Save India’s Daughters: Where Have All The Little Girls Gone?

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Today, in a country led by a female president, gendercide of India’s women is being committed—and at an alarming rate.

50,000 female fetuses are being aborted each month. And that number does not account for the baby girls who are abandoned, or murdered. A recent study found that 4-12 million girls are thought to have been aborted since 1980.

Women’s rights activist Ruchira Gupta of Apne Aap Women Worldwide said, “It’s the obliteration of a whole class, race, of human beings. It’s half the population of India.”

But why? Why in a country where women seem to rule are they the less desired sex?

The answer boils down to dowry.

The dowry is the number one reason Indians favor boys to girls—and “favor” might be an understatement here. The dowry is a cultural tradition in India where parents are required to pay extensive amounts in order to marry off their daughters. This long-standing tradition has made girls a symbol of financial burden.

“Amounts of dowry have become higher and higher, and families can get into huge debt bondage just to be able to pay the dowry to get a daughter married,” Gupta said.

If a woman’s family fails to pay a dowry, she might be beaten, tortured or even burned to death.

“We put very little value to girls and to women,” Gupta said. “So they’re always in danger from birth to death.”

When an Indian woman gives birth to a baby boy, it is an occasion for jubilation, said women’s rights activist Gita Aravamudan, author of the book, Disappearing Daughters.

A boy’s birth is greeted “with great joy because he’s going to bring in the moolah,” Aravamudan said. “He’s going to be the person who gets married to a girl who’s bringing in the money.”

When a family has more than one daughter and must face a future of having to pay more than one dowry, the reaction can be grim.

For that reason, more and more Indian families who already have one girl are aborting subsequent pregnancies when prenatal tests show another female is on the way. And doctors are helping them.

It is a crime in India to use an ultrasound to determine the sex of a child and it is also illegal to perform an abortion based on gender. Termination of pregnancy on the basis of sex was made illegal in India under the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act in 1996, but the law is routinely flouted. Clinics are still performing ultrasounds, and worse, doctors are highly recommending the abortion of girls.

Indian officials have acknowledged that current laws have been inadequate at combating the widening sex ratio gap. They say they plan to enforce stricter laws.

Aravamudan says this issue is about more than abortion.

“This is not about pro-life or pro-choice,” Aravamudan said. “This is about pro-women, anti-women. I’m not against abortion. This is a crime against women and I am against that.”

Perhaps the real question is: Where does a country whose long-standing traditions are to blame, even begin to fix the problem?

Many believe the answer is as simple as spreading awareness. What do you think?

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