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The "Weaker" Gender

The population of the female child between the age group 0-6 years has declined from 78.83 million in the year 2001 to 75.84 million in 2011. Even after living in the 21st century, we still experience gender discrimination, resulting in female infanticide and female feticide.

Pujit Tandon & Paridhi Mittal

“Missing women” the seminal article in 1991, by Indian Economist and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, brought the whole world’s attention to the suspiciously low population of women compared to men. Through his report, Amartya Sen said that it is commonly believed that boys were preferred at birth, and the young girls who were born in the Indian society were mistreated and harmed. He elaborated on violence on women through the rising number of missing women in India, which is becoming relatively higher when compared with different countries. Fast forward to the year 2020; there has been a substantial increase in the number of cases with relatively more problems.

One of the problems being female infanticide, which has been present in India for centuries, partly due to patriarchy (male-controlled) and male dominance. One might think that India has moved forward from issues related to female infanticide and female foeticide that plagued its past.

However, according to reports from the United Nations Human Rights Council, the country witnessed one of the highest numbers of such incidents, and these cases continue to increase. The United Nations Human Rights Council report titled “Female Infanticide Worldwide” talks about current issues faced by the girl child. Further on, the piece talks about India's continent wise analysis of female infanticide patterns that show that India ranks 189th out of 201 countries in terms of female to male ratio. When we talk about Asian countries, India ranks 43rd out of 51 countries. According to the United Nations (as reported in May 2019), India's Sex Ratio is 107.48, i.e., 107.48 males per 100 females in 2019 tells us that India has 930 females per 1000 males. In absolute terms, India has a 48.20% female population compare to a 51.80% male population. India has 49,314,062 more male population than the female population. The report by the United Nations Population Fund states that 117 million girls demographically go “missing” due to sex-selective abortions, which is one of the categories of gender discrimination. One more article in the Lancet research data expressed that sex-selective abortions in India annually are around 400,000 in recent years. A Delhi-based NGO for Human rights concerns took a global survey conducted by the Asian Centre for Human rights. The research proves that the preference of sons over daughters is a primary reason for female infanticide.

Another report titled Survival of Girl Child by The Economic and Political Weekly began by discussing the legendary Prince Abhimanyu and how his death was predestined along with his birth while he was in his mother's womb which the writer tries to compare it with India's situation in the 1980s and1990s with a decline in the population of the girl child. On the contrary, the journal delivers information about the different medical tests used for sex determination. A girl, a woman, married or unmarried, is still considered a burden in rural or urban areas. Women are the key to a civilized society. Even Gandhi said, “To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man's injustice to woman. If by strength is meant moral power, then the woman is immeasurably man's superior.” With India's diverse cultural perceptive that offers respect to all religions and cultural backgrounds, it still experiences gender bias, resulting in killing the girl child.

A journal by the International Journal of criminal studies states that “since all religions treat abortion as immoral, and contrary to divine law, this blanket ban on abortion resulted in illegal abortions and risk to a woman's life”.

Several laws like Sections 312-316 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with forced miscarriage and death of an unborn child and relying upon the seriousness and expectation behind the crime committed, and the penalties range from seven years to life imprisonment for fourteen years and fine" besides this, there are many other laws to safeguard the girl child. However, our society remains the same. In India, Sex selection/determination has been banned under central legislation, namely the Pre-Conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 (PC & PNDT Act, 1994) for the prohibition of sex selection/determination before or after conception and the regulation of pre-natal diagnostic techniques is already in force throughout India. Under this law, there are strict penal provisions in the Act to curb the issue of sex selection/ determination and necessary legal action taken by the appropriate authorities against violators of the Act's requirements.

Although India's government has launched different schemes such as Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao in the past, apart from this, several conditional cash transfer schemes such as Balika Samriddhi Yojana and Dhanalaksmi Schemes promote the girl's idea in our society, yet the difference is minimal.

Edited by Kshitij Kumbhat, Pujit Tandon