Its population is expanding at breakneck speed, yet its schools are empty of girls
Some call it India’s “gendercide”. In the past three decades up to 12 million unborn girls have been deliberately aborted by Indian parents determined to ensure they have a male heir.
Once, parents desperate for a son achieved the same end by infanticide. But modern medical technology, and the complicity of the medical establishment, has sanitised the process and made it more socially acceptable.
The systematic elimination of female foetuses in the world’s biggest democracy is widening the gap between girls and boys and storing up social problems for the future. In some towns there is already a shortage of brides and there are fears the growing gender imbalance will worsen attitudes to women.
The 2011 census revealed 7.1 million fewer girls than boys aged under seven, up from 6 million in 2001 and from 4.2 million in 1991. The sex ratio in the age group is now 915 girls to 1,000 boys, the lowest since records began in 1961.
Latest research shows selective abortion is concentrated in families where the first child has been a girl. Parents welcome a first daughter but want their second child to be a son. In these families the gender ratio for second births fell from 906 girls per 1,000 boys in 1990 to 836 in 2005, implying between 3.1 million and 6 million female foetuses have been aborted in the past decade.