Monday 11 July 2016
Female Infanticide Worldwide: The Case for Action by the UN Human Rights Council
TRANSCEND Media Service
Releasing its report, “ Female Infanticide Worldwide” (Read in full HERE) the first ever global study on the issue, Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) stated that female infanticide for son preference due to variety of reasons is a worldwide phenomenon with 1.5 million female foetuses being aborted every year.
Analysing the available statistics provided by “CIA World Fact Book” on child sex ratio at birth, ACHR’s study ranked the top countries in the world on skewed sex ratio at birth as follows:
Rank Name of the country Sex ratio at birth
No.1 Liechtenstein 126 males/100 females
No.2 China 115 males/100 female
No.3 Armenia 113 males/100 females
No.4 India 112 males/100 females
No.5 Azerbaijan 111 males/100 females
No.5 Viet Nam 111 males/100 females
No.6 Albania 110 males/ 100 females
No.7 Georgia 108 males/100 females
No.8 South Korea 107 males/100 females
No.8 Tunisia 107 males/ 100 females
No.9 Nigeria 106 males/ 100 female
No.10 Pakistan 105 males/100 females
ii. Failure of the laws
The report stated that with the exception of South Korea, no other country has been able to reverse child sex ratio at birth in favour of the girls despite adoption of a number of laws and schemes. Several laws in China namely the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Maternal and Infant Health Care of 1994, Regulations on Administration of Technical Services for Family Planning of 2001 and the Population and Family Planning Law of the People’s Republic of China of 2002 prohibit sex identification of the foetus and sex selective abortions. In India, the Pre-conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 (amended in 2003) prohibits sex-selection or disclosure of the sex of the foetus “by words, signs or in any other manner” and prohibits sale of “any ultrasound machine or imaging machine or scanner or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of foetus” to persons, laboratories, clinics, etc. not registered under the Act. In 2002, Nepal amended the Country Code (Muluki Ain) to allow abortion on medical grounds but prohibited sex selective abortions. The Population Ordinance (2006) and Prime Minister Decree (2006) of Viet Nam prohibit all practices of antenatal foetal sex diagnosis and sex selection. A number of countries such as Armenia and Azerbaijan have been debating legal measures to ban sex selective abortions.
“These measures of the governments have not been fully successful because of the easy access to ultrasonography and weak law enforcement. In China, ultrasound for pre-natal determination of sex can be done for as low as US$3 while entire ultrasound-plus-abortion package is available for about US$150 in India.” – stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights.
iii. Reproductive tourism and celebrities promoting sex selection through new technologies
The report highlighted ‘reproductive tourism’ for the purposes of sex selection through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and other new technologies such as Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), Pre-Implantation Genetic Screening (PGS), and sperm-sorting as the next challenge to combat female infanticide. In Thailand where sex selection is not illegal, the Chinese, Indians, and the Eastern Europeans account for over 70-80% of the tourists visiting for purpose of reproduction and over 80% of PGD practices are undertaken for the purpose of sex selection and not for any medical purpose.
“Many celebrities from all over the world have been promoting sex selection of the foetuses through these new technologies and it has domino effects in societies having son preference”- further stated Mr Chakma.
iv. Calls for UN action
“The growing surplus of men has dire consequences for the human race, among others, for causing trafficking of girls/women in the areas having shortage of women and trafficked women facing violence and discrimination.”- further stated Mr Chakma.
Lamenting that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) fail to specifically refer to sex selective abortion as one of the harmful practices against women, Asian Centre for Human Rights described female infanticide as the worst form of gender discrimination and urged the UN Human Rights Council to review and discuss the impact of existing strategies and initiatives to address female infanticide and make effective recommendations and programme of actions to eliminate female infanticide and foeticide.
Saturday July 09, 2016
India has company, worst sex ratio is in Liechtenstein
15 lakh foetuses aborted every year worldwide
A study by Asian Centre for Human Rights reveals that female infanticide is a worldwide phenomenon with15 lakh female foetuses being aborted every year
Liechtenstein has the most skewed sex ratio at birth at 126 males for every 100 females; China has 115 males per 100 females; and India 112 males per 100 females
Countries with intense gender discrimination are Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Albania, South Korea, Tunisia, Nigeria and Pakistan
By Aditi Tandon/Tribune News Service
New Delhi: While India and China top the global charts on the most skewed sex ratios at birth, preference for sons is emerging as a worldwide phenomenon with the tiny European nation of Liechtenstein posting the worst performance on the indicator.
A new study on the comparative status of nations on sex ratios at birth shows India has the fourth worst sex ratio in the world, behind only Liechtenstein, China and Armenia. The study by the Asian Centre for Human Rights, an organisation with special consultative status with the UN ECOSOC, analyses the impact of domestic anti-sex-selection laws to conclude that except South Korea, which used these laws to reverse the trend of low sex ratios, no other country achieved success.
The survey, “Female Infanticide Worldwide: The case for action by the UN Human Rights Council”, unveiled today urges the UN to recognise skewed sex ratio as a harmful practice in its Sustainable Development Goals adopted for realisation by 2030.
“Female infanticide for son’s preference due to a variety of reasons is a worldwide phenomenon with 15 lakh female foetuses being aborted every year. India ranks fourth when it comes to the most skewed sex ratio,” says the study.
It reviews statistics provided by CIA World Factbook 2016 on child sex ratio at birth and ranks the worst 10 countries in the world on skewed sex ratio at birth. Nigeria and Pakistan have the ninth and 10th positions, respectively, on the table, while India and China share the dubious distinction of sex selection and abortions of female fetuses.
Biologically, normal sex ratio at birth (SRB) varies from 102 to 106 males per 100 females. Liechtenstein has the most skewed sex ratio at birth in the world at 126 males for every 100 females; China has 115 males per 100 females; Armenia 113 males per 100 females and India 112 males per 100 females. Other countries with intense gender discrimination are Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Albania, Georgia, South Korea, Tunisia, Nigeria and Pakistan.
The report says several laws in China namely the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Maternal and Infant Health Care of 1994, Regulations on Administration of Technical Services for Family Planning of 2001 and the Population and Family Planning Law of the People’s Republic of China of 2002 prohibit sex identification of the fetus but they haven’t helped.
India's dubious distinction in female infanticide
UN Human Rights Council
In a first ever global study on female infanticide by Asian Centre for Human Rights, a Delhi-based NGO dedicated to protection of human rights, it has been revealed that preference of son over daughter is a major reason for female infanticide in many countries around the world. Dowry system in South Asia, which makes daughters an unaffordable economic burden, also contributes to female infanticide.
Titled Female Infanticide Worldwide: The case for action by the UN Human Rights Council, the report makes a continent-wise analysis of infanticide patterns. It sets the tone by stating that 117 million girls demographically go missing due to sex-selective abortions, as claimed by the United Nations Population Fund.
Countries with the most skewed sex ratio at birth Source: CIA World Factbook 2016 Prevailing laws
Apart from the Law of the Peoples Republic of China on Maternal and Infant Health Care of 1994, Beijing also has a Population and Family Planning Law of the Peoples Republic of China of 2002 that prohibits sex identification of foetus and sex-selective abortions.
In India, the Pre-conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 (amended in 2003) prohibits sex-selection or disclosure of the sex of the foetus. It also prohibits sale of any ultrasound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of foetus to persons, laboratories and clinics not registered under the Act.
Nepal, in 2002, amended the Country Code, Muluki Ain, to allow abortion on medical grounds and prohibit sex-selective abortions. Similarly, the Population Ordinance (2006) and Prime Minister Decree (2006) of Vietnam prohibit all practices of antenatal foetal sex diagnosis and sex selection.
Challenges still remain
However, weak law enforcement and easy access to ultra-sonography fail to curb this practice. According to the ACHR report, ultrasound for pre-natal determination of sex can be done for as low as US$ 2.6 in China. In India, ultrasound and abortion can be done for about $150 in India.
Moreover, sex selection through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and other technologies such as Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), Pre-Implantation Genetic Screening (PGS) and sperm-sorting has emerged as the next challenge towards curbing female infanticide.
Unfavourable sex ratio, according to the report, is a result of sex-selective abortion, childhood neglect of girls and infanticide. However, it emphasizes that only sex-selective abortion can affect the sex ratio at birth. As compared to Child Sex Ratio, the Sex Ratio at Birth is a more robust indicator of the extent to which sex-selective abortion is happening. The average SRB for the entire world is 101 males per 100 females. However, the ratio looks highly distorted in some countries, especially in India (110) and Liechtenstein (126).
China's preference for boys
Firstly, SRB in China is heavily skewed in favour of boy because the preference for son is deeply rooted in Confucian values. Secondly, when the one-child policy was introduced in 1980 to arrest population explosion, it ended up creating huge gender imbalance as the policy encouraged the expectant parents to do ultrasounds and undertake sex-selective abortions to ensure only boys were born. The SRB, which increased in China in the late 1980s, reached 117 in 2011.
South Korea: a success story
According to the ACHR report, South Korea is one of the very few nations where the imbalanced sex ratio has been reversed. While the introduction of ultrasound technology in the 80s saw a sharp rise in SRB from 109 in 1985 to 115 in 1994, the country introduced several measures that helped reverse the tide. By 2013, the SRB came down to 105.3.
Nepalese women under pressure to bear a son
According to a survey by a Nepal-based NGO, Center for Research on Environment Health and Population Activities, 81 percent women, whose first child was a daughter, prefer son. Some women also reported to have faced pressure to bear a son. Pressure, which is in the form of psychological abuse, mainly comes from husbands (42 percent) and mothers-in- law (41 per cent). The study found out that unsafe abortions are also carried out clandestinely.
Curious case of Liechtenstein
The data on Liechtenstein, taken from the CIA World Factbook 2015, puts the SRB at 126, which is by far the highest rate of sex imbalance in the world. This small European nation is faring worse than China (117.8), Azerbaijan (115.6) and India (110.5).
While the SRB in most African countries remained static at 103 or less in 2014, Nigeria and Tunisia have experienced a rapid increase in its SRB. From 103 boys per 100 girls in 1996-2008, Nigeria witnessed a rise to 106 boys per 100 girls in 2009-2014. Moreover, about 7,60,000 abortions occur annually in Nigeria despite restrictive abortion law. Tunisia, with 107 boy births to 100 girls, has the highest sex ratio at birth among all of the countries in Africa.
How is India trying to tackle female infanticide?
India has one of the highest female foeticide incidents in the world. Declining number of female child population in the age group of 0-6 years from 78.83 million in 2001 to 75.84 million in 2011. During the period 1991-2011, the child sex ratio (0-6 years) declined from 945 to 914.
Apart from Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 (PNDT Act) to address the issue of sex-selective abortion, India also enacted the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act in 1971 to regulate access to safe abortions. The MTP Act of 1971, amended in 2002, allows abortion up to 20 weeks of pregnancy in cases where the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury to her physical or mental health.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has acknowledged that illegal abortions still outnumber legal abortions and thousands of women die every year due to complications resulting from unsafe abortions. According to the Population Research Institute, at least 12,771,043 sex-selective abortions had taken place in India between 2000 and 2014. It takes the daily average of sex-selective abortion to 2,332.
The under-reporting under the MTP Act has also been a problem. In a bid to encourage families to have girl children, prevent female foeticide and educate the girl child, the government launched Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign in January 2015. It also launched several conditional cash transfer schemes such as Balika Samriddhi Yojana and Dhanalakshmi Scheme.
In nations where gender selection is banned, people travel to Thailand, the US, Mexico and other nations where its legal to undergo PGD/ PGS. In Thailand, for example, the Chinese, the East Europeans and Indians form the majority of people (70-80 percent) preferring PGD. According to the Asian Law Institute, over 80 percent of PGD practices were undertaken for the purpose of sex selection.
Apart from Thailand, the US has also become the hub for such reproductive tourism. According to the report, hundreds of Australians started flocking to fertility clinics in the US when sex selection was banned. Singaporeans have also been going overseas, especially the US and Thailand, to choose their babies. (Courtesy: Down To Earth)