Monday, April 17, 2006

Born to Die -- Issues of Female Infanticide

“Society needs to recognize this discrimination; girls have a right to live just as boys do. Moreover, missing numbers of either sex, and the resulting imbalance, can destroy the social fabric.”
– United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA)

Female Infanticide – Definition
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) defines female infanticide as the abortion of a fetus because it is female or the killing of an infant because it is female. Sex selection refers to the practice of using medical techniques such as amniocentesis to identify the sex of offspring. The term “sex selection” encompasses a number of practices including selectively terminating a pregnancy.

Female Infanticide – The issue
The phenomenon of female infanticide has likely accounted for millions of gender-selective deaths throughout history. According to a recent report by UNICEF up to 50 million girls and women are missing from India' s population as a result of systematic gender discrimination in India. British Medical Journal, The Lancet, recently reported that there may have been close to 10 million female infants aborted in India over the past 20 years. The number of children killed by their parents is probably much higher than statistics suggest, however, as many infant deaths are never officially recognised as infanticide.

A study of amniocentesis procedures conducted in a large Bombay hospital found that 95.5 percent of fetuses identified as female were aborted, compared with a far smaller percentage of male fetuses. Medical technology has made it possible for parents to discover the sex of a fetus at an earlier of pregnancy. Many women from communities with a preference for boys practice selective abortion.

It remains a critical concern in a number of developing countries today, notably India. In all cases, female infanticide reflects the low status accorded to women in most parts of the world.

Female Infanticide – Impact
Sex selection for non-medical reasons raises serious moral, legal, and social issues. The principal concerns are that the practice of sex selection will [1] distort the natural sex ratio leading to a gender imbalance and [2] reinforce discriminatory and sexist stereotypes towards women by devaluing females.

As fewer men can find women to marry in societies where these practices are widespread, the trafficking of women from foreign countries to sell as wives has become a profitable business. Some adoption agencies take advantage of the devaluation of girls and solicit impoverished families to sell their daughters so they may be adopted overseas. The shortage of women and girls due to female infanticide and sex selection leads to the worsening of their status overall.

World Health Organization -
The Lancet –
Sikh Women –
Gendercide –
Harvard School of Public Health

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