Cry of a girl child – Female Infanticide

Written by -Shruti Aggarwal, Pursuing BBA LLB(H) from Law College Dehradun, 1st year.

Introduction

Female Infanticide such a barbaric practice is still rampant in our society. Female Infanticide refers to the intentional killing of girl child before birth. This is so because the birth of male babies are preferred more than the birth of a girl child. This is such a heinous crime of killing a foetus just because she is a girl, just because she is valued less than a boy in our society. This killing of a girl child is a social issue which could lead to a demographic problem in near future. The words of MAHATMA GANDHI “ To call women the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant moral power, then women is immeasurably man’s superior.” So why do we kill girl child within one year of its birth? Why is she not valued equally as a male child? A number of questions strike before our mind when we hear about such issues. Any answers, why? Yes we have answers, Poverty, illiteracy, dowry system these are the social evils driving this phenomena of female infanticide. The girls even today are considered as a financial burden for their parents as they believe that a huge amount of money has to be spent on the marriage of the daughter to satisfy the never ending demands of the in laws of the girl to be married. They consider their son as an ‘asset’ and the girl as a ‘liability’.

Consequences of female infanticide

  • Female trafficking – The decline in girl population makes them scanty for large number of eligible males for marriage. This leads to illegal trafficking of women in many places. The young girls reaching their adolescence are forced to marry at a settled price by the groom. The women are brought and sold as brides at places where the rate of female infanticide is more leading to disastrous consequences.
  • Population decline – This practice of female infanticide results in a steep decline in the population of a country. If there are no girls, there are no wombs to bear a child whether male or female, this leads to fewer births and a sharp decline in population.
  • Male dominant society – Due to less female population, the society is getting male dominant. Men consider themselves more superior and powerful which in turn leads to female exploitation.
  • Rape and Assault – The less female population acts as a danger for the subsisting ones as they are faced with the reality of satisfying the lust of males in the society. The cases for rape, assault and violence become common acting as a major consequence of female infanticide.

Laws against Female Infanticide in India

There are a number of laws for the unborn against female infanticide in India. As enshrined in the Constitution of India “ No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.”[1] Another provision in The Constitution of India states that “ The State shall not deny to any person equality before law or the equal protection of laws within the territory of India.”[2] The first Act introduced in India by the British Government against the criminal act of killing female child was ‘The Female Infanticide Prevention Act, 1870.’ The Pre-conceptual and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques( Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act,1994 was enacted to stop the practice of female infanticide through the misuse of technology. The main purpose of this act has been to ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and to prevent the misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for abortions. This act also provides that ‘ no person shall conduct the pre-natal diagnostic procedure without the written consent of the pregnant woman[3] The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 was passed with an objective to let the pregnant women decide on the number and frequency of children. This act prohibits the determination of sex of the foetus and provides stipulated punishment for the violation of provisions under this act. The provisions against female infanticide under the Indian Penal Code,1860 states that “ whoever voluntarily causes a woman with child to miscarry and if such is not in good faith for the purpose of saving the life of mother shall be punished with imprisonment of a term which may extend to 3 years and shall also be liable to fine.”[4] Another provision under IPC states that “ whoever before the birth of any child does an act to prevent that child from being born alive or causing to death after its birth shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years or with fine.[5]

Landmark Judgements on Female Infanticide

In the case of Voluntary Health Association v. State of Punjab[6], the Supreme court in its judgement regarding increase of female foeticides and imbalance in the sex ratio directed the States and Union Territories to implement Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection)Act,1994. The division bench also held that a female child is entitled to enjoy equal right that a male child is allowed to have.

Another important case of Centre for enquiry into Health and Allied themes (CEHAT) v. Union of India[7], a petition was filed by the CEHAT that the provisions of PNDT Act were not being implemented effectively by the State and Central Government. The Supreme Court in its judgement directed the Central and State Government to enact the provisions of the Act immediately and banned all advertisements relating to pre-natal sex determination techniques.

Conclusion

I would like to conclude with the words “ Abortion should be listed as a weapon of mass destruction against the voiceless.” Girls should also be given due respect equally as given to boys in our society. The legislations in India against female infanticide needs strict implementation of various provisions to save ‘THE GIRL CHILD’. There should be more harsh penalties for the ones involved in this criminal activity and let the girl child open her eyes and fight for herself against this discriminatory world. Awareness programmes should be conducted to make people aware of the importance of girls and say no to this crime against the speechless. Let us save the girl child and promote “ BETI BACHAO, BETI PADHAO.”

[1]  Article 21 of The Indian Constitution.

[2]  Article 14 of The Indian Constitution.

[3]  Section 5 of The PC & PNDT(prohibition of sex selection) Act,1994.

[4]  Section 312 of The Indian Penal Code.

[5]  Section 315 of The Indian Penal Code.

[6]  (2013) 4 SCC 1.

[7]  (2001) 5 SCC 577.

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