Meri Shakti Meri Beti – My Daughter, My Strength

Why 100 million women are missing in India: the reality of sex-selection. – a guest-post by Zlatka Niznanska.

Just recently, a new campaign against pre-natal sex selection in Southern Delhi arose from the cooperation between the Centre for Social Research and the German Embassy in India. So far, this has been one of the latest attempts to crumble the rising number of
female foeticides in Delhi.

Although sex determination has been institutionally banned in September 1994 with the Pre- Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act that should provide “for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception…and for the prevention of their (technology) misuse for sex determination leading to female foeticide”, the collection of empirical data demonstrates grave gaps between the legislation and its actual
implemetation. According to 2011 census 914.23 girls were born for every 1,000 boys in
the age group 0-6, compared with 927.31 for every 1,000 boys in the 2001 census. This
number also underlies regional varieties; states with the lowest ratio of girls are mostly nothern rural regions of Punjab 798, Haryana 819 and Delhi with only 868 girls per 1000 boys. Hence, as a report developed by Centre for Development Studies asserts, in India’s rising population there is “evidence of masculinity in sex ratio in general as well as in child sex ratio in particular“.

But why is having a daughter such a bad business in India? The reasons why there are “100 million women missing” (as Amartya Sen stated in 1990) are diverse. The low girl-child ratio does not solely depend on the prenatal sex-determination and (sometimes) following the abortion of female embryos. In some parts of India, strict cultural preference for male children still prevails and therefore the value of one’s children is primarily determinated by their gender. Following this logic, for example, when facing health problems, female children are more prone to be neglected, while family’s resources
are allocated on the well-being of the boys of the family.

The cultural value of a male child evolves around the traditional belief that while a daughter needs to be married off and provided with a costly dowry (although in India the payment of dowry was officialy prohibited by civil law in 1961, it remains highly institutionalized), the boy with his future wife will stay at home and take care of his parents. Therefore, a male child is seen as parents’ asset, while the girl is a costly burden.

In recent years, numerous strategies have been started with the aim of the empowernment of women. One of the most comprehensive worldwide strategies are the Millenium Development Goals (UN), which promote elimination of gender inequalities, empowernment of women in public functions along better heathcare and chances for mothers as well as children disregarding their sex.
Despite India being a full member of the UN, which also theoretically subscribed to the MDGs; the efficient implementation of these lofty aspirations is dependant on a popular supported by India’s diverse society. And this endeavor takes more than time.

Read further:
Warren, Mary Anne (1985). Gendercide: The Implications of Sex Selection. Rowman&Littlefield Publishers

Sen, Amartya (1990). More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing;  in: The New York Review of Books vol.37, nr.20

Watch: documentary India’s Missing Girls, (BBC 2007)

Zlatka Niznanska is currently studying Global Studies at JNU University in New Delhi.

Picture courtesy by mag3737, merci!

8 thoughts on “Meri Shakti Meri Beti – My Daughter, My Strength

  1. It is estimated that about 50 million girls have gone missing. They are aborted based on their sex. India has passed laws 18 years ago making it illegal for a medical practitioner to reveal the sex of an unborn baby. This law is rarely implemented because most of the government officials and judiciary are apathetic to this epidemic. This has caused the sex ratios to be extremely skewed in certain parts of India. Please read the following articles and the story of one lone woman, Dr Mitu Khurana, who has bought a case against the hospital, her husband and in- laws, who illegally found out the sex of her unborn twin baby girls and then tried to force her to have an abortion. She has been given the run around for four long years by the Indian judicial system.

    Can anyone give a voice to the 50 million girls that have been silenced forever? All Dr. Khurana is asking for is a chance to go before an unbiased judge and be heard. Can we all give a voice to the 50 million murdered and raise the question with Indian officials as to why they are silently witnessing the elimination of a whole generation. The silence of the Indian officials tell the story and makes us wonder if Dr. Khurana and the 50 million dead baby girls will ever see justice done. Please give those 50 million girls silenced forever, a voice.

    This is Dr. Khurana’s story and website.

    Here is her ABC news interview with Elizabeth Vargus.

    • I just went to your blog and read your about story. It really moved me. I am sorry that anyone needs to suffer such painful atrocities. I can only hope that you have found some peace and love with your girls. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. This is all so illogical. Potential gender bias issues aside, men need women, if only to ensure the continuation of the species. To bring the abhorrent practice of pre-natal sex selection to its logical conclusion, without any women the men left behind will be unable to sustain the human species and will all die. By killing women, the men are killing themselves – they just don’t realize it yet.

    I think of India as the birthplace of the Buddha, such a rich history of compassion. The type of behavior described above is so contrary. I support a woman’s right to have an abortion, but making such a decision based simply on the sex of the child seems ludicrous. Life, be it plant, animal, insect, or human, deserves more respect than that.

    • Well Rob, the story gets even worse. Since there are not enough women, human trafficking is a big deal. Girls from poor areas and from Nepal and Bangladesh are brought in for sex slavery and forced marriage. A very very sad thing all together.

  3. Pingback: Where to Be a Woman | Kosmos 9

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