Disappearing daughters - sex selection in India

18 June 2008

Disappearing daughters - sex selection in India

India’s daughters are disappearing. New research by ActionAid and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) shows that the number of girls born and surviving in northern India compared to boys falls far short of normal expectations, and continues to slide.

The report - Disappearing Daughters - shows that deeply entrenched discrimination against women has led to the survival rates of girls hitting an all-time low. With parts of society regarding girls as little more than economic and social burdens, families are going to extreme lengths to avoid having daughters.

Rise in sex-selective abortion and neglect

ActionAid and IDRC’s research reveals that, despite policies to address girls’ rights and public information campaigns, sex-selective abortion and neglect are on the increase. In four of the five sites surveyed, the proportion of girls to boys has declined even further since 2001.

Although prenatal sex detection and sex-selective abortion is illegal, the law is not being enforced. Doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners are routinely violating the ban, performing abortions of female foetuses and benefiting financially.

Campaigning on women's rights in India

Asha Singh is a women's rights campaigner with an ActionAid partner organisation dedicated to reversing the trend of India’s disappearing daughters in Morena.

"Here in India women are blamed for all that is wrong in society. Men feel they can inflict pain, shame and dishonour on women because we are powerless to fight back."

"India’s disappearing daughters are a national shame. Sex-selective abortions are wrong and it’s very difficult to witness parents determining that their baby is worthless because she is a girl. 

"Change doesn’t come easily but I am convinced we can change things for the better in India. I’m proud I’ve become a role model for many girls in rural areas."

It is estimated that around 10 million female foetuses may have been aborted in India over the last two decades.

photo : ©Sanjit Das/ActionAid