From uneven allocation of resources to infanticide and sex selective abortions to high maternal death rates and murder of brides - discrimination against the female gender is alive and well in India.

The uneven allocation of resources means more boys survive their first years. Boys receive more food, warmer clothing, are immunized more often, are admitted to hospitals for treatment more frequently and receive more education than girls. A well known photograph from UNICEF, most commonly used to demonstrate the dangers of bottle feeding shows an Indian mother with her twin infants. The boy was breastfed and thriving, the girl was bottle fed and died the following day. In general, more boys are exclusively breastfed than girls.

Infanticide of infant girls continues to be a problem. Laws have been passed against this practice but this has led to more subtle yet even more cruel methods of murder.

A law was passed in 1994 prohibiting tests that reveal the gender of a fetus prenatally and abortions on the basis of fetal sex are also illegal but the laws are not well enforced. Amniocentesis (expensive, invasive and not widely available) used to be the only way to determine fetal sex. Now modern ultrasounds can reveal gender with no direct risk to mother or fetus. They are becoming more and more available, are less expensive and require less trained operators than does amniocentesis; thus sex selective midtrimester abortions are on the increase. Ultrasounds are even being combined with abortion of female fetuses as package deals. These abortions are midtrimester because sex determination by ultrasound is not reliable before that point. These later abortions cause increased rates of maternal morbidity and mortality where maternal death is already extremely high. The high death rate associated with pregnancy further decreases the number of women vs. men in India.

In the some areas of India there are as few as 6 to 8 girls to every 10 boys under 6 years of age. Nation wide the ratio is more like 9 girls to every 10 boys. The rise in the percentage of boys born has been going on since the 80s when ultrasounds became more reliable at gender determination and more widely available.

Brides are still killed, often because of the woman's failure to produce a male child (whose gametes pass along gender folks?). In fact, a bride is not really fully accepted into her husband's family until she has produced her first son. Brides are also killed for what is perceived as inadequate dowry payments, despite the fact that dowry is illegal in India.

The higher the average family income the lower the number of girls being born. Girls are a financial drain on the family. Illegal dowries are paid to the family of the groom and the cost of the dowry goes up with the financial status of the family. In a higher income family the cost of an ultrasound and an abortion is far less than the cost of a dowry. Inheritance is always to the male child and the continuation of the family line depends on male decedents.

Higher education does tend to stem the tide of infanticide and sex selective abortion, but again, women recieve less education.



After submitting the above I got the following comments from rischi which I think are worth including here for balance. "re Gender bias in India : Good w/u. I'll accept it in the quest. But just so you know, India has many faces, and this is but one of them. Sadly, this is very true and it's a serious concern of educated masses in the country, but at the same time, it's also the country that produced Arundhati Roy , Aishwarya Rai and Gita Mehta."



SOURCES:
http://www.whale.to/w/baby_milk2.html
http://www.darwinmag.com/connect/opinion/column.html?ArticleID=203.
http://www.salon.com/health/sex/urge/world/1999/11/18/gender/index.html
http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/308/6927/536/b
http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/314/7081/642
http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/309/6964/1259those
http://www.ncpa.org/pi/internat/pd081399f.html
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/rt21/medicalization/BALAKRISHNANSocial_Context.html
http://www.rediff.com/news/2001/oct/24spec.htm
http://europe.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/parenting/04/11/india.maternal.death/index.html
http://europe.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/south/06/19/india.ultrasound/index.html
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2001/20010624/main8.htm
http://iparentingcanada.com/resources/articles/choosesex.htm
http://thestir.cafemom.com/toddler/122641/parents_changing_sex_of_baby forced gender change surgery of infant girls led me to find this article slightly more direct from the source area http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/8601488/Indians-pay-surgeons-to-turn-girls-into-boys.html adendum 10/3/11

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