8 Million Female Deaths in a Decade
Activists say India’s continuing preference for male children is leading to the loss of 800,000 girls a year, reports the BBC’s Geeta Pandey in Delhi.
Until her son was born, Kulwant’s daily life consisted of beatings and abuse from her husband, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. Once, she says, they even attempted to set her on fire.
“They were angry. They didn’t want girls in the family. They wanted boys so they could get fat dowries,” she says.
To many, their financial future lies heavily upon the sex of their unborn child. A son brings the hope of a future dowry and financial stability for his family; the birth of a daughter brings the weight of an impending dowry payment.
In 1974, Delhi’s prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences came out with a study which said sex-determination tests were a boon for Indian women.
It said they no longer needed to produce endless children to have the right number of sons, and it encouraged the determination and elimination of female fetuses as an effective tool of population control.
“By late 80s, every newspaper in Delhi was advertising for ultrasound sex determination,” said Sabu George, India’s best-known campaigner on the issue. “Clinics from Punjab were boasting that they had 10 years’ experience in eliminating girl children and inviting parents to come to them.”
In 1994, the Pre-Natal Determination Test (PNDT) Act outlawed sex-selective abortion. In 2004, it was amended to include gender selection even at the pre-conception stage.
But the women in Sagarpur say most people here know where to go when they need an ultrasound or an abortion.
Most offenders are members of the growing middle-class and affluent Indians – they are aware that the technology exists and have the means to pay to find out the sex of their baby and abort if they choose.
“We have to take effective steps to control the promotion of sex determination by the medical community. And file cases against doctors who do it,” Mr George says.
“Otherwise by 2021, we are frightened to think what it will be like.”