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India’s Gendercide Doesn’t Stop At Birth

Yesterday we noted demographer Nicholas Eberstadt’s horrifying research into the fate of unborn girls around the world; India was one of the countries where women bearing unborn female children are either persuaded or forced to abort.

From the Times of India comes word that the girls who make it out of the womb aren’t out of the woods.  A suspiciously large number of Indian girls die young: 56 boys under six years old die for every 100 girls.  According to Indian doctors, this has to be the result of parental choice; left to nature, young girls generally have a better chance of survival than boys, and India’s sex differential has been growing steadily worse since the 1970s.

“Higher female mortality from age 1 onwards clearly indicated sustained discrimination,” says P Arokiasamy, professor of development studies at Mumbai’s International Institute for Population Studies, who has studied gender differentials in child mortality in India. “Such neglect and discrimination can be in three areas: food and nutrition, healthcare and emotional wellbeing. Of these, neglect of the healthcare of the girl child is the most direct determinant of mortality,” says Arokisamy. Studies have shown that health-related neglect may involve waiting longer before taking a sick girl to a doctor than a sick boy, and is also reflected in lower rates of immunization for girls than boys.

According to the Times, abortion is how the Indian middle class prunes unwanted girls from its population pool; poorer families bring girls to term but to then leave them to struggle on their own. If a boy gets sick he gets treatment; if a girl gets sick then nature takes its course.

Perhaps the multicultural relativists can explain how ongoing gendercide (killing people because of their gender) is simply a lifestyle choice that should be celebrated and hailed — another unique hue of life’s rainbow in whose light we should learn to rejoice. And it’s easy to understand the terrible human and economic pressures that force millions of Indian women to acquiesce in the deaths of their daughters.  But this is too much; even Pakistan treats baby girls better than India.

Evils this widespread are deeply rooted and will not quickly be cured.  Absolute, grinding poverty is not, alas, the cause of the social attitudes that make this practice appear tolerable; otherwise female abortions would not be so prevalent among middle class Indians.

Gender discrimination is not the only serious social problem facing the country. Caste, religion, ethnicity, language: Indians are divided among themselves in many ways, and identity politics combined with class struggle at times help make Indian politics complicated, violent and corrupt.  Debt bondage reduces millions of Indians to the status of slaves; callous and brutal forms of child labor are widespread.  American democracy also first took root in a culture of slavery; Indians, like those Americans, have a long way to go before the ideals of their democratic aspirations transform their institutions and their daily lives.

Sometimes it isn’t clear whether India is really ready for the 21st century or the world role it is called to play, but that scarcely matters.  The world needs a strong, free and developed India; the mass death of girls, born and unborn, in this country is not just an Indian problem or an Indian concern.

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  • Mrs. Davis

    I have to agree that the tone here seems to be coarsening and the analysis weakening. Things are really better for females in Pakistan? Are you including Baluchistan and the NWFA? What evidence is there to support this statement, particularly in light of this.

    And why isn’t this am Indian problem for the Indians to deal with? We certainly didn’t need the British involved in the resolution of our slavery problem. Publicize and condemn it, but it is an Indian problem for the Indians to deal with. We should be neither the world’s policeman nor it’s nanny. What arrogance to see it otherwise.

  • Kris

    Sir Charles Napier, anyone?

  • Jim.

    I think the Christianization of India should be actively encouraged.

    It cured infanticide in the Roman Empire, it would likely do the same in India.

  • Anthony

    As Mrs. Davis suggests: an entire assembly of voices ought to denounce gender/female abuse (FGM and Gendercide). There can be no doubt that the fate of women/girls around the world impacts future population dynamics.

  • Riki Tiki Tavi

    I agree with Mrs. Davis. This post is unbalanced. It says nothing about all the things that the government and civic society have done to counter this issue. Nor does it acknowledge that some analysts believe that matters may actually be improving. See article from The Economist for an alternative take.

  • dearieme

    Send in the drones.

  • ErisGuy

    Aborting unwanted clumps of fetal cells is called “choice,” not “gendercide.”

    I think you should respect and tolerate the differences of other, unique, superior, non-Western cultures. Let the Indians decide how to run India. Give no voice to American academics and ideologues, whose record in “helping” America is almost wholly negative.

  • Tom Richards

    The issue is the killing of millions of individuals, not that such killing is motivated by the sex of those individuals.

    For this reason, it is important to distinguish between abortion and willful post-natal neglect. The latter is unquestionably heinous; the status of the former hinges on an unresolved (and potentially irresoluble) question of fact. We do not know whether foetuses have the characteristics we consider important for moral personhood. We’re not even terribly clear on what characteristics those might be. The evidence suggests, but does not guarantee, that by most reasonable definitions in the earlier stages of gestation at least they do not. On each side of the argument we must weigh the degree of harm if we are wrong against the likelihood that we are right. On balance, I believe the state of the evidence favours permitting abortion within relatively strict term limits. Future advances in our understanding could tip that balance either way – hypothetically as far as an outright ban in all cases where the life of the mother is not seriously threatened to legalised killing of young children after birth (though I do not think either of these radical extremes is likely to be either suggested by the evidence or tolerated by society).

  • Jbird

    How are the Indian and Chinese governments so stupid that they don’t recognize this is going to be a huge problem in 20 years or less.

  • Eurydice

    @Tom – I’m sorry, but that’s just a lot of blahdy, blah, blah. It makes no difference whether the foetus has the characteristics for moral personhood – what matters is that the foetus is being aborted because it will grow to be a female. That’s the definition of “motivated by the sex of those individuals.”

  • Kris

    Eurydice@10: So what if I decide to refrain from sex henceforth because my Guru has told me that my next child will be female?

  • justaguy

    Jim @ #3 says:
    I think the Christianization of India should be actively encouraged.

    It cured infanticide in the Roman Empire, it would likely do the same in India.

    Really? Infantacide and killing of daughters continued in Rome until their conquest by the more fertile tribes of barbarians. see Spengler or numerous other historians. The lack of will to continue population destroyed Greece and then Rome in ancient times and seems to be killing many a country today. The brief European/Christian experience where population actually grew seems to be returning to mean.

  • Beginning of December, a program aired on ABC 20/20 about India’s deadly secret. It was about 40 million girls who have vanished. All aborted before they could take their first breath. Their crime was that they were girls. As you know the gender ratios is India are terribly skewed about 914 girls per 1,000 boys. In Punjab it is about 833 girls per1,000 boys. Unfortunately this happens amongst the privileged and the educated also. The only woman who has brought cases against her in-laws and husband is Dr Mitu Khurana. Please watch her story and sign her petition for justice. Please give those 40 million girls silenced forever, a voice. Please forward this to as many friends as possible.

    After you sign the petition, there will be a request from the site for a donation. This donation is totally discretionary and does not in any way or form affect or benefit Dr Mitu Khurana. All she is asking for is your support (signing this petition) so that pressure can be put on the Indian authorities that the whole world is watching them in total disbelief as they make a young mother run around in vain for four years in search of justice

  • Eurydice

    @Kris #11 – I’m not sure why you’re dragging a guru into this. My response was with regard to logic, not spirituality. If you decide never to have sex because you don’t want to give birth to a girl, then your decision is based on gender.

  • Kris

    Eurydice@14: Yes, of course my decision is based on gender. Does that mean I am engaging in a moral wrong? Are you claiming that this is the problem, as opposed to abortion itself? (I am trying to understand your dismissive response to Tom.)

  • Please visit the website for the Gendercide Awareness Project. It is We are DOING something about this! Please send us baby booties! You’ll see what I mean.

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