rather than giving her her rightful place at her mother’s bosom, they saw it fit to dig a hole and bury her alive. 

But the girl was rescued, and she survived. Her father fought for his daughter’s right to live, and readily chose to be abandoned by the community. The girl went on to take the folk-dance tradition of the Kalbaliya community to the world stage.

In 2016, Gulabo Sapera was awarded the coveted Padma Shri for her art. She brought recognition to the same community that didn’t see any value in her! 

Gulabo was fortunate that her parents, especially her father, were supportive in the face of a society that considers girls as ‘a lot of work’. But there are many who are not that fortunate and neither find support nor find the L.I.F.E (Love, Inheritance, Freedom, and Equality) that they deserve. 

The statistics are staggering, and yet there has been little to no reduction in the number of sex-selective abortions in the country. A 2021 ToI article pegged the number of convictions under the PCPNDT Act as only 614 over the past quarter of a century!  

Meanwhile, the girl child continues to suffer the consequences of being considered a liability and a burden to her family in our society, even before she is born. 

To combat the evil of sex-selective abortion, ADF India’s Vanishing Girls campaign works with several like-minded allies, state government bodies, public prosecutors, legal and civic bodies, social activists, medical professionals and ASHA workers to provide legal support as well as training to ensure acts have been implemented to protect the Girl Child are implemented effectively and adhered to strictly. 

Our training focuses on: 

Our legal experts would be glad to collaborate with you and organise free legal trainings for your organisation, church group, school, college, etc. to raise awareness about sex-selective abortion and empower the attendees in taking a strong stand against it. 

To know more about organising trainings with Vanishing Girls, you could: 

Read more about our past trainings here: vanishinggirls.in/trainings/ 

Art imitates LIFE - How a 2022 film FINALLY opens the mainstream discussion on sex-selective abortion

Updated on 15 July 2022

Divyang Thakkar’s directorial debut Jayeshbhai Jordaar did not make big splashes with its release on 13th May 2022. The film also received mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike. Though with flaws, this social dramedy deserves appreciation for attempting to draw the attention of mainstream media to a topic rarely discussed – sex-selective abortion.

Set in a village in Gujarat, the film follows the quest of a renegade couple (portrayed by Ranveer Singh and Shalini Pandey) to save their unborn girl child’s life from their own family, especially the patriarch (played by Boman Irani).

Despite Thakkar declaring, even before its release, that the film was “designed primarily as an entertainer”, the team seems to have done a fair bit of research on the topic. The film ties together a lot of underlying themes, practices, norms, and notions in the journey of the main characters.

Here are five moments from the film that highlight the inhuman practice of son-preference.

And yes, spoiler alert!

#1: How ultrasound technicians communicate the sex of the baby

(Copyright: Yash Raj Films / Amazon Prime)

Sex-selective abortion has been illegalised as per the Pre-Conception Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994. Yet, many technicians have found creatively secret ways of indicating the sex of the unborn child. In the movie, the doctor (portrayed as largely well-meaning) indicates to the father (Ranvir Singh) that his baby will be a girl by simply saying “Jai Mata Di”. This is one of the most common ways used by technicians to communicate the sex of the baby.

#2: The pregnant wife feels duty-bound and guilty that she cannot “give the family an heir”

(Copyright: Yash Raj Films / Amazon Prime)

In many parts of India, the onus of birthing a male heir lies on the mother. This cultural notion has seeped so deep in the psyche of people that sometimes the woman feels guilty and responsible for not fulfilling the family’s expectation. It is sad to see how Mudra considers it her inherent duty to produce a son – something that is not in her control. Upon finding out that she is pregnant with a girl again, she despairingly asks her husband to leave her.

#3: A village that learns the hard way to appreciate and respect girls

(Copyright: Yash Raj Films / Amazon Prime)

The first episode of Aamir Khan’s 2012 show Satyamev Jayate, highlighting female foeticide, featured a village near Kurukshetra, Haryana where, due to an extremely skewed sex ratio, the men were unable to find a mate to marry. The village of Laadopur in Jayeshbhai Jordaar is loosely based on the village from the show, where the villagers have now fully realised the horrors stemming from sex-selective abortion. This also mirrors the probable condition of society at large, which can be adversely affected if the sex ratio continues to skew further. According to UNICEF, “Seven thousand fewer girls are born in India each day than the global average would suggest, largely because female foetuses are aborted after sex determination tests”.

#4: BIOLOGICAL FATHERS (not mothers) are responsible for the sex of the baby

(Copyright: Yash Raj Films / Amazon Prime)

Elementary biology lessons teach us that the father’s genes decide whether you will have sons or daughters. It is utterly illogical and unreasonable to blame the mother for the sex of the child.

#5: Girls should be seen as heirs and inheritors as much as boys

(Copyright: Yash Raj Films / Amazon Prime)

Culturally, daughters inherit the values, the culture, the traditions, and beliefs of their parents. They play an important part in imparting the same to future generations as daughters, mothers, wives, grandmothers, among other roles.

Legally, inheritance laws in India recognise that daughters are entitled to inheritance as much as sons.

GET INVOLVED

There is an urgent need to end the practise of sex selective abortions in India. Get involved in the Vanishing Girls campaign and host a film screening in your community to get a conversation started.  Write to us to let us know how we can help.

Or maybe you know someone who is being forced to undergo sex-selective abortion? We are a team of legal experts that can help. Reach out to us here.

Inheritance Laws for Daughters in India

17 June, 2022

We’ve all heard it – children attributing talents, temperament, mannerisms and physical features to their parents. While reading this, many of you might even be led to think about all the things you have inherited from them. That’s how we have been created. But inheritances are not just limited to facial, physical and behavioral legacy. The one we want to draw your attention to today is legal legacy, or legal inheritance. 

The Indian Constitution guarantees gender equality before the law. Article 15 prevents the state from discriminating against any citizen of India or violating their equal rights on the basis of race, caste, religion, class, or sex etc. This equality cannot be achieved if women and girls are not economically independent. The right to inheritance is an important agency that empowers women and girls to secure this independence.  

India does not have any uniform law regarding property ownership and inheritance rights of women, which means the law in matters pertaining to inheritance and sharing of property differs for people from different faiths. 

Equal property rights of sons and daughters were recognised after the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 which stated that a daughter will have equal ownership in her father’s property even after she gets married. Prior to the amendment, daughters could only be ‘members’, not ‘coparceners’ (individuals who have a legal right to their ancestral property by birth). While coparceners could ask for partition and share of the property, members couldn’t. Once the daughter gets married, she stops being a member and therefore she loses her right to the share and maintenance of her father’s property. 

Landmark Judgements  

In many families across the country, strong patriarchal traditions have translated into fear of violence by their male relatives, preventing women from fighting for their inheritance rights. It has been 18 years since the amendment of The Hindu Succession Act (2005), but a lot of women, even educated ones, are in the dark about their inheritance rights.  

Here are 3 things every parent can do now to safeguard their daughter’s inheritance: 

  1. Stay informed on the different laws that apply to you as per your faith or custom 
  1. Draft a will. It is the best way to pass on assets. While nominations help in transferring movable assets like bank deposits or insurance policies, a will takes legal precedence over a nomination. Get a probate, if required, as it’s needed in some states 
  1. Talk to your daughter, as well as many others, about their inheritance rights. Spreading awareness about these rights is extremely important 

ADF India’s Vanishing Girls campaign is calling for proactive efforts by the Centre and state governments to enforce every daughter’s right to inheritance. Let’s move towards a future where daughters can freely claim their legal inheritance just as they claim other inheritances from you.