Female Infanticide Worldwide: The Case for Action by the UN Human Rights Council
IN FOCUS, 11 Jul 2016
Releasing its report, “Female Infanticide Worldwide” (http://www.stopfemaleinfanticide.org/files/Femalefoeticideworldwide.pdf), 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.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 11 Jul 2016.
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