India Cracks Down on Forced Abortions as Gender Ratio Worsens

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 18, 2012   |   6:49PM   |   New Delhi, India

India is putting a new law in place that could jail families who force women to abort a female baby. The new law comes as a report indicates the gender ratio in the nation is worsening, thanks to sex-selection abortions and infanticide.

As the Daily News reports:

Entire families of women who abort a female fetus could be jailed for up to seven years under an Indian government move to ease the pressure for male children.

The initiative is an attempt to halt the growing gender imbalance in India where girls are considered a financial burden and families fear the cost of paying illegal but common dowries when they marry.

Current laws to prevent ‘sex selection’ and female feticide, clinic doctors who perform the operations or the ultrasound tests to determine whether the sex of the fetus face punishments ranging from a 1000 Rupee fine (£12) to three years imprisonment.

But in the last ten years only 463 people have been prosecuted and the government’s Ministry for Women and Child Development wants to turn the focus on the family networks which put pressure on women to abort unborn girls.

A senior ministry official, who asked not to be named, said the government wants all those who pressure a woman into having an abortion to bear the punishment.

The International Business Times indicates the male-female ratio is worsening.

The high abortion rate of female fetuses has led to a dramatic gender imbalance in India — over the 50-year period from 1961 to 2011, the number of girls born per 1,000 boys plunged from 976 to 914, according to the census.

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“I feel the demand [for abortions] every day,” Dr. Neelam Singh, a gynecologist in Uttar Pradesh, told Al-Jazeera. “Parents say it’s important to have a son in the family. They want to keep their family name. I see this as the most heinous kind of discrimination towards a girl child.”

In Uttar Pradesh alone, men already outnumber women by almost 10 million.

Will the new law make a difference? Now according to Ranjana Kumari of the Council for Social Research.

“The woman is blamed for producing a female child. She faces discrimination, desertion and, to some extent, violence. So to talk about punishing the family is a risky proposition. The mother will be blamed, because she is the one who has gone for abortion. She will be threatened by her family and husband. Who will you criminalize? It is very difficult to establish. The women will get the blame and be penalized.”