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When Mothers Kill Their Daughters

October 27, 2010

The woman in this photograph is seen here with her fraternal twins – a boy and a girl.

Looking at the babies in this picture, it is not hard to guess which one the girl is.  It is the baby on the right, a skeletal figure, who is half the size of her brother.  She died the day after this picture was taken.

The mother had decided, upon advice from the family that she was going to breast-feed the boy and not the girl. Observe how tenderly she holds the boy’s head.  The girl is not held.  Even the bottle is not held!  There is rejection in the mother’s body language towards the girl.  Also, judging from the boy’s size, these children would be about 5-6 months old, which means it was a slow, painful death through starvation for this little girl.

This of course is an archive photo, given that it’s black-and-white, and is believed to be sometime from the 1980s.

But is it much different in India today?

A few days ago Deepika Parmar, who had given birth to fraternal twins, a boy and a girl, in a hospital in Mumbai, furtively threw her daughter out of the bathroom window in the hospital.   She then raised an alarm about her daughter being kidnapped.  As the staff began to frantically search the hospital grounds, somebody observed on the CCTV recording, that Deepika had entered the bathroom with the baby in her arms, but when she came out her hands were free.  Upon questioning Deepika admitted that she had indeed thrown her baby out of the window.

The fall crushed the baby’s skull, but did not kill her immediately.  When the hospital staff rescued her, rats had begun chewing on her and she was whimpering softly.  She later succumbed to her injuries.

Deepika’s is not an isolated case.  Even though most cases of female infanticide go unreported in India,  ever so frequently one reads a report, often in some small corner of the newspaper about a mother killing her baby girl.  Infanticides now occur in every part of India. Indeed, there are thousands of female infanticides in India every year, and a majority of them are carried out by the women – the mothers, grandmothers and midwives.

Pammi, a 25-year-old, who strangled her 1-day old daughter while still in the hospital in Delhi, initially claimed that her daughter had died of “natural causes.”  Later she admitted, “I did not want a girl child. It’s considered a bad omen back in our village in Bihar. So I killed her.” Pammi had two boys and wanted another.

Seema Sai pleaded guilty to drowning her two daughters aged four years and nine months, in West Bengal, in a reservoir, apparently because she suffered “regular taunts” at her in-laws’ house for having girls.

In  Tamil Nadu, Revathy a 21-year old woman, concocted a plan with her mother to kill her children while they were still in they hospital.  After sneaking them out from the incubator room, Revathy  murdered one of her newborn twins by slitting her throat, while her mother strangled the other. They said were disappointed that the babies were girls.  However, after killing the babies the two women tried to pin the blame on the hospital. (Here’s a video)

One of the cases that the 50 Million Missing Campaign was involved with, was that of baby Karishma, whose grandmother starved her, violently abused her, and attempted to kill her on numerous occasions.   Karishma’s grandfather is a sarpanch, (head of the village judiciary), and it’s a wealthy, landowning family, that owns orchards.  It is not that they could not afford to raise a girl, they did not want to.  So Karishma and her mother were moved to a safe home, given all the support they needed, and we had started criminal proceedings against the baby’s paternal grandmother, when the mother surreptitiously, without informing anyone returned to her in-laws’ house with Karishma, even though in doing that she knew she was endangering her.

The question is — to what degree do we hold these mothers responsible for their acts?

An article in The Telegraph argues:

Social scientists and activists argue that the mother who kills her daughter is as much a victim as her child; they are both subject to the same forces of a cruelly gender-biased society. The counter-argument comes from others: no one can violate a girl’s right to live. Is it possible to make a special law for mothers who kill their baby girls? How would such a law be formulated? All other things remaining the same, can one imagine the horrors that would then ensue [in a society where daughters are not wanted in the first place]?

Indeed, if we promulgate the victim argument, then we’d have to allow the same argument for other victims of abuse who then abuse others.  For eg. most child sexual offenders were victims of sexual abuse themselves as children.   But what is indeed more important here is the individual, independent right of every child born, to life and safety. A right, that no one, not even a parent can take away.

© The 50 Million Missing Campaign. All Rights Reserved. Please see our copyright notice.

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2010 11:39 am

    It seems to see the scenario that there is no need for women to live in India. The next generation will be able to give birth the child without a women, so all the girl children are to be killed. It is very dangerous. I personally request to the Indian government for passing a law for prosecution against these mother, and other related persons who influence the mother to kill their baby.

  2. Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale permalink
    October 30, 2010 6:26 pm

    May be we should make people come to face teh reality of an India nation without women….itis an end of humanity!
    This is fearful.

    • November 1, 2010 5:20 am

      Thank you for your consistent support of the campaign Olutosin! It is indeed fearful how oblivious the country is to its own fate. What is even more fearful is that these are not rare incidents. When this kind of killing becomes common-place it says something very frightening about the collective psyche of the country.

  3. LAVANDULA permalink
    October 30, 2010 9:08 pm

    even though i feel bad for those women they are mothers and should be taking care and loving their children.someone at some point has to say enough is enough and take a stand for their daughters…

  4. potenzmittel fuer frauen permalink
    November 9, 2010 1:43 pm

    I don’t usually reply to posts but I will in this case.
    my God, i thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insght at the end there, not leave it
    with ‘we leave it to you to decide’.

    • November 10, 2010 6:44 am

      @potenzmittel — No the issue of the murder of infant girls is not up for debate! This is a campaign to stop female genocide in India through the forceful implementation of laws (including the one against murder)! Please sign our petition.

  5. Sridhar permalink
    November 10, 2010 12:08 pm

    I read your posts regularly but this time the disturbing photo kept me awake at night. It shocks me how anyone can do this to one’s own children. No wonder the sex ratio in many parts is so absymal. Perhaps, you should involve the CWG medal winning athletes (men and women,notably from Haryana)to campaign against female infanticide and unjust treatment of children.

    • November 10, 2010 2:53 pm

      @Sridhar. The problem with infanticide is that where historically it occurred mostly in the north and west, today it is occurring all over India (that’s why we’ve given the examples from each region). Even communities that never had female infanticide like in the south and east, and tribal communities, Christians, Muslims, are now doing it. Karishma, the baby girl we were trying to save was from a Muslim family in rural Bengal. They are not poor. Her grandfather is a sarpanch, has land and orchards. He has 4 wives and many children and grandchildren. So basically they are choosing which children they want to keep alive. The spread of infanticide to other communities coincides with the spread of dowry (we consistently find a correlation between the two). These communities also did not have dowry before. The reason people are violating both laws is because they know they can get away with it. They are vote banks and so the government — police and judiciary are not cracking down on it with the force they should. And for eg. in Karishma’s case, because of the political clout of her grandfather, and the issue of our volunteers own safety, we were forced to withdraw.

  6. November 11, 2010 1:42 pm

    Thanks for sharing this nice post.

  7. esio permalink
    December 10, 2010 7:58 pm

    Really informative blog article.Much thanks again.

  8. Tiesha Jame permalink
    February 28, 2011 6:10 pm

    Nice post. The information presented here was the greatest I could find all day lengthy, and I have been searching hard on the Web. I believe you should put this up on a large social bookmarking website, you will find that it spreads like wildfire – Cheers – dave

  9. Florencia Guittar permalink
    March 4, 2011 11:00 pm

    very informative blog thanks

  10. Linda Bonatte Barrios permalink
    April 11, 2011 5:52 pm

    I think we’re in the finals of the centuries. If we suffer evil mothers of daughters, what awaits the other citizens? Ponder this terrible reality.

  11. Amrita Ghosh permalink
    April 19, 2012 12:57 am

    I think the mother who is killing her baby daughter after carrying her for 9 months in her womb is equally victim of the unfair Indian society. Instead of punishing victims we should focus on the root cause which is forcing a mother to take this type of action. We should try to eliminate the cause instead of trying to stop its effect. Why she wants a boy instead of a girl? Because having a girl seems to be a huge financial burden to her and to her family. One of the main reasons is Indian marriage system and related biased social customs. In this marriage system parents are supposed to do “Sampradaan” which means they need to give away their daughter to the groom’s family. Not only that they also need to give dowry in the form of gold, money, furniture, automobile etc etc. It’s a financial burden for anyone indeed. As part of “Sampradaan” after the marriage the parents loose their rights on their daughter and may not be able to see their daughter often, the daughter may not be able to take care of them in their old age. So what’s the benefit of having a daughter and raising a daughter? God doesn’t allow us to determine the sex of our baby. Boy or girl, it’s just a matter of chance. If we treasure long lived biased social customs which always make the parents of the girl a looser then we should not blame a poor mother who chose not to be a looser. It’s not fair! These poor mothers are not criminals. Rather people who are still indulging these biased social customs are criminals. There should be enough law enforcement in our country to punish these criminals and eliminate these biased customs which are causing these kind of inhuman crimes like killing baby girls either by her mother or by family.

    • April 19, 2012 6:51 am

      @Amrita Of course in cases where father’s have been complicit they should be punished. But are you suggesting that the mothers who kill should go scott free? That’s a dangerous trend for any legal and criminal system. All child-molesters were sexually abused as children. A crime was committed against them and it warped them emotionally and psychologically so that they also become offenders. Does this mean that we should not make child molesters be legally accountable for the crimes they commit?

    • Amrita Ghosh permalink
      April 19, 2012 1:31 pm

      Of course these mothers and fathers who are killing their daughters should be punished. I didn’t want to mean it. The point I am trying to emphasize is that only punishing them will not solve this problem. We need to investigate why these mothers are killing their daughters? They are not so called murderers and it is not a fun for them I believe. Then why do they choose to do that? Why do they want a boy and not a girl? That tells there is some inequality and bias in the society which makes boy a preferred choice. And having and raising a girl seems to be a burden and disadvantageous to those mothers and fathers. This should not be the case in a fair world which treats both men and women equally. In my opinion this fairness and equality are missing in our Indian society, in its social structure and customs. Until we eliminate the long lived biased customs such as dowry, the notion of “Sampradaan” of daughters, these problems will continue in some form. Even if we manage to save these baby girls from being killed we will not be able to ensure their equal raise in their family. Again I am not saying we should not try saving these little lives. This is something basic we all want. But we want a society where these mothers and fathers will not even think of killing their baby girls, not because of the fear of legal punishment, rather they will be equally happier to have a baby girl, it will not seem to be a burden for them and they will not feel themselves looser for having a daughter.

    • April 22, 2012 6:38 am

      To have people stop killing voluntarily is a utopian view. Think about it — would Europeans have stopped killing Jews voluntarily or would whites have stopped killing blacks voluntarily in South Africa and the U.S. if they were not made legally answerable. Or think about any city in the world, and dismantle the police and courts there. Would people feel safe? Would people voluntarily not kill knowing there is no court or police to answer to? Everyone has a reason why they feel like killing someone else. It is a very natural biological instinct. There is no arguing with it. But the thing is in a civilized society where police and judiciary function — it is not permissible. Whatever the reason for killing! We believe India is not an anarchy like certain African states. It is a constitutional democracy and we must hold the police and judiciary as indeed the people who commit the crimes accountable.

  12. valerie permalink
    April 20, 2014 12:57 am

    how can i source this article? who is the author?

    • April 21, 2014 2:47 pm

      This is a campaign blog post (hence the campaign copyright notice at the end.) You can click on the embedded links (in blue) to see news items cited.

  13. May 24, 2014 2:48 am

    I as well as other people here in the US would be more than happy to take a newborn female. All babies are innocent and deserve a chance at life.

  14. swetha permalink
    July 14, 2015 4:23 pm

    Indeed Indian women mostly educated Indian women India are very abusive and dangerous, we assume that education makes people matured but in India women are are educated lost their sense of caring and started killing their own children and abusing husbands and filing false cases on husbands and mentally and physically abusing elders. Most of these women are born and brought up in families where they over pamper their daughters and forget to teach their daughters about value of life and loving.so basically these women are more concerned about money and property. they think richness will bring them happiness and they do any thing for getting rich. I saw many women in Indian society who totally abused the meaning of womenlyness. I am ashamed to be women.

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