Sex- Selective Abortion Epidemic

According to the Population Research Institute (2014), data shows an average of 1,670,079 girls being aborted annually worldwide because of their sex. Unfortunately, this has remained an increasing issue, throughout the world, mostly in Asian countries. India being one of the leading countries following this practice, is where I will be focusing on. Being a part of the Indian culture, I chose this topic because it is something that hit home for me and is an issue that needs to be more addressed and finally put to an end not starting in India and spreading world wide. When thinking about the topic of sex selective abortion, the two questions that come into mind, is why is it still occurring today and how can this issue be stopped?

Like most Asian cultures, India’s society is traditionally based on valuing boys over girls. Girls are seen as a liability, were boys are assets, that will carry on the family name and support the family financially. According to Record News, “On March 8, 2007, International Women’s Day, the United Nations released a report estimating that 200 million women and girls were “demographically missing”(2014). Sex selective abortion, is eliminating a pregnancy due to the sex of the baby. Majority of the time, babies are aborted if they are a girl. It is difficult to understand the morality of the process, especially when not apart of the culture. However, for many Indians, the tradition of a dowry, plays a big part of why many people in India still perform these sex selective abortions. Indian cultures have a deep rooted history with dowries, which is a payment to the groom’s family exchange for the daughter to be married into the family. Due to the poor financial cases for the majority of the families in India, many have these abortions, because they simply can not afford a dowry if they had a daughter. Many Indians, will save up for an abortion, because they believe it will be cheaper in the long run to have an abortion, than have the daughter and pay for all her future expenses. This twisted mentality is not the only factor that influences the decision to abort girls. The sexism attitude in India, also plays the key role in why Indians will abort their daughters. Due to the fact that most girls are not encourage to be educated and start a career for themselves like boys, they do not have the same opportunity to provide for their families such as sons, and are often expected to stay at home and cook and clean for the family. By aborting girls because they are merely seen as an expense and not as a human being, illustrates the ultimate form of discrimination to all girls.

Some may argue what makes this abortion different to any other abortion? Surprisingly enough, the group that is actually defending this practice of aborting girl fetuses, just because they are girls, are in fact feminist. As stated by journalist/feminist Sara Terzo on an article on ThePulse, she claims, “They argue that a woman has the right to abort her child even if she is doing so solely to prevent another prenatal “woman” from being born. This seems like a blindingly obvious case of discrimination against women, but pro-choicer tend to support these abortions based on “women’s rights” (2014). This concept, is hard to understand, because women in India, are usually not the ones who have a say if they want to keep their child. Most of the time it is the husband, or other elders who make the choice for them, which just exemplifies, how little girls have a voice in India. Yes, it is true, that women, have the total control on what they can and cannot do to their own bodies, however aborting a child, based on their sex, is immoral and contributes to why this issue needs to be better addressed and stopped completely.

Cultural factors are not the only thing causing this unethical procedure to continue on in India. The biggest problem contributing to this form of abortion is India’s poor economy. By helping to improve this nation, and giving them more aide in resources they need, this may help with the need to feel like aborting girls is the only choice they are obligated to make. Often times, as stated by Rita Banerji from Woman’s News Network, “Families will often deliberately starve daughters, neglecting to feed them completely or feeding them the left-overs if there are any after the men and boys are done eating” (2012). This mentality that a girl’s life is not as equal to a boy’s is ripping apart a nation, and serious matter needs to be done about the paradoxical gender inequality that India faces. If improving the economy of this developing country, will save the lives of millions of innocent girls a year then, attention needs to be brought to this corrupt government system in India.

India’s poor economy status tie in with the corruption of the government that causes sex selective abortions to continue to carry on throughout regions of India. In fact, India already has existing laws that prohibit abortions unless in cases of rape or incest. This law was in action in 1971 and was called the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. However, once technology started to advanced, and there were more sources to ultrasounds and medical advances to abort unwanted female fetuses, more villages in India begun to practice these abortions illegally. The abortion act was then re-acknowledge in 1994 in India, with the Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques Act, which prohibited sex screening to determine if the baby was a girl or not and abortions. Due to the government system being so weak and the high amount of bribing that goes on in India when it comes to police and other forms of authority, this second act failed once again, and sex selective abortions are continuing to happen throughout India and slowly spreading globally to other countries.

This spread of sex selective abortions, is not only damaging the country of India by decreasing the sex ratio, which as stated by the data from Census of India, researcher Prabhat Jha of the Centre for Global Health at the University of Toronto, “fell from 906 girls per 1,000 boys in 1990 to 836 girls per 1,000 boys in 2005, an annual decline of a half of a percent” (2011). This shows the huge impact sex selective abortions is having on the demographics of females in India. This is causing an even bigger problem when it comes to crime in India, which eventually will impact crime globally. The crime that sex selective abortions impact the most is human trafficking and not only sex work but as well as kidnapping and selling brides in India. Because there is an extreme shortage of girls, the value of girls in India and other Asian countries who practice sex selective abortions, will increase and girls will become more sacred. So more attempts to kidnap and sell young girls will occur in India and spread throughout the world which has already beginning to happen. By increasing the population of girls in India, there will be more girls actually being protected from being apart of this dangerous sex market.

When it comes to putting a stop to sex selective abortion in India, it is not going to be something that will change in a day, a week, or even a year. Being a part of the culture, I appreciate the beauty, as well as understand the ugly misogynistic views Indian society will traditional have. However, this is a new generation, and India, like many other traditional countries have come so far to modernize their views. So when it comes to their daughters, what is stopping them? If spreading awareness of this practice of terminating female babies just because of their sex, then what is stopping us as a society globally? There are a number of way to end sex selective abortions in India and help it from preventing it to spread further around the world. One of those ways being, if woman were seen and valued as assets than as burdens they are often portrayed as, then perhaps these abortions would be less common.

Another crucial way of helping save the lives of these girls, is through education. Education, is the ultimate form of power. As mentioned by a reporter on Record.com, “As of 2011, literacy in India was measured at 74.04%. However, there was a seventeen-percentage point between men (82.14%) and women (65.46%)” (n.d.). This shows that women are not given the same opportunity to better them selves through education just like the boys in India have. Also by improving laws that regulate a gender hierarchy will also lower the preference for boys rather than girls among Indian parents. The main two things we can do to help sex selective abortion to continue to save the lives of millions of girls in India is to spread awareness and have the Indian legal system to offer boys and girls the same access to education, the same civil, political, and economic rights. This way there will be no reason to select boy fetuses over girls, and through out generations, will hopefully increase the number of future girls in India and balance out the sex ratio. Just because these girl fetuses are unable to fight for their own lives, what is stopping us from doing it for them?

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