Tag Archive for 'Girl child'

It’s a girl

Please watch till the last scene.

In India, China and many other parts of the world today, girls are killed, aborted and abandoned simply because they are girls. The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls are missing in the world today because of this so-called “gendercide”.

Cat got your tongue?

In the Economist, a review of Mara Hvistendahl‘s Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men:

As he walked into the maternity ward of Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan Hospital in Delhi on his first day at work in 1978, Puneet Bedi, a medical student, saw a cat bound past him “with a bloody blob dangling from its mouth.” “What was that thing—wet with blood, mangled, about the size of Bedi’s fist?” he remembers thinking. “Before long it struck him. Near the bed, in a tray normally reserved for disposing of used instruments, lay a fetus of five or six months, soaking in a pool of blood…He told a nurse, then a doctor, I saw a cat eat a fetus. Nobody on duty seemed concerned, however.” Mara Hvistendahl, a writer at Science magazine, is profoundly concerned, both about the fact that abortion was treated so casually, and the reason. “Why had the fetus not been disposed of more carefully? A nurse’s explanation came out cold. “Because it was a girl.”

Sex-selective abortion is one of the largest, least noticed disasters in the world. Though concentrated in China and India, it is practised in rich and poor countries and in Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim societies alike. Because of males’ greater vulnerability to childhood disease, nature ensures that 105 boys are born for every 100 girls, so the sexes will be equal at marriageable age. Yet China’s sex ratio is 120 boys per 100 girls; India’s is 109 to 100.

The usual view of why this should be stresses traditional “son preference” in South and East Asia. Families wanted a son to bear the family name, to inherit property and to carry out funerary duties. Ms Hvistendahl has little truck with this account, which fails to explain why some of the richest, most outward-looking parts of India and China have the most skewed sex ratios. According to her account, sex-selection technologies were invented in the West, adopted there as a population-control measure and exported to East Asia by Western aid donors and American military officials. More:

Did the West fund India’s female foeticide?

The story behind India’s missing girls lays bare a global history of population control. Mara Hvistendahl in The Caravan:

Midway through his career, Christophe Guilmoto stopped counting babies and started counting boys. A French demographer with a mathematician’s love of numbers and an anthropologist’s obsession with detail, he had attended graduate school in Paris in the 1980s, when babies had been the thing. By the time Guilmoto started his

PhD, birth rates had started falling around the world, but the populations of many developing nations were still growing, and it was hard to shake the idea that overpopulation was a grave threat. Like many of his contemporaries he concentrated on studying the drop in fertility, searching for clues to what factors proved decisive in lowering a country’s birth rate. He did his dissertation research in Tamil Nadu, where the birth rate had fallen to European levels even as income levels remained low, and as he graduated and started working as a scholar he returned there many times. By 1998 he headed up the South India Fertility Project, a formal effort to catalogue the successes of Tamil Nadu and surrounding states. But over the course of working in the region, he realised demography’s big story had changed. People in India were not simply having fewer children. They were having fewer girls. Population growth had been slowed, in part, by reducing the number of daughters.

Guilmoto’s first inkling that something was wrong came in 1992, when he interviewed village nurses in Tamil Nadu for a short research project. A wiry Frenchman with wide-set eyes rattling off questions in Tamil, he must have cut an odd profile, but when he explained that he wanted to understand the demographic history of the area, the nurses spoke frankly and openly. Several offered up the detail that villagers occasionally killed their daughters shortly after birth. The news shocked him—as a demographer, he was well aware that humans committed infanticide at various points throughout history, but in most cultures the practice had disappeared by the early 20th century—and he made it his private mission to determine just how pervasive daughter killing was. Later he visited an orphanage, where he found an aging French volunteer who had lived in India so long that she no longer spoke French. In a mixture of Tamil and English, the woman explained that most of the babies abandoned in the area were female. “Look, in the orphanage we have mostly girls,” she said. “What do you think?”

The encounters left a deep impression on Guilmoto, and he thought of them at the turn of the millennium when Indian census figures showed 111 boys born for every 100 girls. At first glance, the experiences of the village nurses and the orphanage worker helped explain the disparity, and indeed many foreign press reports blamed India’s dearth of girls on infanticide and abandonment. Looking into the matter, however, he realised they were only a small part of the story. Outside of the pocket of rural Tamil Nadu where he happened to have done field research, Indians rarely killed infants. “Everybody talked about infanticide because it carried more emotional weight,” he recalls. “But actually it was hardly in existence.” Tamil Nadu was in fact one of the states where girls had a better prospect of survival, while the sex ratio in the wealthier northwest worked out to 126: 126 boys for every 100 girls. The real cause for the gap, Guilmoto quickly learned, was that pregnant women were taking advantage of a cheap and pervasive sex determination technique—ultrasound—and aborting female foetuses. More:

The daughter deficit

Tina Rosenberg in the New York Times Magazine:

In the late 1970s, a Ph.D. student named Monica Das Gupta was conducting anthropological fieldwork in Haryana, a state in the north of India. She observed something striking about families there: parents had a fervent preference for male offspring. Women who had given birth to only daughters were desperate for sons and would keep having children until they had one or two. Midwives were even paid less when a girl was born. “It’s something you notice coming from outside,” says Das Gupta, who today studies population and public health in the World Bank’s development research group. “It just leaps out at you.”

Das Gupta saw that educated, independent-minded women shared this prejudice in Haryana, a state that was one of India’s richest and most developed. In fact, the bias against girls was far more pronounced there than in the poorer region in the east of India where Das Gupta was from. She decided to study the issue in Punjab, then India’s richest state, which had a high rate of female literacy and a high average age of marriage. There too the prejudice for sons flourished. Along with Haryana, Punjab had the country’s highest percentage of so-called missing girls – those aborted, killed as newborns or dead in their first few years from neglect.

Here was a puzzle: Development seemed to have not only failed to help many Indian girls but to have made things worse. More:

In India, e-cradle for abandoned babies

Ninety percent of abandoned children are girls. Rhys Blakely in The Times:

Charu is less than a month old and dangerously underweight. On Sunday evening she became the 101st child to be deposited at a special cot enabling parents to abandon unwanted babies anonymously. Yet she can still be described as one of the lucky ones.

The tiny baby girl quite possibly owes her life to the e-cradle, an electronic cot nestled in a tiny room with a front and back door, attached to a state-run medical centre in the southern Indian city of Trivandrum.

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