Endangered Humanity?
Sandhya Srinivasan
DISAPPEARING DAUGHTERS: THE TRAGEDY OF FEMALE FOETICIDE by Gita Aravamudan Penguin India, 2009, 188 pp., 250
January 2008, volume 32, No XXXII

Disappearing Daughters is a collection of stories about women’s views of life, about a campaign, about a society in which daughters are becoming rare. Gita Aravamudan travels across the country interviewing women, medical professionals, activists in civil society organisations and academics. She records the voices of women — on what pushed them to seek tests for foetal sex identification, on the lengths that they will go to abort a female foetus and whether they are restrained in any way by the law against sex selection. Woven into these stories are mind-numbing statistics. Census figures record sharp distortions in the child sex ratio over the decades. Researchers estimate that one crore girls are “missing” because of sex selection between 1987 and 2007. Studies establish a clear association between the number of sonography machines (these are misused for sex selection) in a city and the child sex ratio (male-female ratio of children under the age of five) in that area.

Son preference and violence against women exist even in the south Indian states that were believed to treat women better. Sex selection cuts across class, caste and ethnicity. In fact, the educated are more likely to select the sex of their children. Sex selection is not about financial burdens alone; the rich are more likely than the poor to select for boys.

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