India Court Denies Request to Modify Ban on Sex-Selection Abortions

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 13, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

India Court Denies Request to Modify Ban on Sex-Selection Abortions Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 13, 2007

Bombay, India ( — A court in India has denied a legal request to change the nation’s current law that bans the performance of sex-selection abortions. The Asian nation has the statute in place because the abortions have decimated its population of girls and caused numerous social problems stemming from the gender imbalance.

The law includes a ban on pre-natal sex-selection, a process parents might use to try to determine the sex of their unborn child.

Vinod and Kirti Sharma filed a lawsuit claiming the law is biased and that parents of more than one child should be able to use the process to have a baby of the sex they desire.

But the court ruled the pre-natal component of the sex-selection abortion ban should stay in place because determining a baby’s sex beforehand would amount to an abortion by preventing the birth of more girl babies.

“Sex selection is not only against the spirit of the Indian Constitution, it also insults and humiliates womanhood. It violates a woman’s right to life," the court ruled, according to the OneWorld South Asia news service.

"This is perhaps the greatest argument in favor of the ban on pre-natal sex-determination tests in India," the court added in dismissing the case.

That the parents would try to get the ban altered is no surprise given the cultural mores of the country.

Female children are seen in many tribal areas as a hindrance and many girl babies are simply taken to remote areas and left to die. Boys are also traditionally preferred in many areas of the country as the main workers in the family and because parents often have to pay large dowries to marry off daughters.

Last December, a new report by UNICEF indicated 7,000 fewer female babies are born every day because parents can determine the sex of their unborn baby and kill her before birth. In 80 percent of India’s districts, a higher percentage of boys are born now than a decade ago.

The ban also makes it illegal to use an ultrasound machine for anything other than medical purposes. As a result, simply showing the gender of the unborn child is wrong, because it can lead to abortions and infanticides.

The report cites the increased availability of cheap ultrasound technology as playing a role despite attempts by the India government to crack down on its use.

UNICEF says the resulting gender imbalance from sex selection abortions is particularly prevalent in the wealthier regions of the nation where access to the ultrasound technology easier.

UNICEF based the findings on Indian census data and they follow a report in early 2006 from the British medical journal Lancet, which estimated that 10 million baby girls have probably been aborted in the last 20 years.

The results show that a 1994 law prohibiting the use of ultrasounds to determine the sex of a baby for non-medical reasons is not working, even though the Indian government has announced several recent arrests in a renew effort to enforce the law.

Some Indian states such as Punjab and Haryana face male-female ratios as low as 799 girls born for every 1,000 boys.