India's national shame: disposable girls

My husband and I have seven daughters. Each one is loved and cherished for the unique person that she is. It’s horrifying and mind-boggling to be reminded of how girls are regarded in some parts of the world.

India's 2011 census shows a serious decline in the number of girls under the age of seven - activists fear eight million female foetuses may have been aborted in the past decade.

Of course the underlying malady has been omnipresent in India for centuries, and not just (as this BBC story seems to imply) since the 1970s and 80s, when prenatal ultrasound screening and sex-selective abortion became rampant. Before that, there were other methods to deal with unwanted girls: infanticide, abuse, neglect, abandonment.

Wives and mothers (being female) fare no differently.

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.

It’s horrific that the mothers-in-law join in the abuse, but I suppose they had to endure the same treatment as young women, and now they’re glad it’s finally someone else’s turn.

Government initiatives to change the country’s inevitable gender imbalance have had little effect:

Whatever measures have been put in over the past 40 years have not had any impact on the child sex ratio," Home Secretary GK Pillai said when the census report was released.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described female foeticide and infanticide as a "national shame" and called for a "crusade" to save girl babies.

But Sabu George, India's best-known campaigner on the issue, says the government has so far shown little determination to stop the practices. […]

"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.

Sorry, but the medical profession is not the problem. They are only providing a service, for which there is an insatiable demand. The demographic gender imbalance is not the issue, but the symptom of a fundamental cultural and societal disease. Deeper questions must be faced: about personhood, human dignity, and India’s attitudes towards the rights of girls and women.

“Ms Joshi, a former district commissioner of south-west Delhi, says [it] has the worst child sex ratio in the capital - 836 girls under seven for every 1,000 boys. Something's really wrong here and something has to be done to put things right," Ms Joshi says.

Yes, something has to be done: perhaps heart, mind and soul transplants for an entire culture.


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