India's female feticide not forgotten on 'Day of the Girl Child'

At least 12.7 million sex-selective abortions were conducted in India between 2000 and 2014
India's female feticide not forgotten on 'Day of the Girl Child'

A file image of an Indian activist holding a model of a fetus during a protest against abortion in New Delhi on Nov. 26, 2014. (Photo by Chandan Khanna/AFP)

Anti-abortion and other groups have joined government efforts to change India's skewed sex ratio that is caused by large-scale female feticide.

According to the Population Research Institute, at least 12.7 million sex-selective abortions were conducted in India between 2000 and 2014.

On the eve of the United Nations' established International Day of the Girl Child, various groups joined a program in a public square in the capital, New Delhi, stressing the importance of protecting girl children.

The Oct. 10 event organized by a Christian rights' group called Alliance Defending Freedom-India, which is opposed to abortion, was directed at creating awareness on the adversities of female feticide and domestic violence, organizers said.

"Girls and boys have an equal right to life and liberty," said Tehmina Arora, director of ADF-India.

"Our nation cannot afford to lose its little girls to discrimination and neglect."

In 2015, the Women and Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi, said that female feticide claimed "2,000 lives of girls daily."

Traditional Hindu families often prefer sons over daughters because of economic as well as religious considerations.

Girls are often considered a financial burden because families must find money and jewelry items as a dowry for marriage.

Continuing a family's lineage and the role of males in Hindu rituals, including prayers after a man's death, were also said to be influencing factors in the abortion of female fetuses.

With the trend of nuclear families increasing, some women undergo female feticide several times in their quest to have a boy, activists such as Arora say.

The 2011 census showed that the female child population in the age group of 0-6 years declined from 78.83 million in 2001 to 75.84 million in 2011.

Aiming to encourage families to have girl children, the government launched the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (save daughters, teach daughter) campaign in 2015.

It also runs several other schemes to encourage families to accept girls.

"India's future is interlinked with the lives of the girls and women of the country," Arora said.

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Manoj Kumar, an artist whose group presented street drama during the Oct. 10 program, said India's patriarchal system also should be blamed for the "oppression of women" and the violence against them in families.

While abortion is legal in India, diagnostic tests to determination the sex of a fetus was made illegal in 1994 in an attempt to stem the female feticide trend.

Arora, and others, maintain that various medical facilities across India secretly use ultra sound tests to determine the gender of fetuses and then conduct abortions without recording them.

ADF-India in 2016 launched a campaign, called Vanishing Girls, seeking strict implementation of the existing law prohibiting the practice.

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