Earlier in Forum







Q: How to stop female foeticide ?
This is the third instalment of readers’ response)

Treat ‘kurimars’ as outcasts

Female foeticide can be stopped by improving the status of women in society by controlling social evils like dowry and enacting a law in Parliament for women’s reservation. Control over doctors and scanning centres should go hand in hand with seminars and conferences at the district level to create awareness among the people regarding the maintenance of the sex ratio. By severely punishing the families that are encouraging female foeticide and by outcasting “kurimars” (killers of girls) and treating them as untouchables, we’ll only help our own cause. Spiritual leaders bearing great influence over the masses should openly declare female foeticide the biggest sin on the Earth. Elimination of a whole gender can be stopped only if a big section of women are at the helm of affairs in the medical profession and there are special welfare schemes for them.


Woman holds the key

The need of the hour is for woman to come forward and curb this menace in her different roles as daughter, mother and mother-in-law. As a daughter, she can nourish the perception of family; in role of the mother, she herself will give priority to birth of a female in the family; as a mother-in-law, she will not only denounce dowry, but also support daughter-in-law’s decision to bear a female child.

Sepoy SUKHWINDER SINGH, Bathinda Cantonment


Woman needs to realise that once upon a time, she, too, was someone’s little girl, who was discriminated against, and therefore, when she gets her chance, she should try and rectify things by flatly refusing to undergo fetal sex-determination tests.

O. P. SHARMA, Faridabad

Reorient education system

Education must spread for society to change its attitude towards the girl child. Ethical education should be included in medical studies to make doctors of the future more responsible. Teachers, especially women teachers, can be the agents of social change. There has to be a political will to improve the condition and the NGOs should perform sincerely. The media should not stop covering the issue.


Treat families psychologically

Families that treat girls as liability should be handled psychologically. The government should organise camps and workshops to broaden the horizon of such people and then impose severe penalties on those found guilty of sex-selective abortions. Even imprisonment should be considered, and we should let the girl child take birth.


What the IMA has been doing

Female foeticide is a crime in terms of Article 25 of the Constitution of Universal Human Rights. The main issue is social and for that social awareness and sensitisation of general masses is the main challenge. Since 1998, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) is active on the subject of pre-natal sex-determination and sex-selective abortions and has initiated multifolds strategies to fight female foeticide.

In addition to requesting the government to implement the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994, the IMA, Punjab, a representative body of qualified doctors and the largest NGO, held a state-level conference on November 18, 2001, at Sahnewal, where a book on the subject was released and 400 delegate doctors were administered the oath to abide by the PNDT Act and never offer to do sex determination and sex-selective abortions. This followed a series of public-awareness seminars and sensitisation drives for doctors, which brought some control over the situation. Nearly 3,000 doctors have undertaken the pledge to abide by the Act and the majority of the doctors (at least the qualified ones) are not doing any sex-determination and sex-selective abortions.

It’s the lack of administrative and political will that is hampering proper implementation of the Acts that can bring an end to female foeticide. On January 24, 2002, the IMA asserted that along with the PNDT Act, there should also be a strict implementation of the MTP Act and a check over quackery.

The government failed to take note of the statement and since then, there has been an increase in sex-selective abortions by unqualified “doctors”, leading to ever the more cases of abortion-related complications. Whenever an offending couple has been traced, the “accused” have been saved by their political links.

Dr O. P. S. KANDE, State president, IMA, Punjab

Declare sex selection a crime

With the advent of the ultrasound technique, people now think it God who is fulfilling their wish to get sons and not daughters. To curb the problem, the government should declare sex selection a crime. Community-level organisations such as panchayats, youth clubs, mahila mandals and health functionaries working at the grass-root level require to be sensitised on gender issues with emphasis on female foeticide. They should try and remove the negative attitude towards the girl child in and outside the womb. The punishment for sex selection should be severe.


Men should play the lead role

The female foetus is aborted with the permission of the woman. It is the woman who, with her head hung in shame, informs the mother of the birth of a girl child. This being a male-dominated society, men should now play a major role in changing social attitudes, beginning with their own mothers and wives.


Publicise the rise in polyandry

The increase in female foeticide involves doctors who encourage couples to undergo sex-selective abortions. If this continues, time is not far when people will be compelled to adopt polyandry in the country and it may also lead to more rapes. We need to project this threat. To get rid of this curse, laws prohibiting dowry and female foeticide should be strictly implemented and offenders should be punished severely.


Set up self-help groups among women

Education and health facilities should be free for girls. If we ensure employment for every girl, literate or illiterate, and provide her with suitable grants for self-employment, the situation may improve. Right from school, the curriculum should inculcate gender equality and men should be involved in accelerating the process of social change. Discriminatory religious rituals, social traditions and superstitions should be attacked scientifically and psychologically. The dowry system and opulent display of wealth at weddings should be seen as matters of shame and the media should promote gender sensititation. If mass-awareness campaigns and guidance-and-counselling centres don’t work, we should encourage girls to be more assertive to get their right. Setting up self-help groups” among women will empower them economically and socially to combat this practice. If more women are employed in the police, health and education departments, the PNDT Act can be enforced more strictly.


Expect every doctor to know his duty

The only remedy to check female foeticide lies in the hands of all such doctors who offer sex-testing facilities. Unless all these doctors take a solemn pledge that they will never do such tests, this dreaded social disease will have no cure. Let everyone know that it is the daughter who feels the pain of the parents even after her marriage. The sons incline only towards their new parents after marriage. Old-age homes spread all over the country tells the story. Our grandmothers, their mothers and our mothers were all little female foetuses in the womb at one stage. We live because someone allowed them to come into this world.

J. L. SHARMA, Deputy Director, Public Relations, Haryana

Law should target ‘educated’ women

This growing rate of female foeticide is not due to any lack of awareness or education, but due to the lack of respect that one woman should have for another woman. Only men can’t be held responsible for the increasing female foeticide. The root cause is the woman’s desire to bear a son. Women, surprisingly educated women, behave like ignorant, illiterate and backward dames when their daughter-in-law gets pregnant. The mother-in-law is not ready to accept a child of her own sex. One feels she should have married her son to a man and not a woman. It is the “educated” women who behave like fools and force their daughter-in-law to abort the female foetus. Even if a few of such women were punished severely, this merciless act will stop.


Reward all-girl families

Female foeticide means planned elimination of females before birth. In many countries, a drop of a mere 5 points could have raised an alarm, but in Punjab, there’s not even a hint of an alarm even when the child sex ratio has plummeted to 798/1000. Punjabis prefer to have the male child. Couples whose first child happens to be a girl go in for pre-natal sex determination. In case it’s a female foetus, the majority prefers to go in for abortion. Women are becoming party to elimination for females. The government should announcing incentives (awards, allowances, educational/service benefits) for couples having two daughters. The aim is to win the confidence of women, so that she is forced to change her outlook.

PIARA SINGH BAL, Sathiala (Amritsar)

Give grants to foeticide-free villages

Female foeticide has created a great imbalance in society, and if not checked, it will result in more crimes, more exploitation, less social freedom and less educational opportunities for women. Soon, girls would be sold like goods in the free-market economy. Planners, policy makers, social reformers, religious gurus and many more should contribute to check it. Legal recourse is a short-term measure at best. Girl children should be given equal importance in the family and a dowry-free society should be established. Villages where there have been no foeticide and no cases ever of dowry should be given special grants. Women’s organisations should come forward to create awareness against the evil. Let us pledge to bring the sex ratio to normal by the next Census.

Prof JEWAN SUD, Nakodar

Set up helpline

There should be a helpline for women who are being forced to abort their female child or for persons who want to report such cases. Complaints against erring families and doctors can be lodged at this number. More reservation for women in every field may improve the social attitude towards them.


Adopt new social customs

Female foeticide is directly related to gender equality. If there were equality between the sexes, the parents would not mind whether they have a boy or a girl. For embracing the modern world, modern laws and customs will have be made. This will stem not only female foeticide, but also many others problems. Consider this for a solution:

Case 1: For any couple having two daughters: Their elder daughter would move in to the husband’s house after marriage and the younger daughter’s husband would live with her in her house.

Case 2: For any couple having two sons: The elder son would remain with his parents and the younger son would move in to the bride’s house.

Case 3: For couples having one son and one daughter: The daughter would go to her husband’s house.

Case 4: For couples having only one daughter: The couple will get a son-in-law.

Case 5: For couples having one son: The couple will get a daughter-in-law.

Fine print: After marriage, the neither the boy nor the girl would change his or her surname. Their sons would acquire their mother’s surname and their daughters would acquire their father’s surname.


Take healthcare to expectant mothers

Teachers and preachers are required to change our orthodox attitude towards the girl child. Strict actions should be taken against clinics and doctors aiding female foeticide. The governments should shoulder the responsibility of educating girls and giving them away in marriage. Parents with two girls can be given permanent jobs under a quota system. Women’s commissions will have to be more pro-active and human trafficking should at once be curbed. The media should stop covering the marriages of the rich so that no one gets corrupted. The oath of leading a pure and simple married life where female foeticide has no role should be administered at the time of joining any public office. While reservation for women will change social mindsets, health services for expectant mothers at the doorstep will save them from falling into the hands of quacks.


Ban dowry

Female foeticide is on the rise because sex-determination tests are cheap and widely available. The desire for a son is natural as dowry stands in the way of desire for the girl child. If we want to stop female foeticide, we should first try to stop this dowry system. I had come across a thought-provoking advertisement in a newspaper where a baby girl in the womb cries: “Mother, don’t kill me.” Newspapers should give space to more advertisements like this.

D. P. JINDAL, Mandi Gobindgarh


Woman plays an important role as sister, mother and daughter. Today, she should rise against dowry, too, if she wants to end female foeticide. If the dowry system is abolished, parents will no longer consider girls as burden.

ANUJA MISHRA, Jalandhar Cantt

Foeticide isn’t the problem

India is already overpopulated and the introduction of more laws and complete ban on female foeticide and sex-determination tests would further complicate the situation. The problem lies in people’s mind, which cannot be changed overnight. Despite the government’s best efforts, sex determination tests are still conducted in India. While the rich resort to using the killer USG machines, the desire for the male child drives the poor to keep adding girls to their families. Sex-determination tests should be legalised in India, but only those couples whose first child is a female should be allowed to choose the sex of their second child.


Next Monday: More letters on this issue


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