A man in northern India has been arrested after he reportedly cut open his pregnant wife's belly to check the gender of his baby, causing the death of the unborn child and leaving his wife critically wounded, police said. The man reportedly used a sickle to tear open his wife's belly after being told that his wife was yet again pregnant with a daughter.
Gender determination before birth of a child is prohibited by law in India. The wife has been admitted to a hospital where she is fighting for her life, while police is still investigating the case to know more details behind the almost-fatal assault.
The incident allegedly occurred on Saturday in Bareilly, a city in northern India, when Pannalal, 43, attacked his wife Anita Devi in their home with a sickle after being told she was pregnant with a daughter. The couple already has five daughters. According to police, Pannalal wanted a son and had tried to convince his wife to terminate the pregnancy, but she refused.
According to reports in local newspapers, Pannalal had consumed an excessive amount of alcohol prior to the incident. "He attacked her with a sickle and ripped her stomach saying that he wanted to check the gender of the unborn child," the woman's brother, Golu Singh. Following the attack, the woman was taken to Delhi on Sunday on the advice of doctors as her condition was extremely critical.
The child was stillborn and its gender hasn't yet been revealed. According to Singh, the couple used to regularly quarrel about having a son. "Our parents had intervened on several occasions. But no one imagined that he would take such a cruel step," Singh said.
Attack Not Intentional?
The family said that the four-months-pregnant woman was taken to a series of hospitals after her condition worsened and her family could not afford the entrance fee at a private hospital, so they had to wait for a seat in a government hospital. Pannalal has reportedly been charged with attempted murder, but the police are still investigating, according to reports. However, Pannalal said that he did not attack his wife intentionally. He told local media that he threw the sickle at her, but had no idea it would injure her so severely.
"I have five daughters, one of my sons is dead. I know that children are the gift of God. Now whatever is to happen, will happen," he reportedly said. The desire among Indian parents to have sons instead of daughters has created a skewed gender ratio. Daughters are often seen as a burden in India, with families having to pay dowries when they marry, while sons are prized as breadwinners who inherit property and continue the family name.
This has seen the Indian government ban abortions of female fetuses. Around 15.8 million girls went missing in India due to prenatal sex selection between 1990 and 2018, according to the Population Research Institute.
The Indian law also bans doctors and health workers from sharing an unborn child's sex with the parents, or carrying out tests to determine the child's gender, and only registered medical practitioners are allowed to perform abortions. Pannalal's attack on his wife is just many of attempts made by Indian families to determine the gender of an unborn child.