Women and girls are suffering horrific abuses in India as the country struggles to combat strong cultural preferences for male children.
Sex-selection abortions and infanticide, though illegal, have resulted in hugely unbalanced gender ratios. In the Indian state of Tiruvannamalai, for example, men outnumber women at an unnatural ratio of 1,000 men per 878 women, the New Indian Express reported recently.
This week, a horrific case in the city of Nellore, India was another example of how bad the discrimination problem has become in the Asian country. The Deccan Chronicle reports the in-laws of a pregnant woman allegedly poured gasoline on her while she was sleeping and tried to light her on fire after an astrologer predicted that her unborn child was a girl.
The 28-year-old woman, T. Girija, survived the attack on Aug. 20 in Nellore, and police said they are investigating. The report does not indicate the status of Girija’s unborn child.
The family allegedly tried to kill Girija and her unborn child because they believed the child was a girl. According to the report, Girija and her husband had a daughter last year; and the husband’s family began harassing her about the second pregnancy and demanding a dowry.
Here’s more from the report:
Girija alleged that her in-laws tried to set her ablaze on the night of August 20 while she was sleeping but she managed to run out of the house and raise an alarm. Locals came to her rescue and admitted her in a hospital.
“They started forcing her to undergo an abortion. On the night of August 20, her in-laws allegedly poured kerosene on her and tried to set her on fire. Girija has said in her complaint that she woke up just as her mother-in-law struck a match stick, and ran for her life. She suffered minor burns on her stomach,” a police inspector was quoted as saying in a report.
Gender discrimination through sex-selection abortion has become such a huge problem in India that doctors are prohibited from telling parents the sex of their unborn baby.
Data from India’s 2011 census found that there were 37 million more men than women in the Asian nation.
During a 2013 U.S. Congressional hearing on foreign affairs, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith opened the discussion by showing the danger Indian girls are placed in.
“Women in India are confronted with a compounding crisis,” Smith said. “By most estimates, there are tens of millions of women missing in India due to the devaluing of female life beginning in the womb.
“Sex-selective abortion and female infanticide have led to lopsided sex ratios. In parts of India, for example, 126 boys are born for every 100 girls. This in turn leads to a shortage of marriageable women, which then leads to trafficking in persons, bride-selling, and prostitution,” the pro-life congressman continued.
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Heidi Miller, who wrote about the hearing, noted, “Studies show that when families do not have enough money for food for everyone, they will feed their boys before feeding their girls, which has led to the mortality rate for girls below five years old to be 75% higher than for boys.”
Discrimination against girls is a problem in many Asian countries, especially India and China, but pro-life and women’s groups are providing hope. The women’s organization Women’s Rights Without Frontiers offers pregnant women in China financial and emotional support when they find out that they are having a daughter.
“The vast majority of mothers are very grateful to keep their daughters, and we have saved hundreds of baby girls this way,” organization president Reggie Littlejohn said.