Childbirth as employment
Indian women are on average paid US$11,000 to surrogate a Western child. There are huge queues to become a surrogate mother, as it’s worth up to 7 years’ wages per child. Some have chosen to do this, but others are forced to by relatives. Normally a US baby is born every 14 days in each maternity ward.
Some women are paid 3 times as much to donate twice as many eggs as usual (which is also done in Spain and Cyprus. In the UK it’s illegal to sell human sex cells for more than about £1,000.). Huge hormone increases are needed to develop all these eggs, which can cause early menopause and increased risks of cancer. Some dosages done in LICs can be so high that they risk death just from that.
Attitudes to women
When Gandhi protested, he said he wanted to see an India where men
and women were treated as equals. Nehru on Independence Day said that “An India freed from Imperialism would built up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and ensure justice to every man and woman”. This has yet to be achieved.
India has high dowries and a strong desire to marry women to richer men, which only increases the dowry further. Girls are basically seen as useless (unless they can produce lots of surrogate babies, or marry off to a wealthy man).
50 years after independence, women compared to men are:
- Less economically involved
- Less literate
- Expected to live a shorter life
It is an Indian “tradition” to murder girls. Rajputs, Sikhs and other warrior castes prefer daughters to marry to a higher ranked man, leading to an expensive dowry… or a rapid disposal of the child.
In 1981, only the rural North-West had much of an excess of boys. In 1991 child killing had spread. For the first time in history, all of the Indian cities had an excess of boys.
Under British rule
The British were concerned at a census in 1871, where there were 972 women for every 1,000 men (The 1991 figure was 929 women per 1,000 men). In some villages in the census, there were no young girls. A female infanticide act was brought in with heavy penalties for child murder and policemen stationed in prone areas. Still, in 1891, some areas had twice as many boys as girls.
Dowries are now often 50% of a family’s disposable income; killing girls has become more common with India’s quickly developing economy. The treatment of girls varies based on the region; in Kerala, girls are educated and a more liberal mindset is taken- daughters are unharmed; meanwhile in the North and Northwest, many daughters are murdered.
Wives play little role in the fields and their value there is reduced further by farm machinery, so girls pay the price for this. The untouchable castes are, interestingly, untouched, as their families need all the income they can get from their children.
Some villages have a 3:1 ratio of boys to girls. Often the births and deaths of women go unreported. If the deaths of girls are admitted to, excuses are given such as the following:
- “Baby just went stiff”
The boys are saved from this because apparently “The correct gifts were given to the gods”.
The Dowry Prohibition Act was introduced in 1961, but has had little effect as the husband’s relatives will ask for commodities such as TVs- and also because people have just ignored the law.
Dowry murder is now a common issue. If a bride’s family doesn’t pay, she has an “accident” with a kerosene stove. At least 2,000 are killed per year by this, and it wasn’t common until the 1970’s.
For a boy, mothers are in hospital for several days. For a girl, they will leave very soon after the birth.
Traditional midwives (dais) will often kill a girl for a fee of 150 rupees (roughly £2). They claim they can assess the sex before birth; in some places each dais admits to a murder every week.
Relatives will often kill the child themselves, or force the mother to feed the baby tobacco, which is highly poisonous to an infant; if she refuses, she is kicked out or murdered herself. These sorts of killings were once only practiced by the higher castes, but trying to copy their “betters” has meant people through all aspects of society could be practicing it. As the economy has improved, the rates of murders have risen.
Kaller– Southern India
Kaller was a criminal area while India was ruled by a Raj. Many were imprisoned for banditry; women were assertive, worked hard and supported their families, especially while the men were jailed. They were poverty stricken, but there were no dowries or infanticides.
In 1958, a dam was built in the area. Some communities could grow cash crops but most stayed poor. Straight away, dowries were introduced in the area. Parents were desperate to marry off their daughters to richer families. It now has among the highest rates of infanticide in India.
In fact it is the place where, for the first time, someone was found guilty of infanticide in India. The mother was imprisoned, but the chances are that her husband forced her to.
Medical science and India’s infanticide
The World Health Organisation insists that sex is not a disease, so termination of a baby by sex is supposedly against international law. Many think prenatal diagnosis was invented to check the sex of the fetus, not to check for disease.
A herbal remedy called “Select” meant to turn girls into boys has been banned by the government.
Prenatal sex tests were banned in 1996, with a 3 year sentence and a heavy fine, but this doesn’t apply to private clinics. “Better 500 rupees today than 500,000 tomorrow” was the (now banned) slogan of one clinic. Bombay has 200 sex-screening clinics alone, with all most all female babies being aborted if found.
This process of rooting out girls is even easier with a portable system taken between villages. Up to a million girls are killed each year. The scanner costs an unskilled worker 2 months’ wages, but for them, this is financially worthwhile.
For the middle classes, private clinics have in vitro fertilisation followed by the selection of a desired sex, and of 12 clinics asked, not a single girl was requested.
(Image sources: http://designobserver.com/feature/gendered-arrangements-india/37993/ http://www.cghr.org/2011/05/selective-abortion-may-account-for-up-to-12-million-missing-girls-in-india-new-lancet-study/ https://ethicsalarms.com/2015/09/14/npr-was-going-on-today-about-the-terrible-scourge-of-sex-specific-abortion-in-india-and-how-girls-in-india-have-to-fight-for-their-rights-before-theyre-even-born-wait-what/ http://pmindia.gov.in/en/former_pm/shri-jawaharlal-nehru/ http://history1900s.about.com/od/people/a/gandhi.htm http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/sexselection-abortions-cause-of-missing-girls-in-india/1168185/
It should be noted I have not source 1 image here; that is for the home gender selection kit picture. Although it is reasonable to show the material that would be used’s advertising, I don’t want to facilitate anybody using it themselves.)