Culture

India’s Unwanted Girls

India’s 2011 census shows a serious decline in the number of girls under the age of seven – activists fear eight million female foetuses may have been aborted in the past decade. The BBC’s Geeta Pandey in Delhi explores what has led to this crisis.

Kulwant has three daughters aged 24, 23 and 20 and a son who is 16.

In the years between the birth of her third daughter and her son, Kulwant became pregnant three times.

Each time, she says, she was forced to abort the foetus by her family after ultrasound tests confirmed that they were girls.

“My mother-in-law taunted me for giving birth to girls. She said her son would divorce me if I didn’t bear a son.”…

The women’s story is common and repeated in millions of homes across India, and it has been getting worse.

In 1961, for every 1,000 boys under the age of seven, there were 976 girls. Today, the figure has dropped to a dismal 914 girls.

Although the number of women overall is improving (due to factors such as life expectancy), India’s ratio of young girls to boys is one of the worst in the world after China.

Many factors come into play to explain this: infanticide, abuse and neglect of girl children.

But campaigners say the decline is largely due to the increased availability of antenatal sex screening, and they talk of a genocide.

 

The government has been forced to admit that its strategy has failed to put an end to female foeticide.

‘National shame’

“Whatever measures have been put in over the past 40 years have not had any impact on the child sex ratio,” Home Secretary GK Pillai said when the census report was released.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described female foeticide and infanticide as a “national shame” and called for a “crusade” to save girl babies…

The BBC has more on the tragic trend here.

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