News / Asia

Researchers: Indians Increasingly Use Abortion to Ensure Male Child

Women attend a rally against abortion in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, October 2, 2008 (file photo)
Women attend a rally against abortion in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, October 2, 2008 (file photo)
Kurt Achin

More and more Indian families are using abortion to favor the birth of male babies. A new international study released Tuesday follows census data that indicates a sharp drop in the ratio of male-to-female children throughout India.

Canada's Centre for Global Health Research led the study, which examined 250,000 births in India from 1980 to 2005. Researchers were seeking trends in the number of boys versus girls being born.

The study found a dramatic drop in the number of girls being born - from an average of 906 girls per 1,000 births in 1990, to just 836 girls per 1,000 births in 2005. Professor Prabhat Jha, who led the research, said his team believes Indians are increasingly using abortion to prevent girls from being born.

“Selective abortions [have] increased in the last few decades," said Jha. "Something like, up to 12 million girls have been aborted over this three decade period - half of which appear to be just in the 2000s.”

Jha said the most dramatic declines in girl births took place in families in which a girl had already been born. Households at the top end of the income scale also had a much greater decline in female baby births than those at the bottom.

“So this is really a phenomenon of the educated and of the wealthy,” said Jha.

Researchers believe the wealthy are making greater use of selective sex abortions in India for the simple reason that they can afford access to ultrasound equipment and medical services more easily than poor families.

Preference for male children is deeply ingrained in India's traditional culture. Shailaja Chandra, former executive director of India's National Population Stabilization Fund, said a male birth often is an occasion to celebrate, whereas a female birth invites commiseration. She said part of that has to do with the fact that many Indians set aside a dowry, or gift of wealth, as an incentive to marry off the daughter into another family.

“If you're wealthy, you don't want to share your wealth. You want to keep business within the family, you want to keep landed property within the family," said Chandra. "If you do not have to give dowry, then that money can be spent on many other things - educating the son, building your house, doing all those other things.”

Chandra said most Indian families simply feel a better sense of security and certainty when a male child is born.

“A boy, they believe, will be able to look after them in old age, he will carry the name forward of the family - and that's very, very important to Indian families. And the girl just means a burden, because you will have to look after her, you will have to see that she's kept out of trouble. If you send her to school or college, you just don't know which way she's going to turn around. Whereas with a boy, the feeling at least is that you can just leave him, and what's the worst that will happen?”

Abortion is legal in India, but it is illegal for medical professionals to inform parents of their unborn baby's gender. That prohibition is difficult to enforce and extremely easy to circumvent.

Jha said the best way to confront the problem of India's unbalanced sex ratio is for media and policymakers to raise the public profile of the issue.

“The problem isn't one that you can just narrow [in] on and say we're going to try to go after the providers," said Jha. "India has such a large, and largely unregulated, private sector of medicine that it's hard to even think about how one could even get control without major reforms in how health works. The fundamental way to get around this is to have a public debate about social norms.”

Jha said 90 percent of all Indians live in states where the male-to-female ratio has become unbalanced. 2011 census data revealed earlier this year show there are seven million fewer girls under the age of six than boys in India.

Video news release from the Centre for Global Health Research, May 24, 2011:

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid