Female Foeticide: Why and How It Is Performed – Its Prevalence and Measures to Stop

‘”Instead of cradle, you rested me in a trashcan. ‘Oh, how so easy, Ma, you threw me by just a scan?!’ Please, let me be born.”‘

This is a female foetal cry we hear – today and every day. How long are we ready to hear this silent language?

Female Foeticide:Before she could come to existence, the female foetus is put to an end. This is female foeticide. It is the abortion of a foetus of female gender as a result of sex-determination test which is done by Ultrasound scan called USG. In medical terms it is also termed as termination of pregnancy and it is illegal in India.

It is ironic that we know such a law does exist…

Ultrasound (Sonography): This is a medical research procedure which was intended ‘solely’ for detection of fatal foetal conditions. Abbreviated as USG, this diagnostic medical test uses high frequency sound waves to obtain images of the body. However, in the wake of couples opting to have only a male child, this vital diagnostic procedure has been in gross misuse for selective sex.

This practice has permeated so deep that it has almost become a norm with many of couples to permit themselves to the choice of bringing a baby to the world. It is a sad indictmentthat over years this shameful procedure is blatantly practiced. This gory act is committed unabated, resulting in women number in India to a fast deplete.

Unfortunately, this urban phenomenon has fast spread to rural areas, too thus bringing down the number of girls, as compared to the boys, in any given society. If left to run its course, experts anticipate a still gross imbalance in the sex ratio in years to come.

Difference between ultrasound and sonography: These are two terms which are regularly used to mean the same thing. However, there is a subtle difference between the two.

Technically, ultrasound refers to the frequency above that, which humans can hear while sonography refers to the practice of using this frequency to create images inside the body.

{Humans can hear in the range of 20-20,000 cps (cycles per second), and ultrasound ranges anywhere from 1 to 20 MHz (with one MHz being one million cps)}.

USG is performed by a sonographer, who is a specialized healthcare practitioner qualified to perform diagnostic ultrasound/sonography. The latter uses ultrasound waves and special equipment to create the images.

In order to affect this, the sonographer locates the organ, tissue or foetus that needs to be imaged. He then positions the equipment at the proper angle to allow sound waves to bounce off the location – under study – so it can create an image.

The images of the structures are then taken and oddities are spotted. With meticulous care, clear images of the problem area are taken, that the doctor might need to address.

What defines a girl: She is a doting daughter, loving sister and a beauty queen in her youth. She transforms into a selfless, respectful mother, and a traditional gracious grand-mother – in the form of a – virtual goddess who showers us all, with her blessings and love.

When she marries, she dreams of a tiny cry, happy laughter, and gurgling infant. She conceives and there is jubilance all around. Then the day comes when she becomes a mother herself -the mother of a baby girl. It is here, the tempo twists, because she delivered a girl.

A girl child is seen as a liability, even in a mature and an awakened society.

Who are the people who resort to this shameful procedure and attack their own child with medical terrorism? They are not people outside our society. They exist in our own society.

These are the parents and certain communities who prefer a boy to a girl.

Remedial measures: Our share of responsibility: What is the desired solution to curb and possibly end this viral spread? The whole system is to blame. The whole society has gone corrupt because there is destruction of half the population of the society through this malpractice.

We are involved in it.

We place a great premium on having sons. We need to stretch our imagination and imagine a society, a country without women. If this discrimination is to do with cultural beliefs and social norms, let us challenge those norms to stop this practice.

It is a long term task to inoculate individuals and institutions against this infection of despicable human practice. We need to foster a culture of goodness and human dignity in the organizations, individuals, and religious leaders.

Every mind needs to stretch itself and reach a practicable, plausible solution. Only a breakdown of patriarchy and a change in the perception of women’s role in society can ensure a more balanced sex ratio.

Men need to be aware that apart from the murderous thinking this habit is also hazardous to a woman’s health. This monstrous practicehas become so rampant that society is fast losing its secular, social, and humanistic fabric. The picture is shocking. It has not gone less rather it has emerged on an upward trend every year. A vibrant, effective campaign remains a challenge.

The Strongest volunteer: We – the women are restoring to our fate by being integral to this crime, not realizing that we would not have been born, had our parents done the same.

We need to change our attitude which explains such lowly and shameful behavior. We must resist the son fixation. Is not it like cutting our noses to spite our own faces? We need to shut our eyes to see because we only have agreed to contribute toward gradual disappearance of Eve.

Worst hit Indian states: According to a recent (June 2012) report published in TheTimes of India, Beed district (Maharashtra) is the worst ten in the country which is barely better than the states of Haryana and Punjab, India.

On an average, Beed district’s sex ration at birth was 831 girls per 1,000 boys in 2010. The average came down to 768 in 2011, a sharp decline of 63 points.

This ratio dipped to as low as 702 girls in January and remained below 798 for the remaining months. According to Lek Ladki Abhiyan, a non- governmental organization (NGO) that works against female foeticide, a sex ratio of 702 to 798 in 2011 implies that 250 to 154 girls are missing out of the expected 952 girls for every 1,000 boys in Beed district every month.

Remedial measures taken by the government: According to a report in The Times of India, the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) suspended 13 doctors against whom the state government had initiated action under the Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act.

The suspended doctors hailed from Beed, Osmanabad, Jalgaon and Pune. Some of them are gynecologists while others are radiologists. If they are found guilty their membership would be terminated.

The MMC has the power to temporarily or permanently suspend doctors. Incidentally, it suspended 5 doctors a few months ago. After a large number of sex selective abortions and female foeticide cases were reported from Beed and surrounding areas, there were stringent checks to ensure that the rules laid down under the PCPNDT act were followed.

The state Family Welfare Bureau Office and the state Bureau of Health Intelligence received vital statistics and got monthly data from the District and Municipal Corporations, about the number of children born. The average drawn from the data shows that there was a sharp decline in the ratio, which was worrisome,” state health officials said.

Census 2011: According to the provisional figures of census 2011, the comparison of observed sex ratio at birth in India for the period 2007-09 was 906, while the internationally observed normal sex ratio at birth was 952 or more girls born per 1,000 boys.

Accordingly, it is estimated that the practice of prenatal sex selection has resulted in approximately 5.7lakhs girls missing annually in India during the period 2001-08. This is an estimated 4.5 million girls missing over the last eight years (2001-08), the report stated.

If consolidated efforts were made by the state health department by involving its grass roots network of health workers like Asha (accredited social health activists and ANMs (auxiliary nurse midwives), the sex ration can be improved in Beed district.

In-vitro fertilization: This procedure has brought some pleasant surprise and quite encouraging news.

Gujarat may have ranked lowon the sex ratio scale in the 2011 census, but the trend is quite the reverse for test-tube babies where girls are beating the boys, at least in in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

The 12 IVF centers in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, have shown a heartening trend – a total of 291 girls were born against 241 boys in the last one year.

Hopefully, after spending several lakhs of rupees having gone through sophisticated medical tests and months of wait by the prospective couple, let us hope a female foetus will not be terminated once she resulted out of an In-Vitro Fertilization.

With willingness and determination of each individual to oppose this practice and a strong ethical approach, coupled with the collective efforts of society and the government – we expect more toothless smiles from our bamino baby girls.

Let us expect a streak of sun shine…