Female infanticide/ foeticide: India

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Indpaedia’s note: The correct spellings in Indian/ British English are Foetus and foeticide. Fetus and feticide are Americanisms, not accepted by Indian school boards.

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


Rajkot: 1833

When British fined Rajkot ruler for female infanticide

Saeed Khan, TNN | Nov 6, 2012,

From the archives of The Times of India: 2012

AHMEDABAD: As early as in 1833, first female infanticide in Gujarat was penalized! In a state which continues to reel under skewed sex ratio of 886 girls per 1,000 boys, a Rajkot ruler, Suraji Jadeja was penalized Rs 12,000 cash by the British government for facilitating female infanticide on November 6, 1833. When the case came to the notice of British rulers notice, they slapped a fine and also attached the entire Rajkot taluka.

While the present day administration has got tough following dismal male: female ratio in Gujarat — there are cases under PCPNDT Act are pending against 208 doctors in the state — the British administration had carried out a sustained campaign to eradicate the evil practice.

According an account 'Suppression Of Female Infanticide In The Province Of Kattywar' by Alexander Walker and JP Willoughby, an inquiry into the incident was conducted by political agent Captain Lang and reported to Walker, who was the Resident of Baroda. Lang's report to his superior described how Suraji's employees were involved in this female infanticide. Suraji initially denied charge saying that the birth was premature, and hence it was registered.

However, the attendants revealed before the inquiry officer how the newborn was not allowed to live by not removing placenta and making respiration impossible. Lang prescribed exemplary punishment for Suraji so that the evil practice among the rulers could be curbed. In his report, Lang mentioned, "He (Suraji) has not even expressed contrition for the heinous crime he has committed; he is evidently alarmed for the consequences that may ensue, but he does not appear to feel ashamed of the unnatural deed he has perpetrated."

Refraining from inflicting extreme punishment, Lang proposed a fine of Rs 12,000 and till then Suraji's state would remain attached. The British even made entire staff, that was involved in this incident, fired from Suraji's court. The proposal was accepted a year later and Suraji was warned that if another incident of female infanticide happened, it would cost him his estate.

The penalty was still mild for the British, because as Walker wrote, they did not want to hostile chieftains and want to create awareness among people "so that they may be induced to view the custom with general execration and to aid our endeavours to wipe away so foul a blot on humanity".


Delhi, south: rampant selective foeticide suspected

The Times of India, Aug 02 2016

New borns abondoned in different parts of south Delhi, 1996-2012; Causes of death of new boorns; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, August 2, 2016

Durgesh Nandan Jha

AIIMS study hints at rampant selective foeticide in south Delhi

Pre-natal deaths: Females outnumber males among foetuses less than 20 wks

The analysis of aborted foetuses and newborns abandoned in different parts of South Delhi and brought to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences between 1996 and 2012 has revealed the enormity of the crime prevalent in the capital. There were 238 instances of unborn or newly borns being abandoned reported at the hospital in these 16 years.

Overall, male foetuses were predominant among the prenatal deaths. However, on closer examination, the doctors said they observed that females outnumbered males among foetuses that were less than or equal to 20 weeks of gestational age, clearly suggesting sex-selective abortion.

“As per Indian laws, medical abortion is allowed only up to 20 weeks of gestational age.It is possible that some of the foetuses were aborted after tests revealed it to be female,“ Dr Sudhir Gupta, professor and head of forensic medicine at the institute, told TOI. It is possible to determine the sex of the child through tests, including ultrasound, after 12 weeks of pregnancy , said experts.

“Illegitimacy , financial instability and selective female foeticide are some of the classical reasons put forth for the common motives behind the killing of the newborn,“ noted Dr ChittaranjanBehera, the corresponding author of the AIIMS study , which has been published in the latest issue of Medico-Legal Journal.

According to Dr Tulsi Patel, a leading researcher on female foeticide in the country , education or affluence has little to do with illegal killing of a foetus or a new born. “It is about a patriarchal mindset. Studies have revealed sex-selective abortion or abandonment when the girl is a second or third child,“ she said. Pregnancies resulting from relationship outside wedlock or rape are other possible reasons for abandonment.

Shockingly, the AIIMS autopsy record revealed that of the 70 newborns found abandoned in south Delhi during the study period, 54 had been murdered. They were injured on the head by a blunt force, smothered, strangulated or had the throat slit, indicating a particularly cruel attitude.Others causes of death included pneumonia, congenital diseases or hypothermia which, AIIMS researchers said, could be due to neglect and abandonment by the parents.

The study revealed that the place of disposal of the discarded foetus or a post-natal victim was mainly the roadside or blind lanes (40%), followed by rivers and drains (20%). “Bodies were also recovered from dustbins, parks, jungles, railway stations, bus stands, religious places, schools and hospitals,“ it added.

Another survey by the Centre for Social Research in southwest district of Delhi, which had the worse child sex ratio of 836 girls per 1,000 boys in the 0-6 year age-group in Census 2011, showed campaigns against female foeticide had not diminished the preference for a male child. The survey stated that important social stakeholders in the campaign, such as the resident welfare associations, had chosen to remain quiet on the question of illegal abandonment of newborns as they considered fertility a subject of “private and personal affair“. Alarmed by the findings of the AIIMS study , Dr Gupta said it showed that strict measures were needed to stop this social evil.

Convictions under PNDT Act


Ambika Pandit, Dec 25, 2021: The Times of India

NEW DELHI: Over the last 25 years, 617 convictions have happened under the Pre-conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic 58 Techniques (PC & PNDT) Act 1994 that aims to check female foeticide. Data up to December 2020 shows the number of ongoing cases under the law is 3,158. The number of medical licences that have been suspended or cancelled stands at 145.

These facts are highlighted as part of the observations and recommendations made by the parliamentary committee on empowerment of women in its report on the Centre’s “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” scheme. The committee observed with concern that , “18 out of 36 States/UTs have neither got any case registered or have any convictions so far”.

The 31 member committee led by BJP MP Heena Vijaykumar Gavit states that “it has every reason to believe that the delay in arriving at final decision in the pending cases has a tendency to dilute the spirit of PC&PNDT Act”.

The report was tabled in the recently concluded winter session of Parliament. Among various aspects of the scheme and related efforts to deal with declining sex ratio at birth, the committee recommended that the ministry must make all out efforts to ensure that finality is reached in such pending cases within six months. The Committee has sought state/UT-wise data of the cases registered, their pendency and nature of conclusion and the conviction within six months from the presentation of this report.

The committee noted that states have been directed to develop online mechanism for registrations, record maintenance under the PC&PNDT Act to ensure accountability, transparency and effective monitoring. Observing that 18 states/UTs have developed the online mechanism, the committee has recommended that all states may be directed to develop the same and get it rolling within six months.

The report highlighted that 71,096, diagnostic facilities including genetic counselling centre, genetic laboratory, genetic clinic, ultrasound clinic and imaging centres are registered under the PC&PNDT Act. “However, it has been observed that several clinics and practitioners are indulging in determination and disclosure of the sex of the foetus. Hence, the committee recommend that ultrasound machines should be compulsorily registered by the importers/sellers/users clearly stating their purpose,” it is recommended.

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