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Abandoned Indian mother exposes the harmful practice of sex-selective abortion

  • A young single mother in Dhanbad seeks justice in court after being abandoned by husband for having given birth to a girl 
  • 60% increase in cases of “vanishing girls” in the most recent decade compared to previous decades due to sex-selective abortion in India 

DHANBAD (2 July 2021) – Being a woman can bring life-threatening challenges to those living in South Asia – from before birth all the way into adulthood. Bhavana*, a young mother in Dhanbad, Jharkhand is familiar with such discrimination. She was disowned by her husband and her parents-in-law, with whom she had been living with for the majority of her three-year marriage, after giving birth to a girl rather than a boy in May 2020. Bhavana, who survived violent attacks at the hands of her husband and his parents while pregnant, sought support from ADF India. 

“India’s future is interlinked with the lives of the girls and women of this country. But from the earliest stages of life, throughout childhood and into adulthood, many women in South Asia like Bhavana and her daughter have faced extreme and even fatal discrimination. Through our Vanishing Girls campaign, ADF India is committed to cultivating a future where human dignity is affirmed for all women and girls, including those in the womb,” said Anushree Barnard, ADF India spokesperson for the Vanishing Girls campaign.

ADF India provides free legal assistance through our panel of allied lawyers to women like Bhavna who suffer for giving birth to girls. For more details, visit www.adfindia.org/legal-aid. 

 New evidence of increasing discrimination against India’s girls 

A culture of “son preference” in India has resulted in discrimination against girls at the earliest stages of life, and brought about a very high number of sex-selective abortions. The widespread practice threatens the lives of millions and has resulted in a severe sex ratio imbalance throughout the country. Data published in 2018 by the Registrar General of India shows a ratio of 844 girls born per every 1000 boys in Delhi. New research published in April in The Lancet confirms that missing female births are increasing. Sex ratios are worsening across almost all states, with an overall 60% increase in cases of “vanishing girls” in the most recent decade compared to previous decades. 

According to the experts, the most cogent explanation for missing female births is prenatal sex determination followed by selective abortion.

Pre-natal selection of children based on sex – condemned by the UN General Assembly as a “harmful practice” in 2019 – has been linked to increased violence against women and a growing demand for human trafficking. 

 Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women called upon to protect the most vulnerable 

In May, the human rights group ADF International called upon the UN system and the wider international community to formally recognize sex-selection practices as acts of femicide, and therefore commit to their prohibition and prevention under international law.  

In the submission, addressed to the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, the organization also called for the establishment of a global femicide watch to monitor all forms of femicide, including sex-selective practices. 

“The fight against femicide should not end until every girl, born or unborn, enjoys her right to a future. Countless girls in India and across the globe continue to fall victim to fatal violence and discrimination before they even have the chance to be born. Both internationally and domestically, there are binding protections in place for each girl child to enjoy a right to life, free from violence,” said Giorgio Mazzoli, UN Legal Officer for ADF International in Geneva. 

“It is imperative that such norms are implemented and enforced effectively. Whoever believes that women and girls have the same value and worth as men and boys cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening today. The international community and the UN system must step up efforts to address this largely ignored human rights issue, and we hope that the Special Rapporteur on violence against women will echo this call,” Mazzoli continued. 

 To read ADF International’s submission in full, click here. 

 *Name changed for privacy and security reasons. 

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