Female infanticide and female feticide represent serious social problems in India. However, these issues also create much debate over a woman's right to choose whether or not to have a child. While women in India do have the right to terminate a pregnancy, there are several legal stipulations that make having an abortion less about giving women rights, and more about controlling women's reproductive capabilities (Menon, 1995). Women often do not choose to have sex-selective abortions; instead their husband and his family pressure them into aborting unwanted female fetuses (Kusum, 1993). Thus, while abortion is legal under specific circumstances, it is often used as a way to selectively breed male children who are preferred in Indian culture. Therefore, many feminists see abortion rights in India as contradictory to feminist discourse because abortion rights are not being used to liberate women, but to re-enforce the cultural preference for sons (Menon, 1995). However, the practices of female feticide and, to a lesser extent, female infanticide are increasing in India, which has led to a declining sex ratio between male and female children: in 2001 the sex ratio was 933 females to 1000 males (Bandyopadhyay, 2003). In comparison, the average global sex ratio at birth (SRB) is 105 males to 100 females; however, in Delhi, India the SRB is 117 to 100 (The President's Council on Bioethics, 2003). Therefore, while there is much debate among feminists about how to curb this problem, it is clear that something must be done to improve the overall position of women in India. However, because of the cultural devaluation of women in India due to son preference, and women's economic drain on families because of expensive dowries and weddings, women face much pressure to give birth to sons (Hegde, 1999). Thus, until the Indian culture views women as assets, rather than burdens, the practices of female infanticide and female feticide will continue.
[...] the Indian culture views women as assets, rather than burdens, the practices of female infanticide and female feticide will continue. Female infanticide dates back centuries in many Asian societies. This practice was preferred because it did not put the mother in danger, whereas early abortions were dangerous. Furthermore, contraceptives and pre-modern abortions did not provide parents with the opportunity to choose the sex of their child, but infanticide gave parents this power. During early encounters with societies that practiced infanticide, the West judged the practice as immoral; and observers were surprised that the practice occurred among the rich and the poor, and that priests or Brahmins did not prohibit infanticide (Caldwell & Caldwell, 2005). [...]
[...] This technology is relatively inexpensive and accessible in most areas, which makes female infanticide less common (Kusum, 1993). In a recent study in the Maharashtra state, researchers determined that out of 8,000 aborted fetuses of those fetuses were female (Bandyopadhyay, 2003). There are many factors that lead to such striking numbers. Indian women receive validation from giving birth to sons, and therefore, they continue having children until they have a son. Also, while women in India legally have inheritance rights, land and money is generally passed down through sons (Bandyopadhyay, 2003). [...]
[...] Some activists assert that if SDTs are banned, then abortion may also face criticism for being immoral and may also be prohibited. Furthermore, some people believe that forcing a woman to carry an unwanted female child is inhumane, and thus women must be allowed to abort female fetuses (Menon, 1995). However, this belief re-enforces the cultural construction of son preference. The reason women do not want to have daughters is because society makes it disadvantageous for them to have girls. [...]
[...] Therefore, while female infanticide and female feticide reflect cultural devaluation of women, and negatively impact women's status in India, trying to control these practices poses moral dilemmas. Thus, in order to effectively combat these practices, it will be necessary to change attitudes toward women. Simply enacting legislation will not end these practices or the endemic mistreatment of women in India. References Bandyopadhyay, M Missing Girls and Son Preference in Rural India: Looking Beyond Popular Myth. Health Care for Women International, Vol 910-926. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee