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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

India's Missing Girls

The number of girls who are being aborted in India is equal to the total number of girls born in the United Kingdom. In India, approximately a total number of 30 million to 70 million girls are being aborted every year. The total number of girls born are significantly reducing due to Sex Selective abortion and the sex imbalance has been aggravated by higher mortality rates as boys receive better care. A recent report by the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) has shown that about 50 million girls and women are missing from India'spopulation due to the gender discrimination that is still practiced in India. In most of the countries in the world there are approximately 105 female births for about 100 male births. However, in India there are about less than 93 female births for 100 male births in the population.The 2011 Census results were received with shock in India as the results showed a sharp decline in the female to male sex ratio. This alarmingly growing gap has been attributed to the doctors and commercial interests who sell ultrasound machines; both make huge amounts of profits from the illegal sex selection procedures. Many of the diagnostic teams who use ultrasound scanners for determining the sex of the fetus advertise using shrewd catchy slogans such as “Spend Rs 6000 now and save Rs 50,000 thousand later on” in order to show that the parents can find out the sex of their child and save themselves from emptying their pockets in giving dowry during their daughters marriage. According to a study carried out by Sonia Bhalotra from the centre for market and public organization (CMPO) at the Bristol University, the cost of conducting an ultrasound scan is about 10 euros which is a small amount relative to the amount which has to be given as dowry by the girls family.


All the above mentioned mentioned facts and figures would be shocking for most of the people. The very vagueness of the figures itself shows how poorly the whole phenomenon is misunderstood. Seldom do we find people who are aware of this great misfortune that is happening in the very country that we live in. We all take great pride in telling that our country is a developing country and very often we compare India with the major countries in the globe. Despite all the evidences which are mentioned in the paragraph above which very clearly shows that there certainly is an alarming fall in the female births in India, many within the country are not ready to accept this fact and discredit it by stating that such reports are brought out only to make India seem inferior among the comity of nations. In fact, the study that was carried out by the UNICEF has been criticized by the Indian Medical Association for “utilizing outdated data and for deliberately demonizing Indians for the purpose of politics”.

It has been known that there is a tendency to abort female children in India since the first Census which was carried out on 1871. Even though the Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act was passed by the Indian Government in the year 1996, the government's attempt in tackling the issue by proscribing ultrasound scan that identify the sex of a fetus has been in vain.

A large number of reasons can be attributed as to why this inhuman practice is still practiced largely in many parts of India even today. Even now in many parts of India, sons are considered as the real bread winners of the family and they are called upon to provide the income for the families. On the other hand in many rural parts of India, girls are denied education as it is felt that education is of no use to them and their entire existence is confined to the four walls of the house and in the performance of household chores and later on, merely taking care of the husband and the children. The second reason is that the dowry system is still practiced to a very large extent in many parts of India where the girl's family has to provide payment in cash or in kind to the bridegroom's family. This is probably one of the biggest reasons as to why people resort to sex selective abortions. Further more, in a typical Indian society the entire expenses of conducting a marriage is borne by the girls family. So in a poor family, most of the hard earned money is spent in getting the daughter married along with the dowry that is paid. During old age the parents usually stay with their sons rather than their daughters as it is assumed that the sons can support them as they earn the income for the family in contrast to the daughter who is considered to live off her husbands income having no financial independence.

Year
1972
1975
1980
1985
1990
1995
2000
2003
2007
2010
Number of abortions
reported
24300
214197
388405
583704
581215
570914
723142
1229937
1895721
2529979

Now the shocking news is that recent studies have shown that it is the rich and the higher classes of the society rather than the poorer sections who are seen practicing this inhuman deed. This indeed challenges the assumptions that the practice is driven by traditional thoughts or poverty. The 2001 census results in Punjab one of the richest states of India has shown that there were 125 boys per 100 girls in the 0-6 age groups. The predominant pattern is to use sex selection not for the first child but for subsequent children; the ideal seems to be two sons and one daughter. Shocking as the results are, it is interesting to note that it is the more educated people who practice this as it is very well understood that the more educated you are the more likely it is for one to understand the evil consequences of practicing female infanticide.

All that is said about the drawbacks and the burden of having female child the continuation of practicing this deed will have disastrous consequences. For instance, in future it will be extremely difficult for a family to find a bride for their sons due to shortage of females. Hence people would have to resort to the old custom of sharing wives as was done by the Pandavas in the Mahabharata. Very often, while aborting girl children people tend to forget that girls are required to give birth to children!

We always wish to view our country as a superpower and among the most developed countries of the world. However, this dream, can only become a reality if we are successful in eliminating social evils such as female infanticide and save more lives. Some effective tools which can be used to promote awareness about the dangers of Female infanticide would be carrying out effective campaigns and catchy advertisements to prevent female abortions. And, strict penalties for those who indulge or abet this crime. India is certainly making some amount of progress in trying to spread awareness and put an end to female infanticide however this process needs to speed up and it requires the effective participation of the citizens.

So let us all join hands and help our country take a step forward in the area of development by saving millions of lives and make Female abortion a history that is never to be repeated again.