Female feticide : Unpardonable crime

Permanent termination of licence should be done for those found practising the crime of female feticide. Marketing of medical equipment especially for illegal sex determination and abortion should be stopped

Female feticide is the elimination of a girl child after sex determination test from the womb. It is an unethical act that has been practised due to some cultural norms and socio-economic policies.

Females not only face inequality in this culture, they are even denied the right to be born. Female feticide is driven by many factors, but primarily by the prospect of having to pay a dowry to the future bridegroom of a daughter.

While sons offer security to their families in old age and can perform the rites for the souls of deceased parents and ancestors, daughters are perceived as a social and economic burden.

Many families put pressure on women to give birth to male child so that he can take the family’s name forward, light the funeral pyre and be the bread earner of the family.

Are girls less competent than boys? Just look at the results of SLC exams or any other competitive exams, girls mostly outshine boys.

Women empowerment has led to inundation of females excelling in the corporate world, engineering, medical and legal professions.

Sadly, there have been numerous incidents of the fetus being found lying in farms, floating in rivers, wrapped up in jute bags etc. One of the major social problems of the nation is the intentional killing of the girl child.

The struggle for a girl child starts the day her existence is known in her mother’s womb. The fear and struggle to survive swallow most of the girl’s life even if she is ‘allowed’ to live in this cruel world.

The age old traditions, customs and beliefs of the Madheshi society are largely responsible for creating a negative mindset among the couples.

More shocking is the fact that the sinful crime of female feticide is not only common in rural areas where social discrimination against women, lack of proper education etc. can be considered as reasons behind carrying out such acts, but also the so-called ‘educated’ people living in urban areas and metropolitan or sub metropolitan cities who are a step ahead in killing the girl child in the womb.

The truth behind this crime has been brought to light by the print and electronic media. But, it has failed to melt the hearts and minds of those who remain unaffected by the consequences of the grave sin they are committing. With the advent of technology, ultrasound techniques gained widespread use in Nepal during the 1990s.

It resulted in the fetal sex determination and sex selective abortion by medical professionals. Recently, incidents of female feticide were reported from Parsa district where women used to come to a doctor’s clinic to get their female child aborted for Rs 1500.

Doctors, whose aim is to save the lives of people, happily kill the fetus for a meager fifteen hundred and more heart wrenching is the fact that the aborted fetuses were very often fed to dogs.

There are hundreds of clinics where such illegal activities are carried out on a daily basis and in some cases, in connivance with politicians and policemen.

Legally, female feticide is a penal offence. We should notice the reasons for female feticides in Nepal’s Madheshi community and try to solve them one by one on a regular basis.

Female infanticide or female feticide is mainly because of sex determination. In Nepal abortion was legalized in 2002 with certain conditions. However, female feticides are still illegal in Nepal.

In relation to female feticides, the Muluki Ain (Country Code) provides, no one shall commit or cause to be committed an act to identify (determine) the gender of the fetus for the purpose of committing the offence of abortion.

A person who commits this offence shall be liable to punishment of imprisonment for a term ranging from three months to six months. A person who commits, or causes to be committed, abortion upon identifying the gender of the fetus shall be liable to the punishment of imprisonment for a term ranging from six months to two years.

Finally, it states if a suit is not filed on the matter of abortion within three months of such abortion, the suit shall not be entertained.

Implementation of the abortion law is guided by the National Abortion Policy 2002 and Safe Abortion Service Procedure, 2003(2060 BS) which guarantees access to safe and affordable abortion services to every woman without discrimination.

The procedure lays down criteria for listing a health institution as a Comprehensive Abortion Care (CAC) center. But there is still no separate law for the prohibition of female feticides.

A draft ‘Bill for managing pregnancy protection’, formulated by women’s groups, was registered by the government in Nepal’s Parliament in 1997. But it has yet to be introduced for debate.

All the laws should be strictly followed by every citizen of Nepal. And one should be surely punished if found guilty of this cruel practice.

Permanent termination of license should be done for those found practising this. Marketing of medical equipment especially for illegal sex determination and abortion should be stopped. Parents should be penalized when they want to kill their girl baby.

Campaigns and seminars should be regularly organized to raise awareness among young couples. Women should be empowered so that they can be more attentive to their rights.

A concerted effort by the medical fraternity, the law, political leaders, NGOs, media, teachers and the community itself is the need of the hour.

The writers are practising lawyers