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Indian Journal of Community Medicine

Study on Knowledge, Attitude and Practices Regarding Gender Preference and Female Feticide Among Pregnant Women

Author(s): BN Vadera, UK Joshi, SV Unadakat, BS Yadav, Sudha Yadav

Vol. 32, No. 4 (2007-10 - 2007-12)

ISSN No. 0970-0218

BN Vadera, UK Joshi, SV Unadakat, BS Yadav, Sudha Yadav

Skewed sex ratio is an issue of major concern and has long-term social and demographic consequences. At the heart of the problem is the low status of women in society, a patriarchal social framework and value system based on ‘son mania’. The problem is getting worse as scientific methods of detecting the sex of the foetus and for termination of pregnancy are improving. This seems to be fulfilling the long felt need of the people through female feticide. In this light, the study of factors influencing sex ratio becomes very relevant for better understanding of the problem. Materials and Methods A cross-sectional study was undertaken with 195 pregnant women who attended the antenatal clinic (ANC) of G.G. Hospital attached to M.P. Shah Medical College, Jamnagar, Gujarat. The study was carried out from August 2006 to September 2006. Every fifth women attending the ANC was selected for the study. A pre-tested and pre-structured questionnaire was used to collect information on their knowledge and attitudes towards gender preference and female feticide. Chisquare was used as a test of significance. Results Of the 195 pregnant women selected for the study, 70.3% were from urban area and 29.7% from rural area. It was discovered that 20.5% were illiterate and 79.5% were literate. Out of 195 women studied, 114 (58.5%) gave preference to male child; the major reasons for this being social responsibilities are carried out by males (42.5%), for propagation of family name (23%), dependable in the old age (16%), pressure from family (11%), to perform cremation (4%), dowry (3%) and females are economic liability (3%). Our study revealed that socio-demographic factors affect gender preference. Preference to male child was higher among rural women (70.68%) than that of the urban women (53.28%). The association was statistically significant [Table 1]. Preference to male child was higher in women who had no male child previously (65.28%) than those who already had a male child (42.50%). This difference was also statistically significant [Table 1]. Of the 195 women, 40 (20.51%) admitted that they will go for female feticide. The inclination to female feticide was higher in women who showed son preference. One hundred and ten (54.4%) women were aware about consequences of female feticide. Consequences of female feticide expressed by these women were: ‘men won’t find bride’, ‘families can’t be run’, lead to an all-male family and increase in violence against women. The awareness of consequences of female feticide grew with literacy status. It was 35% among illiterate women, 53.4% in primary level literacy and 73.13% in secondary and above. The difference was statistically significant

Discussion In our study, 58.5% of women gave preference to male child. A study carried out by Puri et al. showed that 56% women in the slums of Chandigarh showed preference to male child,(1) which is very similar to our observation in the present study. The important reasons for son preference are social responsibilities taken by males, propagation of family name, support in the old age, to perform cremation and dowry. As per a report published by UNFPA in conjunction with Ministry of H&FW and Office of Registrar General and Census Commissioner India 2003, there is a strong preference to son in India, which is influenced by many socio-economic and cultural factors, such as son being responsible to carry forward family name and occupation, source of support at the old age and to perform religious rites during cremation and practice of dowry.(2) The results are similar to those found in the present study. The preference to male child was higher among rural women than in the urban women. This difference was statistically significant. Narayan Das had also observed a similar difference between the rural and urban population in his study of “Sex Preference and Fertility Behavior”.(3)

Table 1: Association between son preference and socio-economic characteristics (n = 195)

Variables Son preference (%) No son preference (%) χ2 P-value Significance
Residential area
Urban 73 (53.28) 64 (46.71) 5.08 <0.05 Significant
Rural 41 (70.68) 17 (29.32)
Sex of previous child
Male 17 (42.50) 23 (57.50) 5.28 <0.05 Significant
No male child 97 (62.58) 58 (37.41)

Table 2: Association between education and awareness regarding consequences of female feticide

  Awareness present (%) No awareness (%) Total
Illiterate 14 (35) 26 (65) 40
Primary 47 (53.40) 41 (46.60) 88
Secondary 49 (73.13) 18 (26.87) 67
Total 110 (56.41) 85 (43.59) 195

χ2 = 15.40, P ≤ 0.01

The preference to male child was higher in women with no previous male child. Puri et al. found that preference to son was higher among women having no male child than those already having a male child.(1)

The present study reveals that 20% of women would go for female feticide if they discovered the gender of the fetus. Ajinder Walia reports about the attitude towards female feticide to be 41.25% in his study on “Female Feticide in Punjab: Exploring the Socio-economic and Cultural Dimensions”.(4)

One hundred and ten (54.4%) women were aware about the consequences of female feticide. The consequences of female feticide expressed by them were: ‘men won’t find bride’, ‘families can’t be run’ and lead to an allmale family. Similar implications of female feticide were reported in an earlier study on female feticide carried out by Ajinder Walia.(4)

Education influences one’s awareness regarding the consequences of adverse sex ratio. This awareness increases with education status.

Conclusion

The present study shows a clear picture of factors affecting the present sex ratio. The existence of son preference at an alarmingly high rate in our society is the root cause of imbalanced sex ratio. Moreover, the inclination to female feticide is reported in one- fifth of women studied in spite of them being aware of the consequences of imbalance in sex ratio. Sociodemographic factors do play a role. Our study revealed that residential area and sex of the previous child affect a woman’s preference for her next child, while education increases awareness regarding the consequences of adverse sex ratio.

References

  1. Puri S. Gender preference and awareness regarding sex determination among married women in slums of Chandigarh. Indian J Community Med 2007;1:60-2.
  2. Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, United Nations Population Fund; Missing. Mapping the Adverse Child Sex Ratio in India. 2003. p. 1.
  3. Das N. Sex preference and fertility behavior: A study of recent Indian data. Demography 1987;24:517-30.
  4. Walia A. Female feticide in Punjab: Exploring the socio-economic and cultural dimensions. J Soc Issues 2005;10:1.

Department of Community Medicine, Shri M.P. Shah Medical College, Jamnagar, Gujarat, India

Correspondence to:
Dr. B. N. Vadera,
Department of Community Medicine, Shri M.P. Shah Medical College, Near G.G. Hospital, P.N. Marg, Jamnagar, Gujarat, India.
E-mail: dr.vadera(at)gmail.com
Received: 13.06.07
Accepted: 18.10.07

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