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Monday, November 21, 2011

Is a girl child really welcome in an Indian family?

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan gave birth to a baby girl bringing unending joy to her family and fans. However, a recent international research shows that sex selective abortion is conducted in wealthy families across India, not so much in poorer homes. An overview :

Notice this: When it’s a baby boy, hardly anyone bothers to add any more description. When it’s a baby girl, an adjective is often added, almost to justify her coming into this world. For example —“she is beautiful”, ``she is really cute’’ and so on.

In fact, internationally acclaimed author Tasleema Nasreen’s Tweets reflect the attitude towards the female child. She had tweeted “I love Aishwarya Rai. But when I said ‘I wish she would give birth to a baby girl’, people asked me, ‘Why do you hate Aishwarya?’” She tweeted once more: “Why do you think if I say it should be a female baby, is not a healthy baby? ...but her having a daughter can encourage millions of couples not to kill their unborn female babies.”

I remember when I delivered my daughter, our first child, my husband was ecstatic. However, when he began calling up his friends, he was consoled…”oh. It’s very lucky to have the first daughter, she is Laxmi …” “doesn’t matter, there is always a next time” “Ohhh, so are you disappointed?”

It’s tragic that thousands of girls have been and are being snuffed out even before they are born and thousands immediately after birth. The result: a lop-sided girl-boy ratio, tilting towards the male fraternity.

What’s even more horrendous is the recent international research report which states that sex selective abortions occur more in affluent families of India than in poorer homes. A fact narrated to me by a leading gynaecologist of Pune who stated, “Poor parents cannot afford the test; middle-class parents normally have just one child and they do not mind whether it’s a girl or boy but it is the rich patients who indulge in sex selective abortions.”

Lancet, the reputed international medical journal which published the research report conducted by Centre for Global Health Research (CGHR), issued a press release recently stating the research shows that “…in Indian families in which the first child has been a girl, more and more parents are aborting their second child if prenatal testing shows it to be a girl, so they can ensure at least one child in their family will be a boy. These declines in girl to boy ratios are larger in better-educated and in richer households than in illiterate and poorer households, and now imply that most people in India live in states where selective abortion of girls is common.”

Lancet’s press release also stated: “...the 2011 Indian census revealed about 7•1 million fewer girls than boys aged 0-6 years, a notable increase in the gap of 6 million fewer girls recorded in the 2001 census and 4•2 million fewer girls recorded in the 1991 census. In this study, the authors analysed census data to determine absolute numbers of selective abortions and examined over 250,000 births from national surveys to estimate differences in the girl-boy ratio for second births in families in which the first-born child had been a girl.”

The study found that “girl-boy ratio fell from 906 girls per 1000 boys in 1990 to 836 in 2005; an annual decline of 0•52%. Declines were much greater in mothers with 10 or more years of education than in mothers with no education, and in wealthier households compared with poorer households. But if the first child had been a boy, there was no fall in the girl-boy ratio for the second child over the study period, strongly suggesting that families, particularly those that are more wealthy and educated, are selectively aborting girls if their firstborn child is also a girl.”

After adjusting for excess mortality rates in girls, the researchers observed that “number of selective abortions of girls rose from 0-2 million in the 1980s, to 1•2-4•1 million in the 1990s, and to 3.1-6 million in the 2000s. Each 1% decline in child sex ratio at ages 0-6 years implied between 1•2 and 3•6 million more selective abortions of girls. Selective abortions of girls are estimated at between 4 and 12 million over the three decades from 1980 to 2010.

The authors point out that the between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, more than twice the number of Indian districts (local administrative areas) showed declines in the child sex ratio compared to districts with no change or increases. They also point out that, the Indian government implemented a Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act in 1996 to prevent the misuse of techniques for the purpose of prenatal sex determination leading to selective abortion of girls. Yet they add it is unlikely that this Act has been effective nationally.

Isn’t this a national shame?

For the full article in Lancet, see:


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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