Millionaire’s wife ‘forced to abort baby girls’

Millionaire’s wife ‘forced to abort baby girls’

Jeremy Page in Delhi

The wife of a millionaire industrialist has shocked Indian high society by accusing her husband of forcing her to abort two baby girls after taking illegal tests to determine their gender.

Pooja Salotia even accused her husband, Chirag, of trying to force her to have sex with his two brothers to conceive a male heir for the family machinery business in the state of Gujarat. Police arrested her husband, his two brothers and seven other relatives after Mrs Salotia, 32, filed an official complaint in the city of Ahmedabad on Saturday.

Her allegations against 18 people have sent shockwaves across India by breaking a strict code of silence on such matters and exposing the extent of female foeticide among the urban middle and upper classes.

“This is a common thing even in rich families — a lot of them get their women to abort girls,” Mrs Salotia told The Times from Gujarat, where she has gone into hiding after the release on bail of everyone except her husband. “In our culture, girls are not important. But I can’t tolerate it any more because it’s insulting.”

The killing of newborn girls has been common in rural India, where a daughter is perceived as a financial burden because her family has to pay a hefty dowry when she is married. But since the advent of ultrasound technology, abortion of female foetuses has become increasingly prevalent, not only in rural communities but also among the urban middle classes.

An international team of researchers estimated last year that ten million girls had been aborted in India over the past two decades, while the Indian Medical Association says that five million are aborted annually.

The result is an increasingly severe gender imbalance, with only 927 women for every 1,000 men in India, according to the 2001 census, down from 945 women a decade earlier.

The worst imbalance, however, is in Indian cities where those with money have ready access to private doctors, who take bribes to skirt a 1994 ban on ultrasound gender tests.

A recent survey indicated that there were only 882 women for every 1,000 men in Defence Colony, one of the upmarket districts of Delhi.

Pratibha Patil, India’s first woman President, called at her inauguration on Wednesday for an end to female foeticide, two days after police found 30 female foetuses dumped in a well in the state of Orissa. However, Mrs Salotia is the first woman from Indian high society to admit publicly to the forced abortion of a girl.

The daughter of a government official in Gujarat, she graduated from university with a degree in commerce. Her sister is a doctor and her brother an architect — both based in London. She said that her ordeal began after she gave birth to twin girls in 1997, a year after she married her husband.

She claimed that his family started to harass her and even demanded compensation of £30,000 from her father because she had produced two girls. When she became pregnant again in 1998, her husband forced her to abort at four months after an ultrasound test showed the child to be female, she said. “He said he didn’t want another baby girl. He wants a boy because he’s concerned about who will run our empire — that’s the mentality.”

In 2001 Mrs Salotia was again forced to abort after an illegal gender test revealed she was carrying another girl, she said. After that, she said, her husband started frequenting sexologists and even suggested that she have sex with one of his two brothers as they both had sons. When she refused, and threatened to commit suicide, her husband’s family became even more abusive, beating her regularly.

She said that she endured their treatment until this year for the sake of her twin daughters, Dhvani and Dhruvi, who are now 10. She said she had been living separately from her husband for a month, in one of his six houses, and that he had filed for divorce.

Police said that they were searching for several doctors she accuses of performing her abortions.


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