India’s extremely patriarchal society has been in place since the creation of the social caste system hundred of years ago. But while the rest of the world’s societies are progressing and abandoning discrimination and harsh practices, India seems keen on halting any social progression towards equality. The topic of female child abortions, infanticide, and abandonment is one of the major results of India’s patriarchal society, and sadly is not getting the worldwide coverage it deserves. Modi is making a valiant effort to do so - the new "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao" (Save the Daughter, Educate the Daughter) initiative launched in January of last year has provided increased awareness and attention to this issue. However, the preference of male children over female is a stigma so intricately engrained in India’s society, that it'll take more than just awareness to solve it.
Female infanticide and feticide are practices that became increasingly popular during the 1900’s. Girls were either strangled to death or abandoned in the streets shortly after birth; in the case of feticide, deliberate miscarriages were orchestrated while the child was still developing. Selective-sex abortions became the preferred option after ultrasound technology became implemented in India in the 1980’s. A study found that around 12 million Indian girls were aborted since 1981 (The Lancet, 2011). This, in addition to the 2,000 girls killed as brutal acts of infanticide and feticide everyday, demonstrate just how dire this issue is.
What's even more shocking is the demographic of people who believe in this discrimination and commit these acts against the female sex. A study of India’s 2011 census led by the University of Toronto calculated the second-born child gender ratio in families that had first-born girls. The general trend showed that the number of girls to 1,000 boys decreased by almost 100 between 1990 to 2005. What astounds most of us is that the killing of female babies is no longer confined to rural villages, but is rather more prevalent in more educated and well-off families. Is this truly the impact of westernization and industrialism on India?
It's important to understand that the selective-sex abortions in India have no place in the argument between pro-life and pro-choice. The majority of these children were not aborted or killed because of an unwelcome pregnancy, but specifically because of gender. If these fetuses had been male, most would have been born and allowed to proceed to adulthood. And honestly, the western argument between pro-choice and pro-life seems to wan in the face of this mass foeticide, where millions of females are viewed as “burdens” even before birth. “UNICEF reported that 43 million of the estimated 100 million women worldwide who would have been born if not for extraneous circumstances, including gender-specific abortion, would have been Indian” (Frontline PBS, 2007). India is responsible for almost half of the missing women population across the globe.
For all that the country is progressing in terms of global standing, the remains of an ancient society lie dormant but prevalent in the hearts of its people. A more industrialized, but still extremely patriarchal society remains to represent India in the twenty-first century. The world must learn to put aside its tradition of turning a blind eye to suffering, for the generations of girls that could’ve been.