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The Devastating Cultural Impact of Sex-Selective Abortions in India

Over the years we’ve run dozens and dozens of stories about the ghastly practice of sex-selective abortions and how the sex-ratio imbalances that result are completely disrupting countries such as India.

CNN recently ran a terrific piece written by Carl Gierstorfer. He is described as “a journalist and filmmaker with a background in biology. He has produced and directed documentaries for German public broadcaster ZDF, Discovery Channel and the BBC.”

The headline on the CNN story—as a good headline should—said it all: “While India’s girls are aborted, brides are wanted.”

We read, “Decades of sex-selective abortion have created an acute lack of women in certain parts of India. Traffickers capitalize on the shortage by recruiting or kidnapping women ensnared in poverty to sell as brides.”

There is an extraordinary shortage of women in certain areas of India, particularly the northwestern states, according to Gierstorfer. Why? “[N]orthwestern states are more conservative and also more affluent, meaning they’re able to afford ultrasound scans and selective abortions.”

And, of course, in a society where males are so much more valued than females, “where everyone wants a son,” it is the girl babies who are aborted in gigantic numbers.

The results? In the “state of Uttar Pradesh, there are only 858 girls born for every 1,000 boys, a ratio that doesn’t occur naturally without medical intervention,” Gierstorfer writes. “The northwestern state of Uttar Pradesh is home to one of the largest skewed sex ratios in India.” (In some areas, the ratio is even more distorted.)

But this huge imbalance has led to purchasing (or “trafficked”) brides–and something far worse. More than 3,000 women went missing in the state of Assam in 2012.

“The National Crime Records Bureau estimated in 2012 that about 10 women are kidnapped in Assam every day,” Gierstorfer writes. “Some of these women are found again. Some go missing forever.”

The driving forces are a decline in overall fertility and an attitude “that sees sons as a blessing and daughters as a curse.” The results are ghastly.

Gierstorfer writes

“The skewed sex ratio is due to what Puneet Bedi, a Delhi suburb gynecologist, calls ‘mass murder on an unprecedented scale.’ Census data shows some districts in India have fewer than 800 girls born for every 1,000 boys, leaving male-heavy villages.

“A maverick amongst India’s medical community, Bedi accuses his colleagues of helping parents use ultrasound scans to determine the sex of the baby and abort females, because of a cultural preference for sons. If this practice doesn’t stop, Bedi fears the worst for the future of India.

“’The social fabric of society we accept as normal is unimaginable when a good 20 or 30% of the women are missing,’ he says.”

The tragic stories he conveys of families whose daughters were kidnapped, or women purchased to live elsewhere in India who when they are arrived are not prized by neighbors but dismissed as “paro — which is derogatory for foreigner or stranger”—are deeply troubling.

“While India’s girls are aborted, brides are wanted” is a powerfully, troubling story. 

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