Female Infanticide In India
Geographic case study
The bias against females in India is related to the fact that "Sons are called upon to provide the income; they are the ones who do most of the work in the fields. In this way sons are looked to as a type of insurance. With this perspective, it becomes clearer that the high value given to males decreases the value given to females." (Marina Porras, "Female Infanticide and Foeticide".) The problem is also intimately tied to the institution of dowry, in which the family of a prospective bride must pay enormous sums of money to the family in which the woman will live after marriage. Though formally outlawed, the institution is still pervasive. "The combination of dowry and wedding expenses usually add up to more than a million rupees ([US] $35,000). In India the average civil servant earns about 100,000 rupees ($3,500) a year. Given these figures combined with the low status of women, it seems not so illogical that the poorer Indian families would want only male children." (Porras, "Female Infanticide and Foeticide".) Murders of women whose families are deemed to have paid insufficient dowry have become increasingly common, in India.
India is also the heartland of sex-selective abortion. Amniocentesis was introduced in 1974 "to ascertain birth defects in a sample population," but "was quickly appropriated by medical entrepreneurs. A spate of sex-selective abortions followed." (Karlekar, "The girl child in India.") Karlekar points out that "those women who undergo sex determination tests and abort on knowing that the foetus is female are actively taking a decision against equality and the right to life for girls. In many cases, of course, the women are not independent agents but merely victims of a dominant family ideology based on preference for male children."
Indian state governments have sometimes taken measures to diminish the slaughter of infant girls and abortions of female foetuses. "The leaders of Tamil Nadu are holding out a tempting carrot to couples in the state with one or two daughters and no sons: if one parent undergoes sterilization, the government will give the family [U.S.] $160 in aid per child. The money will be paid in instalments as the girl goes through school. She will also get a small gold ring and on her 20th birthday, a lump sum of $650 to serve as her dowry or defray the expenses of higher education. Four thousand families enrolled in the first year," with 6,000 to 8,000 expected to join annually (as of 1994) (Dahl burg, "Where killing baby girls 'is no big sin'.") Such programs have, however, barely begun to address the scale of the catastrophe.
By Michael Akers
Word Count: 449