NEW DELHI (TrustLaw) - The Indian government plans to crack down on the abortions of female babies after a study found an increasing number of affluent families were carrying out the illegal practice, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.
Up to 12 million girls were aborted over the last three decades in India by parents who tended to be wealthy and educated, researchers from the Toronto-based Centre for Global Health Research said in a study published in the Lancet.
Despite laws banning expectant parents from doing pre-natal tests to determine the gender of their unborn child, the illegal abortion of female foetuses is still common in some parts of India, where a preference for sons runs deep.
Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the rising trend of sex selection was "unfortunate", adding a central supervisory board on the Prohibition of Sex selection Act has been reconstituted and will hold its first meeting on June 4, the PTI, the country's largest news agency, reported late on Wednesday.
"The discussions will focus on the response from states on the issue and what steps can be taken to make a sex determination prevention mechanism more effective," the agency reported Azad as saying.
The government banned sex determination tests using techniques like ultrasonography and amniocentesis in 1996, to stop parents aborting children when they were found to be female.
In March, provisional data from India's 2011 census found that fewer girls have been born in India over the last decade compared with boys, indicating that female foeticide continues unabated.
The census said that while the female-to-male ratio in the population has improved since the last census in 2001, the number of girls under six years old has declined for the fifth consecutive decade.
There are now 940 females to every 1,000 males in India, compared to 933 in 2001, the report said. But the national child sex ratio shows only 914 girls compared with 927 a decade ago.
Social activists say the recent study and the census data prove that authorities have shown little will to implement and enforce legislation, with few prosecutions and convictions.
In parts of India, sons are traditionally viewed as the main breadwinners who will take care of the family, continue the family name and perform the last rites of the parents – an important ritual in many faiths.
But daughters are often seen as a burden – not just because of the financial costs of paying a dowry to get them married off, but also due to the need to protect the virginity of girls as a matter of family honour.