To a young man seeking to find a bride in India, one might be tempted to say, “Good luck. You’re going to need it!” According to the most recent government census (January 2016), there are only 944 females for every 1,000 males in the burgeoning population (approximately 626 million females and 668 million males). A main factor contributing to the gender imbalance in India is sex-selective abortions of female fetuses.
The sex ratio at birth – the number of girls born per 1,000 boys – has been declining for years, falling from 962 in 1981, to 945 in 1991, to 927 in 2001, to 914 in 2011. The India government is keenly aware of the problems associated with the skewed sex ratio at birth: “The decreasing sex ratio in this age group has a cascading effect on population over a period of time leading to diminishing sex ratio in the country. One thing is clear – the imbalance that has set in at this early age group is difficult to be removed and would remain to haunt the population for a long time to come.”
The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PCPNDT ACT), passed in 1994 and amended in 2002, sought to stem the tide of sex-selective abortions, a purpose explicitly stated in the preamble: “An Act to provide for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception, and for regulation of prenatal diagnostic techniques for the purposes of detecting genetic abnormalities or metabolic disorders or chromosomal abnormalities or certain congenital malformations or sex-linked disorder and for the prevention of their misuse for sex determination leading to female foeticide; and, for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.” Though parents and physicians are subject to a five-year jail term for requesting or conducting a prenatal sex test, the practice is thought to remain widespread.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.