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Friday, 26 January, 2001, 15:42 GMT
Should India do more to stop female foeticide?

Doctors in India believe two million foetuses are killed every year through abortion, simply because they are female.

It's an illegal practice but with the increasing availability of sex determination tests it is virtually impossible to police.

With female infant mortality figures in India 40% higher than male and the proportion of females to males in India in steady decline for a century, there are some 50 million women "missing" in the population.

Should sex tests be allowed at all? Do they prolong a prejudice that has no place in modern society, or are they a kinder option than female infanticide?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Gender tests are unfortunate, but that is the only option people have. It is high time the politicians start thinking about population growth and the literacy rate. The only solution to this would be to increase literacy and let women decide what to do. Things are changing these days in urban society and the more educated women are, the better for India.
Prakash Pillappa, Sydney, Australia

More men will emigrate in search of available females

Torrey, USA
A modest proposal: Let female births decline in India. That will solve the overpopulation problem. Fewer women means fewer children. More men will emigrate in search of available females. Eventually, people will want daughters and the groom will pay the dowry. Personally, I don't think selective abortions are a good foundation for the future of India, but it's not my place to say. Let India figure its own problems out without having solutions forced down its throat.
Torrey, USA

Men in India and other countries should be educated to accept girls as being the same as boys. Divorce and domestic violence due to the birth of a baby girl should be strongly punished by the authorities.
Sikander, Canada

Sex tests should be banned in India and the country should do more to stop female foetocide. If everybody wants to have boys, who is going to marry them?
Yogita, USA

I think that making such practices illegal will tremendously increase illegal abortions and related life-threatening complications. The younger and educated generation of men has to take charge of their lives, refuse to accept dowry altogether and only then will this custom decline. No doubt equal rights and education of women are of paramount importance as well. A forced solution of such social evils is hardly ever successful.
Shakil Aslam, USA/ Pakistan

As always, education is the key here

Shankar, Indian in USA
As always, education is the key here. Educated women are less likely to stand up for abuse, and education brings about dialogue and society is changed for the better. Dowry is the main cause in Hindu society, and the only way to end dowry system is when all women stand up for themselves and refuse to be sold like merchandise.
Shankar, Indian in USA

Feudal traditions die with urbanisation, education and industrialisation. In much of urban India arranged marriages, caste-marriages and dowry are slowly but surely declining among the middle classes. This is the only way to prevent female infanticide. Banning technology is bureaucratic stupidity. It's failure is assured
Thiruvengadam Ramakrishnan, USA

Female foeticide is a reprehensible act. It is tantamount to murder and must be discouraged at all costs and by all means.
Dr. Faisal Aziz, Pakistan

The best thing to do is to make the women who are choosing to have the abortions undergo sterilisation as part of the procedure. People who are that cruel shouldn't be having kids.
P. Menon, USA

If girls get proper education and have a job, the situation will improve

Raj, UK
It is the responsibility of parents to arrange the marriage of their grown-up daughters in South Asia. Many parents sell their house, give away their life savings and pension as their marriage present (dowry). As there is no social security, these parents eventually struggle to make a living in their old age. This is the reason these abortions take place. If girls get proper education and have a job, the situation will improve. In the meantime, sex selective abortions must be banned in these countries.
Raj, UK

Your suggestion that female abortion may be 'a kinder option than female infanticide' is horrific. Both are methods of murder...kindness does not come into it. Since when have we started judging murderers on their level of kindness to their victims? The tests allow such people to commit their gross acts at an even earlier stage than before. Vetting controls should be put in place to protect these silent victims.
Benares, England

One should not be so pessimistic about this issue as Deepti. Social evils have been removed previously in India, and I hope that gender discrimination will be gone too. We need to be strong and should pass strong values on to the next generation.
Jee, India

There is less female infanticide in those states where female literacy is high

Amrutha Gopal, UK/ India
I have often thought about this issue. Dowry is the key factor. But, education, especially women's education, can be the main solution for this. If one look at the statistics of female infanticide in different states of India, it is clear that there is less female infanticide in those states where female literacy is high.
Amrutha Gopal, UK/ India

Banning the tests will merely make them more expensive and drive them underground. There should instead be a powerful and sustained media campaign against gender-selective abortion, generating a stigma against those who practise it.
Dr Adam Nayyar, Pakistan/ USA

India is an extremely male-dominated society. So if everyone is desperate to have sons, so be it. Better for the girls never to be born, rather than be discriminated against. And then all the men can live happily ever after.
Deepti, India

The social fabric is continually spun in evolving patterns. As more and more from the younger generation go to the cities or abroad to work, the extended family structure will decay into the nuclear family model. The South-Asian son, who is often times filled with filial duty, is unable to support his parents' past financial remittances due to his work. In the wake of this evolution, parents will unfortunately have to come to terms with parting from their children - both sons and daughters, who either willingly or unwillingly find themselves ravelled in the nuclear family unit. Daughters or sons, what's the difference if they're going to leave?
Vijay Pahilwani, India/ USA

A great majority of young men's parents negotiate with the girls' parents as if buying merchandise

Agha Ata, USA
The whole problem of female infanticide needs to be seen from a different perspective. Just look at the cases in India where parents kill their grownup daughters or commit suicide themselves because they cannot arrange a marriage for their daughters, as they are too poor to give a big dowry. I wouldn't know how it all started. But, this remains the biggest reason why parents in India do not want a female child. A great majority of young men's parents negotiate with the girls' parents as if buying merchandise. A few decades ago, this wasn't the case, and this too will soon change with good education and knowledge of the world around. By the way, this is also one of the major reasons why girls are forced to marry a boy of the parents' choice.
Agha Ata, USA

Gender tests should be restricted to the most extenuating circumstances such as danger to the lives of expectant mother and/ or child and banned for frivolous reasons. Gender tests have played a major role in female infanticide, which apart from being immoral and disgusting, promises to have disastrous sociological consequences.
Srinivas Bangarbale, USA/ India

Gender tests are an unfortunate example of the way that new technology can negatively influence society. There is a reason for the world population being 50% male and 50% female. Upsetting this delicate balance will prove to be a catastrophe!
Ajay Chowdhary, UK

Female infanticide is more cruel than female genital mutilation, sexual abuse of young children and very many other similar barbaric social evils put together. I was born and brought up in India and I feel ashamed of my roots whenever the topic of female infanticide comes up. The only way to uproot this barbaric social evil is to educate people (specially those who are at the lower strata of social order) and have an open discussion on it.
Bharat Bhushan, Germany/ India

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See also:

11 Jul 00 | South Asia
India rapped over birth bias
04 May 00 | South Asia
Plea to save girl babies
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