By Faria Athar
August 21, 2012
NEW DELHI, India – Female feticide, the practice of aborting a female fetus, is increasing in India with improved access to gender tests and continued preference for male children.
Determining a fetus’ gender was once only an option for the rich because it was expensive. For those who did not want a girl but could not afford such testing, the alternative was female infanticide: the killing of a female infant. But both practices raise the same question: Why don’t Indians want female children?
The issue is in striking contrast to the fact that Indians worship many goddesses and praise them for their beauty and benevolence. The goddesses form an integral part of Indian culture and are always honored. And yet, more than a million female fetuses are aborted annually in India, according to an article published in 2010 in the journal Issues in Law & Medicine.
According to the article, exorbitant dowry rates are probably the most potent cause of female feticide. Men are considered the breadwinners of the family, and it is believed that male children contribute money to the family, while female children cost the family a lot of money.
During a marriage, the bride’s parents are expected to pay the groom in either cash or property for marrying their daughters. What started as a rupee or two has now become thousands and millions of rupees.
Except for a few states in India, Indian society is patriarchal, and family lineage and inheritance are passed down to the male child, while girls are considered financial burdens who are born just to get married.
Nikita Bharti, a 10th grade student, believes that she has been discriminated against because of her gender.
“They (her grandparents) never liked me because I was a girl. I mean my grandmother, when my brother was born, she had a huge celebration and inconsolably thanked god, but when I was born they did nothing for me. They were rather sad and did not even come to receive me,” Bharti said.
The feelings Bharti expresses have much broader implications. According to an article in The Hindu from May 27, 2012, an infant girl was beaten and ultimately killed by her vengeful father who intended it to be his hate reply to his wife for giving birth to a girl. The father later confessed his crime and was arrested.
The Indian government introduced the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act in 1996 and the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act in 1971 to curb female feticide and infanticide. However, in 2007, Reuters
reported that the United Nations estimates approximately 2,000 unborn girls are illegally aborted every day in India.
Meanwhile, the number of girls born in India is falling. In 2011, the ratio of female children to males born was 914 to 1000, compared with 933 to 1000 in 2001, according to the Census of India.
It is believed that female feticide started in cities, not in villages. An Indian reality show, “Satyamev Jayate,” highlighted the case of one such woman, Dr. Meetu Khurana, who is a doctor from an affluent family of orthopedics and professors from the capital city of Delhi.
She refused to do a sex determination test, so her husband’s family plotted against her and got the test done under the guise of a kidney scan. The test results said she had twin girls in her womb, after which her family ordered her to abort them. She refused and gave birth to her daughters, although her husband’s family had never accepted them at the time of the television show.