gender bias

More male foetus abortions than female? Official data indicates vast under-reporting

As many as 238 foetuses and newborns were abandoned in South Delhi alone.

More male babies were victims of foeticide than female in 2014, the latest year for which data are available, according to national crime data, indicating the extent of under-reporting.

As many as 53 male foeticides were reported in 2014, compared to 50 cases of female foeticides, according to National Crime Records Bureau data. Sex of four foetuses were unknown.

Since a law criminalising sex selection came into force 20 years ago in 1996, 350 people have been convicted, which is nearly 18 every year, according to a Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) reply dated August 5, 2016.

That this is a vast underestimate is obvious from India’s declining child sex ratio (the number of females to 1,000 males under six years of age), which fell from 945 in 1991 to 918 in 2011.

Source: United Nations Population Fund
Source: United Nations Population Fund

“Of the 12 million girls born in India, one million do not see their first birthdays,” said Kamini Lalu, an additional sessions judge in an order in 2014, quoted in the Business Standard. “As a result of this human trafficking has become common in various states of India where teenage girls are being sold for cheap money by poor families, being treated as sex objects with more than half of such cases going unreported.”

As many as 238 foetuses and newborns were abandoned in South Delhi alone, between 1996 and 2012; of these, 115 were males, 110 were females, and sex of 13 foetuses could not be ascertained, according to an All India Institute of Medical Science study, the Indian Express reported on August 17, 2016.

Males were predominant, but on closer examination, “females out-numbered males” among the foetuses five months (20 weeks) of gestational age, Dr C Behera, one of the co-authors of the report, said. “Owing to the societal bias in favour of a male, this could mean that selective female foeticide happened during this period. In India, medical abortion is allowed only up to 20 weeks of gestational age and criminal abortions and selective female foeticide subsequent to antenatal sex determination are more likely before 20 weeks of pregnancy,” Behera said.

Madhya Pradesh reported the most (15) female foeticide cases in 2014, followed by Rajasthan (11), Punjab (7), Uttar Pradesh (4) and Haryana (4), according to an August 5, 2016 reply to the Lok Sabha. Provisional data for 2015 reported 52 female foeticides, with Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra reporting more than other states, 12 each.

As many as 2,296 cases have been filed across India for illegal sex-determination tests as of March 2016, the government told the Parliament.

Of 107 foeticides – NCRB does not provide data on male or female foeticides by state – reported across India in 2015, Madhya Pradesh reported the most (30), followed by Rajasthan (24), Uttar Pradesh (11), Punjab (10) and Maharashtra (7).

Source: National Crime Records Bureau
Source: National Crime Records Bureau

NCRB started collecting data for female foeticide only from 2014, the government told the Parliament.

Sex selection cases are filed under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994.

Rajasthan leads, with 626 on-going court/police cases for sex determination, followed by Maharashtra (554), Punjab (192), Haryana (165) and Uttar Pradesh (139).

These five states account for 73% of all reported sex-determination tests nationwide, an obvious under-estimate, as we said, given the number of foeticides reported by independent studies.

Source: Lok Sabha; Figures as on March 2016.
Source: Lok Sabha; Figures as on March 2016.

In all, 350 convictions were made and 100 medical registrations were cancelled nation-wide over two decades.

Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar are the worst states to be a woman, IndiaSpend reported in July, 2016. These states have the highest sex-selective abortions, and women in these states have the lowest literacy rates, marry earliest, die most frequently while pregnant, bear the most children, have the most crimes committed against them and are least likely to be employed.

The sex ratio at birth in India was 908 for 2010-'12, which improved to 909 during 2011-13. Among India’s 21 larger states, Haryana is the worst, with 864 females per 1,000 males (2011-13), according to data provided by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to parliament on April 29, 2016.

Punjab (867), Uttar Pradesh (878), Delhi (887), Rajasthan (893) and Maharashtra (902) are other worst-performing states. Chhattisgarh has India’s most favourable sex ratio at birth, with 970 females per 1,000 males, followed by Kerala (966) and Karnataka (958), among the larger states.

Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra and Haryana have had the worst decline in the past 30 years in child sex ratio, according to the MOHFW annual report 2015-'16.

India’s sex ratio is 943 per 1000 males, as per Census 2011. Haryana is the worst performing among 28 states, with 879 females per 1000 males, followed by Jammu and Kashmir (889), Sikkim (890), Punjab (895), and Uttar Pradesh (898).

The overall Indian sex ratio should be at least 950 women to 1,000 men (nature produces more males than females, as boys are more vulnerable to infant diseases than girls).

Haryana has 17 districts classified as gender-critical, one of which Rohtak – with 867 females for every 1,000 males – gave India its first Olympic medal in 2016, after wrestler Sakshi Malik became the first Indian female wrestler to win a medal at Olympics, IndiaSpend reported earlier this month.

This article first appeared on Indiaspend, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.

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