Female Foeticide

About the problem

The practice of female foeticide in India, causing the death of the foetus in the womb because of the gender, has resulted in an all-time high birth sex ratio in India, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PCPNDT) of 1994 criminalized prenatal sex screening and female foeticide, making it illegal in India to determine or disclose sex of the foetus to anyone. However, there are concerns that PCPNDT Act has been poorly enforced by authorities.

The natural human sex ratio at birth was estimated, in a 2002 study, to be close to 106 boys to 100 girls. Human sex ratio at birth that is significantly different from 106 is often assumed to be correlated to the prevalence and scale of sex-selective abortion. A birth sex ratio impacts a society’s overall sex ratio over time, as well the child sex ratio in near term. India’s child sex ratio (defined as the ratio of boys to girls in 0-6 year age group) was 108 according to its 2001 census, and 109 according to its 2011 census. The national average masks the variations in regional numbers according to 2011 census — Haryana’s ratio was 120, Punjab’s ratio was 118, Jammu & Kashmir was 116, and Gujarat’s ratio was 111.

High birth sex ratio and implied female foeticide is an issue that is not unique to India. Even higher sex ratios than in India have been reported for the last 20 years in China, Pakistan, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and some Southeast European countries. There is an ongoing debate as to whether these high sex ratios are only caused by female foeticide or some of the higher ratio is explained by natural causes.

View of Courts

  • CEHAT versus Union of India: Landmark authority regarding the problem of killing of female foeticide in womb. Read the judgment here.
  • Court on its own motion versus State of Punjab: In this judgment Punjab and Haryana High Court banned sale of online gender determination kits. Read the judgment here.
  • Vinod Soni and another versus Union of India: Constitutional validity of PNDT Act challenged before Bombay High Court. Petition was dismissed. Read the judgment here.

Other Important Documents