Study in Ahmedabad finds 32% pregnant women prefer male child, 21% favour sex determination, 34% had abortion

girl1By Counterview Desk

A recent study, “Female Feoticide in the view of fertile females – A Study Among Suburban Pregnant Women of Gujarat, India”, by three scholars, Donald Christian, by KN Sonaliya and Jignesh Garsondiya, published in the International Journal of Medical Science and Public Health (February 2014), has said that sex selective abortion remains a growing problem. Carried out with the aim to understand the attitudes and awareness towards issues of female feoticide among suburban pregnant women, the study was conducted on antenatal women of the community of Saijpur ward of Ahmedabad attending government antenatal clinics of the area. The sample size taken for study was 200 pregnant women, who were interviewed using pre-tested performa for taking their consent.

The results showed that as many as 31.5% women preferred male child, while 14.5% preferred to have a female child during their current pregnancy. Less than half (43.5%)of the respondents were aware about the term ‘female feoticide’ in local language. Most of them (91.5%) were aware of the term “prenatal sex determination” in local language. The abortion rate was found to be 34%, and the study found that, if having given a chance (42, or 21%) of the respondents would go for the abortion of the foetus, if it was found to be a female one. While graduate respondents did like to go in for abortion, they had feotus sex determined beforehand.

The study said, socio-demographic factors played a role in women’s awareness for female feoticide. Education formed a critical role for her attitudes towards it. Television and health-care providers proved to be better sources for awareness generation than other sources. A cross -sectional study was carried out in the service area of a tertiary care hospital of a reputed medical institute of Ahmedabad city of Gujarat.” The study was carried out during January to June 2013. Pregnant ladies who were included in the study attended the government antenatal clinics (ANC) of the Saijpur ward of Ahmedabad city.

The population of Saijpur field “practice area” is about 5,000. Considering a pregnancy rate of 4.5%, calculated from the field register, the total number of pregnant women would come to around 225. A pre-designed questionnaire was pre-tested through a pilot study having 10respondents, before initiation of the actual data collection.

The data collection lasted for about four months depending upon the availability of the newly registered pregnant women in the area. Informed consent was taken from the respondents and the data were analysed anonymously. The socio-economic variables, the awareness for various terms like ‘female feoticide ’ , ‘save the girl child’ , ‘pre-natal sex determination’ and ‘women empowerment’ (all of those terms made famous under governmental initiatives against sex selective abortions in the country) and the sources of knowledge about such terms were noted.

The mean age of the respondents was 25.83 (±7.0) years. The study shows that the majority (183, or 91.5%) of the respondents came from urban background while the rest (17, or 8.5%) were from the rural counterpart. Most of the respondents (91, or 95.5%)were Hindu, while the rest of them belonged to Muslim community. Exactly half (100, or 50%) of the respondents had and minimum education of up to the secondary level (up to standard 12). It can be seen that a very few proportion (16, or 8%)of the respondents was illiterate. Most (156, or 78%) of the pregnant women were housewives.

Regarding their spouse, most of them (134, or 67%) belonged to the secondary level of education and none of them was illiterate. Regarding the obstetric history of the respondents, it was seen that majority of them were primigravida (pregnant for the first time) and third gravid or pregnancy (65 and 64 respectively), followed by second gravid (43)and fourth gravid (28).

Despite a high degree of rate of abortion, and preference for male child, most respondents said sex determination was “bad”. Majority (119, or 59.5%) of them considered ‘God’s will’ as the only reason for not opting for sex determination. This was followed by the reasons like ‘it is a sin to disclose the sex’ (60, or 30%), ‘the secret is a joy’ (9, or 4.5%), ‘illegal’ (8, or 4%) and ‘rituals do not permit us (or 4.2%).

Even then, the study found that only about less than half (43.5%, or 87) of the respondents were aware about the term ‘female feoticide’ in local language. The term ‘save the girl child’ was known by almost two thirds (134, or 67%) of the respondents, showing better awareness than the former term. Among the total 200 respondents, most of them (183, or 91.5%) were aware of the term ‘pre-natal sex determination’ in their local language.

Health care provider was the commonest source of information for both ‘female feoticide’ and ‘prenatal sex determination’ (44.82% and 40.46%) respectively, while for ‘save the girl child’, television (39.55%) was the commonest source of information.. Even among the respondents who were aware of the term, most of them (135, or 73.8%) knew that the test is punishable in our country. The term ‘women empowerment’ in local language was heard by only 30% (or 60) of the respondents.

About one-fifth of the respondents said, if having given a chance (42, or 21%) they would have gone for the abortion of the foetus, if it was found to be a female one. On asking the reason for not going for an abortion to the rest (158, or 79%), majority of the respondents (92, or 58.22%) thought it was immoral to do so, while other replies were ‘equal rights for both gender’ (41, or 25.94%), ‘ illegal ’ (1, or 0.63%) and no reason (24, or 15.18%). It was interesting to note that almost all (185, or 92.5%) of the respondents thought that male gender is preferred over the female counterpart in our country.

Overall there was a significant association between the level of education of the respondents and ‘would have gone for abortion if the sex of the fetus is known’. There was a significant associations for ‘would have gone for abortion if sex of the fetus is known’ among for women having secondary school or graduate levels of education. In fact, none of the graduate respondents would like to go for abortion, even if the sex was determined somehow. Similarly, there was a significant association between the educations levels and ‘having thought for son current pregnancy’ among the respondents.It was also seen that graduate women are significantly less likely to have such thought of having a son during the current pregnancy than others (only 8 out of 33 graduates).

Respondents said, the main reason behind abortion of “unwanted births” (34 per cent) were “the improper use of condoms as well as unwillingness by the husband”.Son preference is seen more commonly than daughter preference even among females themselves. Religion, woman’s education and husband’s education play roles for the woman’s awareness for the terms related to sex selection issues. Terms like ‘pre-natal sex determination’ and ‘save the girl child’ were better heard than ‘female feoticide’.

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