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Save India’s “Vanishing Girls”: UN urged to act as fetal femicide increases by 60%

  • 60% increase in cases of “vanishing girls” in the most recent decade compared to previous decades in India
  • Human rights organization ADF International calls on UN system to recognize fatal sex-selective discrimination against baby girls as “femicide”

GENEVA/NEW DELHI ( 4 May 2021) – In India and other parts of the world, girls are targeted for abuse and discrimination, from before birth and throughout their lives. The widespread practice of sex-selective abortion 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.

“Sex-selective abortion is one of the worst forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls. The declining child sex ratio in India shows that as a nation, we have failed girls. These numbers are not only alarming, but also serve as a reminder that we need to act now to end this gendercide,” said Anushree Bernard, the ADF India spokesperson for the “Vanishing Girls” campaign.

“Both girls and boys have an equal right to life and liberty. Our nation cannot afford to lose its little girls to discrimination and neglect. India’s future is interlinked with the lives of the girls and women of this country,” continued Bernard.

The Vanishing Girls campaign, initiated by ADF India, seeks to address this injustice. The campaign aims to “eradicate sex-selection in our lifetime and save the lives of thousands of girls who are aborted every day” by training local lawyers, advocating for the implementation of legal protections, impacting cultural perceptions and offering assistance to women resisting coercion to abort their daughters.

New evidence of increasing discrimination against India’s girls

New research published in April in The Lancet confirms that missing female births are increasing in India. 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 in India.

According to the authors of the report, the most cogent explanation for missing female births is prenatal sex determination followed by selective abortion. Data shows that the harmful practice is more prevalent amongst richer, educated families. The trends of fetal femicide stand in marked contrast to the substantial improvement in female child mortality in the past two decades in India.

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

This week, the human rights group ADF International has called upon the UN system and the wider international community to formally recognize sex-selection practices as acts of femicide.

In the submission, addressed to the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, the organization has also called for the collection and publication of data on sex-selective practices to inform strategies to prevent, reduce and respond to femicide in all its forms.

“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.

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