NEW DELHI (BP)–The killing of baby girls in India is continuing, both inside and outside the womb, despite new legislation banning the use of ultrasound tests to determine the sex of unborn children, CNSNews.com reported Aug. 8.
India’s Pre-Natal Diagnostic Test Act also outlaws attempts to conceal a birth by disposing of a baby’s body secretly.
But recent reports suggest the law is being widely violated in villages and urban areas around the country.
It’s estimated that up to 5 million baby girls are aborted every year in India, a society where males are held in higher esteem for cultural and economic reasons.
Sex-determination tests were banned in the country in 1994, but they continue to be performed and are blamed for a dramatic drop in the male-female birth ratio.
A March 2001 census reported that India had 933 women for every 1,000 men, down from 972 women per 1,000 men a decade ago.
The ratio is even worse in some specified areas, like Chandigarh City in north India (773/1000) and parts of Rajasthan state (600/1000).
The world average sex ratio is roughly 990 women for every 1,000 men, while in some Western regions there are around 1,060 women to every 1,000 men.
The government has issued notices to all diagnostic centers using ultra-sound scanning, ordering them to register. It is mandatory for the clinics to declare that they don’t conduct pre-natal tests to confirm the sex of a child.
It has been reported that families in villages may ask midwives to kill newborn baby girls, and a recent survey reported 10,000 cases of female infanticide annually.
Mostly, however, the killing occurs in the womb.
According to research, about 80 percent of mothers do not want to abort their baby girls but are forced to do so by their husbands and in-laws.
There are both cultural and financial reasons why sons tend to be favored in India.
According to Hindu mythology, it is believed that the soul of a parent achieves nirvana (freedom from material life) only if a son is born. At the funeral of an adult, only a male relative (a son or nephew) may light the pyre.
Girls are viewed as a financial burden, too, especially in rural areas. When a daughter is married, her family pays an often large dowry to the groom. This can include money, gifts, jewelry or even property.
So while having a son brings wealth into the family, having a daughter costs the family dearly.
Moreover, sons look after elderly parents.
“The craze for a male child in India is amazing and even sickening at times,” said New Delhi physician Ashok Mittal.
“Parents are ready to go to any extent to have a male child – so much so that there is such a big hue and cry over the birth of a second or third daughter that an outsider feels as if someone has died.”
Mittal said “female feticide” should be criticized and acted against, “but unless we change our customs and thinking patterns, the problem cannot be solved.”
Malhotra is a correspondent with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.