India is developing at a rapid rate. But there are still some age-old and objectionable practices that pull us miles behind. Sex-selective infanticide is one such a practice. Female infanticide is a heinous crime. In simple terms, it is a deliberate attempt to kill the newborn female child within one year of her birth.
Female infanticide has been prevalent in India for over a long period of time. The preference of boys over girls is the factor that leads to either killing of child or abortions. The causes of the female infanticide in India is due to the impact of overpopulation, the dowry system, economic statuses, caste systems, social norms, women’s role, cultural beliefs, religion, etc. Patriarchy puts its women below the men. The system, customs, and traditions of such patriarchal societies like India contribute to the killing of the girl children.
An inherent and prevalent belief remains that boys continue the familial lineage. This leads to the want of a male child; so as to take the familial lineage forward. Contrary to popular belief, the practice doesn’t restrict itself to the rural areas. It thrives in all kinds of societies, standing on rooted beliefs and conditioning.
Impact Of Female Infanticide On The Sex Ratio
Sex ratio represents the ratio of females to males in a specific region. Many practices like female foeticide (killing a baby girl before birth) and female infanticide (killing a baby girl after her birth) have had a negative influence on the sex ratio. As per the decennial Indian census, Sex Ratio of India is 108.176. It means 108.176 males per 100 females in 2019. Therefore, India has 924 females per 1000 males. So, India has 48.04% female population compare to 51.96% male population.
Although female infanticide stands criminalized, yet it is one of the least reported crimes. Girls often face various challenges beginning from their childhood. On every step, girls face more rejection, discrimination, and fear compared to boys. As a matter of fact, mothers face harassment for giving birth to a female child. Ranging from physical violence to murder.
In poverty-stricken families, girls are even more vulnerable. Often subjected to different kinds of harm, neglect, and violence in the form of abuse, harassment, domestic violence, rape, etc. Most Indians have stereotyped opinions about girls. From birth, we believe that girls will eventually get married and go to another household and serve them. Educating them is not deemed necessary as the parents have to give dowry at the time of their marriage. Therefore, girls are considered a financial burden. This is a major reason for preferring a son over a daughter. The other being family lineage.
Penal Provisions on Female Infanticide
Articles 315 to 318 of Indian Penal Code define infanticide and female infanticide in India.
A. 315 states, “Whoever before the birth of any child does any act with the intention of thereby preventing that child from being born alive or causing it to die after its birth, and does by such act prevent that child from being born, or causes it to die after its birth, shall, if such act be not caused in good faith for the purpose of saving the life of the mother, be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both”;
A. 316 states, “Whoever does any act under such circumstances, that if he thereby caused death he would be guilty of culpable homicide, and does by such act cause the death of a quick unborn child, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine”;
A. 317 states, “Whoever being the father or mother of a child under the age of twelve years, or having the care of such child, shall expose or leave such child in any place with the intention of wholly abandoning such child, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both”;
A. 318 states, “Whoever, by secretly burying or otherwise disposing of the dead body of a child whether such child dies before or after or during its birth, intentionally conceals or endeavours to conceal the birth of such child, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
Measures to Curb Female Infanticide
- Fines and punishment for parents who want to kill their girl baby.
- Implementation of law and severe punishment, if found guilty for this practice.
- Women should be aware so that they can be more attentive to their rights.
- Permanent cancellation of license should be done if it is going on in medical practice.
- Marketing and sale of medical tools for illegal sex determination and abortion should be banned.
- Holding Awareness programs to teach and aware people.
The need of the hour is to change such narrow mindsets of people. Increasing awareness and education will significantly empower females. The government of India is also trying to come up with various schemes to reduce discrimination against females and to change the preconceived notions people have about them. ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ is one such initiative that aims at providing survival, safety, and education to girl children. But these government schemes are of little use unless there is a social change. We can bring a social change in many ways such as education, discussion etc. A social change is necessary not only for the empowerment of women, for removing of discrimination but also for the development of the nation.