According to the decennial Indian census, the sex ratio in the 0-6 age group in India went from 104.0 males per 100 females in 1981, to 105.8 in 1991, to 107.8 in 2001, to 109.4 in 2011. The ratio is significantly higher in certain states such as Punjab and Haryana (126.1 and 122.0, as of 2001) Generally three principle causes are given for skewed ratio: female infanticide, better food and health care for boys and maternal death at childbirth. Prenatal sex determination and the abortion of female fetuses threaten to skew the sex ratio to new highs–with unknown consequences. Recognizing and seeking to control this perilous trend, the government of India outlawed prenatal sex determination on January 1st, 1996. The new law makes it illegal to advertise or perform the tests (with a few exceptions), and punishes the doctor, relatives who encourage the test and the woman herself with fines from ten to fifty thousand rupees and jail terms from three to five years.
Prenatal techniques for sex determination were introduced into India only in the early seventies. Although touted officially as an aid in reducing genetic defects, much of the Indian public has turned to these tests to find out if “It’s a boy” or not. Petitioning against sex selective abortions began in the 1980s, about fifteen years after the techniques of sex determination were widely introduced into the country. Maharashtra State was the only state which prohibited sex determination in 1988, but women used to go to other states where it was still legal. When commercial news of the tests became widespread, many women activists and health activists noticed them. Anti-selective abortion efforts grew to significance when it was discovered that even working class women and middle class women were using such tests. The efforts of such groups led to the parliament voting for ban on the test.