By Maggie Mcmorrow
In 1997, the UN estimated that there were nearly 50 million girls missing in India
as a result of the widespread systematic killing of females known as gendercide. Today,
that number has reached over 200 million. The intentional killing of baby girls because
of the widespread preference of males has made it so that female children in India are
75% less likely to survive past the age of five. In India, sons are seen as insurance, as
they are considered the family providers. Because of this, their value of life is seen as
much higher than that of a female’s.
The institution of dowry is a principal reason as to why female life has such little
significance in India. Traditionally, when an Indian family gives their daughter away
to be married they must pay her husband’s family a sizeable amount of money. This
practice has been outlawed by the Indian government, but is still prevalent in rural
areas. Because of the dowry system, a daughter not only costs money for a family but
also does not bring in any money. It is for this reason that many families see females as
an economic exhaustion.
In 2011, the National Indian Census concluded that there were 37 million more
men than women in India. This is not only a result of gendercide but also a cause of the
austere human trafficking problems that India faces. The expectation of Indian men is
that they will marry and have a family for which they will provide. But because of the
imbalance in gender numbers, there are many men who cannot find a wife. Therefore,
female babies are sometimes kidnapped and sold to families who seek wives for their
sons. These babies are often brought up in brothels and are victims of sexual abuse at
a very young age. Expectations about marriage and family make gendercide a vicious
Sex selective abortions are another pervasive practice in India. It is estimated
that there are around one million female babies aborted each year. Women are
frequently forced to have illegal sex determination tests, and if the results are female,
they are often required to have abortions. While the women do not always seek out
sex selective abortions, they are sometimes forced upon them because of dominant
ideology among traditional Indian families with a strong desire for male children. And
if an abortion is not an option, they will commonly kill their newborn baby girls by
methods of strangling, suffocation, or poisoning.
The Indian government has tried to take measures to eradicate gendercide, but
due to an unproductive and misogynistic justice system, they have made little progress.
The practice of sex selective abortions and in-utero sex determination tests has been
outlawed by the government but has done little to curb the practice. The government
has been ineffective in enforcing the law, resulting in many easily bribed doctors.
Consequently, a female fetus is aborted nearly every minute in India. The State
government also has offered an incentive to families with one or two daughters and no
sons. If one of the parents undergoes sterilization to prevent the slaughter of future
daughters, the family will receive $160 in aid as she goes through school. The family will
also receive $650 on the daughter’s 20th
help families that already have daughters, it does not encourage them to have only
female children and also perpetuates the institution of dowry, a system that has been
supposedly made illegal.
birthday to help pay her dowry. While this may
In a country with a population of over one billion people, more than 50% of
whom are under the age of 25 and, therefore, of childbearing age, the world can no
longer afford to ignore this massacre. Because the Indian Gendercide is a subject that is
so rarely talked about, it is seldom acknowledged as a female rights issue and in order
to eliminate the practice, we need to initiate a gendercide dialogue. Awareness may be
the fundamental first step in the process of eradicating the problem. Documentaries,
such as It’s a Girl and books like Gendercide and Genocide by Adam Jones, shed light
on a topic that a significant part of the world does not know exists. By addressing an
issue that is fundamental to the future of one of the world’s largest, growing economies
and to girl’s rights everywhere, we may be able to eradicate gendercide in India and
empower a new generation of Indian women.