Officials in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand are looking for answers after government data confirmed not a single female was born in 132 villages in the past three months.
According to the same data, there should have been 479 girls born.
Officials have labeled the area a “red zone” and will be sending a team of 25 officials to find out what’s going on. In all likelihood, what is happening here is that poor working families are aborting female fetuses because they would rather have a son that can help provide for the family than a woman who costs them money.
“It cannot be a coincidence that not a single female child is born in 132 villages,” says Prabhat Kumar, a spokesman for Save the Children. “It seems to be yet another case of discrimination and neglect towards the girl child.”
India outlawed gender-selective abortions in 1994, but the practice remains commonplace. As of 2018, there were 63 million fewer women living in India than reproductive trends would suggest.
Such reports are “shocking, but not surprising,” says Alok Vajpayee, who works for a nonprofit that focuses on gender issues. “The deep social and cultural norms that exist in our country are responsible for such things.”
A key example is the Banchara tradition “nari mata,” wherein the eldest daughter of each family is expected to become a sex worker (sometimes as early as age 12). The money she earns is typically used to help her brothers find successful marriages.
In 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the “Save Daughters, Educate Daughters” program, which was designed to address gender discrimination and female foeticide through education.
Unfortunately, the program spent more than 50% of its money on advertising and barely 25% funding state programs.
“There is a clear lack of implementation,” complains Ranjana Kumari, director of the Center for Social Research in New Delhi. “People like us working on these issues see no progress.”
Gender selective abortion is also common in China, where for years families were prohibited from having more than one child.
A global study published this year claims that selective abortions in India and China are responsible for the deaths of 22.5 million female fetuses and that the practice has created noticeable gender ratio distortions in 12 Asian and European countries.
In all of those countries, society tends to favor male babies.
Author’s Note: Gender-selective abortion is somewhat of a catch-22.
Preventing women from having abortions can be viewed as gender discrimination, but so can sex-selective abortion.
Vilifying the practice might seem like a good idea, but as history tells us, women seeking an abortion will find a way to do it whether it is legal or not.
In countries like India and Nepal, where criminalization of the practice does exist, there is not evidence that it has slowed the practice but there is evidence that the law has harmed women.
In some nations, anti-abortion lobbyists have promoted the criminalization of gender-selective abortions just to divide the pro-choice voters.
The real problem here is that there are places in this world where women are so undervalued that pregnant mothers are pressured to abort female fetuses. The solution to this problem is not to punish the mothers, but to fight for cultural changes that promote gender equality.
Editor’s note: We have covered this before. It is perhaps the worst under reported, ongoing tragedy in the world today. No protesters, no Congressional condemnations, nothing.