Published: May 25, 2011
According to new study published this week in the medical journal The Lancet, the number of sex-selective abortions being performed in India has been rising and continues to rise. The researchers estimate that between 4 million and 12 million sex-selective abortions have been performed in India in the last three decades. And in the past decade, the study found, the problem has worsened.
Despite legal restrictions making it illegal to use ultrasounds to determine the sex of a fetus, the practice has continued; it seems that these laws are rarely enforced and that private medical practices are largely unregulated. The result is that there are now 914 girls for every 1000 boys under the age of six. In 1961, the ratio was 976:1000. The New York Times reports:
Dr. Prabhat Jha, a lead author of the study, noted that the use of sex-selective abortions expanded throughout the country as the use of ultrasound equipment became more widespread. Typically, women from wealthier, better-educated families are more likely to undergo an ultrasound, Mr. Jha said, and researchers found that these families are far more likely to abort a girl if the firstborn is a daughter.
This is a story about abortion, of course, but it’s also about a much larger problem: the worth of a woman’s life. In a culture where, as the Times notes, sons inherit property and carry on the family name but daughters do not, girls are also more vulnerable to infanticide, abuse and neglect. In this context, it is understandable why some families would prefer female babies over male ones. This preference results not just in the abortion of female fetuses, but in the brutal mistreatment of women who fail to give birth to baby boys.