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. 

Analyzing the Effectiveness of Sex-Selective Abortion Laws in India

By Adv. Jaiwant Patankar

It was neurologist Karl Dussik in 1942 who is credited to apply sonography for medical diagnosis in humans. Dussik conducted experiments by directing ultrasound beams through the human skull in an endeavor to identify brain tumors1. Gradually this technology was developed in the medical world to monitor the prenatal health of the unborn baby. In India, around the 1980s, this technology was also introduced as a method of detecting fetal abnormalities. However, it did not take long before doctors and physicians found ways to use this technology to detect the sex of the fetus2. Unfortunately, it became a tool for misuse by parents and families who preferred sons over daughters.

As a consequence of this increasing practice, the national census data of 1991 revealed that the sex ratio3 had declined to a meagre 9294. Alarmed by this statistic, the central government passed the Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 in order to combat the issue of sex determination. However, within 5 years of the law’s implementation several doubts were raised about its effectiveness and petitions filed in the Supreme Court. The Apex Court issued various guidelines5 to the central and the state governments and consequently the law was amended in 20036 to strengthen the original Act and take note of the development of the sex determination techniques. This Act essentially aims to:   

After the 2011 census when the child sex ratio was reduced to an all-time low of 914, petitions were again filed before the Supreme Court titled Voluntary Health Association of Punjab v. Union of India7, wherein the non-compliance of the directions in CEHAT8, the continuance of the practice of sex-selection and the decline of the sex ratio in several parts of the country were highlighted. The Hon’ble Apex Court remarked “Decrease in the sex ratio is a sign of colossal calamity and it cannot be allowed to happen. Concrete steps have to be taken to increase the same.” Thereafter the Court issued directions for greater implementation of the Act – including regular monitoring and reporting by authorities, faster disposal of cases, and suspension of licenses to practice of convicted doctors, etc.  

According to a report published by the Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women, data up to December 2020 shows the number of ongoing cases under the PCPNDT Act was 3,158 and only a meagre 617 convictions had taken so far since the inception of the law. The Report additionally stated that “it has every reason to believe that the delay in arriving at final decision in the pending cases has a tendency to dilute the spirit of the PCPNDT Act9.”

Earlier in April 2023 the Delhi High Court10 also issued several directions observing the need for a “safe womb for female fetus”. The court remarked “though the PCPNDT Act was enacted in view of the declining child sex-ratio and related issues of women empowerment, the object behind the enactment of the Act has not been understood and applied in its true spirit. Despite the fact that this issue had been taken seriously by the Hon’ble Apex Court on past several occasions and repeated directions had been passed, shortcomings on the part of authorities in following the necessary procedure under the Act frequently arise before the Courts, as also apparent in the present case.”   

In this light, the example of the Republic of Korea offers valuable lessons for learning. In the 1980s and 1990s, Korea had a highly imbalanced sex ratio at birth. However, a combination of factors contributed to the shift. Two decades of exceptional economic growth led to fundamental changes in the Korean society including greater participation of women in the work force with better employment opportunities. Several laws – such as allowing women rights and responsibilities within their birth family even after marriage and recognizing women-headed households were seen to be beneficial. In addition, the highly organised and controlled health system was able to regulate sex-determination tests more effectively than is the case in India.

In recent years, the government has introduced various initiatives, such as the “Save the Girl Child” scheme and “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” scheme. However, these programs, while well-intentioned, have yet to exhibit their full impact. Discrimination against women persists, and instances of violence against them continue to rise. While a shift in societal attitudes is crucial, it is equally imperative to enhance the enforcement of the PCPNDT Act. Illicit sonographic facilities and unregistered ultrasound machines must be rigorously addressed, and those medical practitioners and staff engaged in sex selection and determination must face expedited legal proceedings without leniency.

In 2024, the PCPNDT Act will mark its 30th anniversary.  If implemented effectively, this law can drastically change the sex ratio imbalance in our country, allowing more girl children to be born, and have a chance to LIFE.

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, contact us at askme@vanishinggirls.in 

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Jaiwant Patankar earned his law degree from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab and is currently empanelled with the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA), a body constituted by the Delhi government to provide free legal to the poor. He practices law on the constitutional and the criminal side, having challenged the constitutional validity of the various anti conversion laws of India before the Supreme Court and various High Courts of India. While being a strong advocate of the rights of the minorities, Patankar also believes that true, long-lasting change can come with equipping the people with the knowledge of their rights. This has resulted in him taking training sessions, webinars, etc. for pastors and other minority communities that empower them to stand against any kind of oppression, using the legal framework enshrined in the Constitution.


  1. History of Ultrasound available at https://www.ultrasoundschoolsinfo.com/history/   ↩︎
  2. There are several methods of prenatal sex detection, such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (introduced in the 1980s), and other techniques for sex selection, including sperm sorting and pre-implantation genetic testing or in vitro fertilization (IVF). But these are much more expensive and complicated than ultrasound technology, which is the most common method for sex determination in utero in India. “India’s Sex Ratio at Birth Begins to Normalize” Pew Research Centre, August 2022 last accessed here at https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2022/08/23/changes-in-son-preference-ultrasound-use-and-fertility/#fn-38061-19 on 10.10.2023.   ↩︎
  3. Sex ratio is defined as the number of females per 1000 males in the population.  ↩︎
  4. Census of India 1991, Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India   ↩︎
  5. Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT) v. Union of India, (2001) 5 SCC 577.  ↩︎
  6. Renamed as the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act.  ↩︎
  7. (2013) 4 SCC 1.   ↩︎
  8. Supra 5. ↩︎
  9. Just 617 Convictions in 25 years under PNDT Act: Parliament Report, The Times of India accessed at  
    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/88483156.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst.   ↩︎
  10. CRL. M.C. 1352/ 2023, Delhi High Court.   ↩︎

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.

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.  

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/ 

What does FREEDOM mean in a Girl Child’s L.I.F.E.?

Published on 26 Aug, 2022

We felt broken many times in the past 30 days: 

In the same span, we saw the ladies of the nation making our hearts swell with pride. 

Such starkly contrasting narratives about the daughters of the nation, in the same timeframe, are nothing short of alarming. 

The former reports make a case for ‘son preference’ still being widely prevalent (as does the National Family Health Survey 5) and destroying multiple lives in the process. Meanwhile, the latter stories stand, boldly on the podium, to show what daughters are capable of, if they receive the L.I.F.E. (Love, Inheritance, Freedom, and Equality), and that FREEDOM is an absolutely critical element here. Contrary to the belief (still held by many) that daughters only contribute to the legacy of someone else’s family, daughters have the potential to build the legacy of a nation, given their rightful freedom. 

A testament to this is also a 2017 ToI interview with PV Sindhu, where she highlights the freedom her parents gave her while growing up, which allowed her to live up to her potential. “There were many struggles, but my parents supported me a lot. Whenever I wanted anything, wherever I wanted to go...they were there for me,” says Sindhu. 

But, in terms of Girl Child, how do you define Freedom? Here are our two (actually, three) bits. 

1. Freedom of environment: For a Girl Child to live up to her full potential, she must have a safe and healthy environment. It is essential that the laws that safeguard women are strictly implemented and adhered to. Further to this, the mindset of society must undergo a major transformation towards respecting the will, the ambition, the purpose, and the consent of women. In light of the increase in the number of rape cases, we must build legal awareness for women to have safe spaces to report such incidents of violence, if any. 

2. Freedom of education: In a previous article, ADF India Allied Lawyer Anushree Bernard wrote about the importance of education in the Girl Child’s life. She emphasises on how delaying marriage (until at least the marriageable age can be attained and focusing on education can empower her. The self-dependence and knowledge from this endeavour would ensure her health but also help in rectifying the declining sex ratio in the country.  

But, for many girls in the country, the reality is far from ideal. A poll of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) conducted in India on International Women’s Day (March 8th) 2022 called the dropout rates of female students “alarming”. Also, the post-COVID dropout rate for girls in India stands at 14.6%, according to the Unified District Information System for Education Plus Annual Report 2020-21. 

3. Freedom of employment: According to a 2019 Forbes article, “the participation of women in India’s workforce has been abysmal and is one of the lowest in the world.” And 2020 was not great for female professional either. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), women bore the brunt of unemployment due to COVID-19 affecting businesses, and hence, employment. The article claims that while the overall unemployment rate was 7%, the unemployment rate among women was as high as 18%! That’s one woman in six! Not just that, the Gender Gap Report 2022 by the WEF ranked India as low as 135th in gender parity

Employment equals self-dependence and self-sustenance. When women are denied the freedom of employment, they are denied the opportunity, to not just make the best choices for themselves, but also to contribute to society at large. India's economy would grow manifold when women are free to contribute to it.  

So, our appeal to you today, dear reader, is to give serious thought to the Freedom of the Girl Child, which in the long run becomes the Freedom of the Indian Woman. Let’s start a conversation about all the ways we can contribute to ensure that she gets the freedom she deserves, as well as requires, to reach her full potential. 

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. 

YouTube disables DIY sex-determination videos after ADF India allied lawyers intervene 

Updated on 18 May, 2022 

Three months ago, YouTube took down several videos promoting gender-biased sex-selection after ADF India allies intervened. 

Targeted towards Indian married couples, these videos offered information on how to detect the sex of the foetus. It also endorsed and facilitated the indirect sale of gender determination kits/products. 

The fact that YouTube, which is owned by Google, allowed unrestricted streaming of content on gender-biased sex selection stands in clear violation of the Supreme Court orders in the case of Sabu Mathew George v. Union of India, (2018) 3 SCC 229

These videos further enable the viewers to gain information to circumvent the legislative intent underlying the restrictions of Section 22 of the PCPNDT Act, 1994

Addressing these issues, ADF India allied lawyers worked on a written complaint with Girls Count, one of ADF India’s Vanishing Girls campaign partners, and submitted it to Ms. Vidushi Chaturvedi, Former Director, Department of Health & Family Welfare on 12 December, 2020. The same was brought to the notice of the Nodal Agency, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, New Delhi via email on 6 January, 2021. Subsequently, pursuant to the above, the Nodal Agency had sought clarifications from Google’s legal team. They responded to the complaints with clarifications via email on 7 February, 2022 and a few videos were accordingly disabled access from the country domain. 

However, some of these YouTube videos still continue to circulate in contempt of the guidelines of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Additionally, e-commerce websites such as Amazon and Dessertcart also advertise similar sex determination products, ready to be shipped in India.  

ADF India allied lawyers are working on a formal complaint to the Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare requesting to file a contempt towards the online content violations, against the Supreme Court orders in the case of Sabu Mathew George v. Union of India, (2018) 3 SCC 229, on behalf of the Ministry of State for Health and Family Welfare to ensure that the mandate of the PCPNDT Act, 1994 is scrupulously followed.   

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 

SUPPORT  

We invite you to join us in our efforts to eradicate sex-selection in our lifetime and save the lives of thousands of girls who are aborted every day. To support our work, donate here

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Vanishing Girls is a campaign initiated by ADF India 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.