The posh south Delhi has a dark secret, as an AIIMS study on medico-legal autopsy findings of 238 foetuses and newborns abandoned in the area between 1996-2012 points towards female foeticide in the national capital.
The recent study by the premier medical institution also suggested that nearly 35 per cent of the cases in these 17 years were stillborn, 29 per cent were born alive and 36 per cent were born before the period of viability.
“Among the live born, death by homicide was more common than a natural death and most were left by the roadside,” it says.
Among the total number of cases, males were predominant, but on closer examination it was observed that “females out-numbered males” among the foetuses five month (20 weeks) of gestational age, Dr C Behera, one of the co-authors, said.
“Owing to the societal bias in favour of a male, this could mean that selective female foeticide happened during this period. In India, medical abortion is allowed only up to 20 weeks of gestational age and criminal abortions and selective female foeticide subsequent to antenatal sex determination are more likely before 20 weeks of pregnancy,” he said.
This is the first study from India to discuss all forensically-known cases of abandoned foetuses and newborns over 17 years from the region of south Delhi, claims the study published in the latest issue of Medico-Legal Journal of the UK.
“Though, we analysed autopsy reports of such cases in our own jurisdiction area, ie, south Delhi, similar cases have also been reported in other areas, though we do not have any definitive study on that. But I can tell you that 238 foetuses and newborns abandoned is only the tip of the iceberg for Delhi,” Behera told PTI.
Foeticide and abandonment of newborns are important, albeit frequently neglected, issues. Concealment of child birth is often seen in the setting of unwanted pregnancy which has been recognised as one of the most important factors in both the cases.
Among the live born cases, the majority of the deaths were attributed to murder (77 per cent), followed by natural causes (19 per cent) and accidental (1 per cent), the study said.