Skip to content

We Are A Nation of Daughter-Killers, Affirms India’s 2011 Census

April 1, 2011

Photo Credit: Joel Dousset©. Copyright, All Rights Reserved.

“We detest daughters! We hate them so much that we kill them before birth.  And we kill them after birth!  We kill them as they take their first breath.  We kill them while they are suckling infants.  We kill them as they learn to walk.  We kill them as they learn to talk and say ‘mama’ and ‘baba.’ We kill them as they learn to smile and trust, and love, and ask for their favorite foods – mangoes or sweets.  We kill them as they learn to play with their friends, and listen to stories about fairies, princesses, and far away dreams.  We kill them because we hate them.  We kill our daughters in the millions.”

This is the message that India’s, just released, 2011 census data sends out.

The data reveals that in the age group 0-6 years, the gender ratio is 914 girls to 1000 boys.   Which means, for every 1000 boys, there are at least about 60-70 girls under the age of 6 years who were killed before or within 6 years after birth.

This is the lowest gender ratio recorded since India’s Independence in 1947.

What is important to note here is that this data is not just about the systematic prevention of birth and continuity of females through sex-selected feticide, but it is also about the widespread and systematic killing of girls who are 6 years and under.  How are these girls being killed?


It has long been known that little girls in India are often deliberately subjected to hunger and neglect.  It is a cruel form of torture, for often it is how a family vents its anger on the daughters for being born as girls. Many are dying of malnutrition and/or starvation.  If a girl falls sick, the family often will not take her to the hospital or buy her medicines.  A 2007 UNICEF report affirmed that girls under-5 years in India had a 40% higher mortality rate than boys the same age.   This essentially is negligent homicide.


A 2011 report on a study conducted jointly by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Harvard School of Public Health confirmed that girls under 5 years in India were dying at an abnormally high rate because they were being subject to inhumane violence at home by their families.  The study observed that girls were 21% more likely than boys to die before their 5th birthday because of violence.  And infant girls, who were one year and younger were 50% more likely to die because of violence than boys that age.  The head researcher commented, “Shockingly this violence does not pose a threat to your life if you are lucky enough to be born a boy.”


Female infanticide has a long history in India, and chillingly each region has had its own established, traditional way of killing infant girls, methods that include drowning the baby in a bucket of milk, or feeding her salt, or burying her alive in an earthen pot.  In a study by the Registrar General of India published in 2010 in the medical journal “The Lancet,” a curious factor came to light.  Girls in India of the age 1month to 5 years were dying of pneumonia and diarrhea at a rate that is 4-5 times higher than boys that age.  The study makes a critical observation — that the skewed survival rates for girls are a reflection on social bigotry against girls.  But real question is what accounts for this abnormal difference in rate and why these two medical maladies in particular?

The answer is provide by author and journalist Gita Aravamudan, in her book Disappearing Daughters (Penguin Books, 2007), which is based on her research from more than two decades of field investigations of female infanticide and feticide in India.  She observes that old, traditional methods of killing infants can be immediately detected in case infanticide is suspected and an police investigation is launched.  She says

“[To avoid arrest] families adopt more torturous methods of killing [infant girls]…Female infanticide I found had become more ‘scientific.’ Inducing pneumonia was the modern method. The infant was wrapped in a wet towel or dipped in cold water as soon as it was born or when it came back home from hospital. if, after a couple of hours, it was still alive it was taken to a doctor who would diagnose pneumonia and prescribe medicine, which the parents promptly threw away. when the child finally died, the parents had a medical certificate to prove pneumonia.  Sometimes the infant was fed a drop of alcohol to create diarrhea: another ‘certifiable disease.’ (pg.22)


Joel Dousset is a member of the The 50 Million Missing Campaign’s Photo Pool, which is supported by more than 2300 photographers .  To see his other works click here.

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

43 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2011 10:57 am

    I am so glad that you are looking at this beyond sex abortions. I have written an article about the subject as well, at I am quoting parts of your article there, as they will add to the message. Thank you.

    • April 4, 2011 6:03 am

      That is the point of this campaign. What we are trying to bring to light is that there is a systematic process of killing/elimination of women in India at every stage of life. See this article by campaign founder Rita Banerji in The Journal of Gender and Sexuality in Asia and The Pacific on “The Female Genocide in India.”

  2. April 1, 2011 11:35 am

    When we use the words like `murder’ we give life to foetus and that is dangerous- because then we are becoming, in danger, to be party to `pro-life’ lobby’.
    The daughter aversion is essentially an outcome of small family and son preference. Wherever fertility rate has gone down, the sex ratio (child) has also has gone down.
    Subhash Mendhapurkar

    • April 4, 2011 5:58 am

      We have been very careful about making sure we do not align ourselves with any anti-abortion lobby. Have you actually read this post? It is not about feticide? When you kill newborn infants or girls who are 6 years and below at a rate that is 40% higher than boys the same age — that IS MURDER!!

    • namae nanka permalink
      August 4, 2011 7:37 pm

      “When we use the words like `murder’ we give life to foetus and that is dangerous”

      Dangerous? lol

    • August 5, 2011 6:15 am

      @namae — The word ‘murder’ is not used for ‘feticide’ here! Female feticide is the selective abortion of female fetuses. Of course fetus is ‘life’ !!! Ask any biologist that! The biological definition of ‘life’ includes the zygote (the one-cell formed from the fusion of the egg and sperm). But the fetus is not an ‘individual person’ capable of independent existence outside the mother’s body. That is why the term ‘murder’ cannot be used for the fetus. That is why our argument is ‘mass elimination’ of women as a targeted group. We cite article II of The UN’s Genocide Act which clearly states the prevention of the birth of a group is genocide. This includes sex selective abortion and all other forms of sex selection before and after conception. For eg. GenSelect, another technology now available, that’s aggressively targeting India as a ‘market’ simply removes sperms with the X chromosome and thereby prevents the conception of girls. As for this particular post we are pointing out that girls under 6 years are being killed at an abnormally high rate in India. This is murder and there is absolutely no excuse for it for anyone, including the mother.

  3. Masooma Maqsoodi permalink
    April 1, 2011 3:47 pm

    I am not an Indian, but I am a woman. I am sorry for humanity, for Indian parents who kill their baby girls, and I am sorry for those little innocent angels whose only crime is being a girl. What a big crime!!! Sometimes, it’s hard to believe we are living in 21th century.
    I just have to tell the Indian girls that they have a bigger responsibility now, to prove that “YOU” are not less valuable than boys.

  4. Iram tayyab permalink
    April 4, 2011 7:48 am

    Indeed this article is breathtaking. while reading the artcle I felt like pain in my chest, the infant girls being murdered by their own family, a torturous death, which is cruel and inhuman.The above article raises many questions and goes beyond female feoticide, abortions which i feel is more human than letting the female infants dying of slow and torturous death.
    why are they killed just beacuse, to get married parents have to give large dowries, they are vulnarable to rape and other domestic voilence. they cannot support family after marriage and above all its the women who gives birth to man.

    • April 6, 2011 6:08 am

      @Iram — in the end killing is the ultimately violation of human rights. It does not matter what reason we give. The real reason people can kill their little girls is because the society and law lets them! If these same people were very angry with their neighbors, friends, coworkers could they kill them and not be arrested and imprisoned?

  5. April 4, 2011 1:00 pm

    very shocking and hard to believe! though, i live here in india … i cannot believe someone can be that cruel. it is easy to believe killing young women but killing such a little soul of joy ‘n innocence is something i cannot comprehend.

    hope, it’s not true.

    • April 6, 2011 6:05 am

      @ Nevil — very unfortunately, it’s our ground reality! Very importantly — it is time now for India to look this reality in the eye, to stop making excuses, to say — “Enough is enough! No more excuses. This far and no more!”

  6. April 4, 2011 1:08 pm

    it is unbelievable …

  7. kusuma permalink
    April 5, 2011 3:41 am

    Not only do women not live longer than men (as the do in the rest of the world), women in India actually have a SHORTER lifespan than men. My friend, a yoga nun from India told me that the schools that she has established are filled with what are referred to as “illegal children”, babies and girls with defects because their mothers (often children themselves) drank poison after being raped by family or members of the community. Many of her babies’ mothers had been killed by husbands and inlaws.

  8. Sridhar permalink
    April 5, 2011 7:30 am

    This shocking statistic, which by the way has not received a single soundbyte till date on any Indian news channel, tells us how important your campaign is and how neglected the issue is. This campaign needs to have more media visibility. That’s the only thing that works. Have you asked any channel or newspaper – English, Hindi or vernacular- for a tie up? One suggestion, pull all connections you may have to any politician or bureaucrat or corporation and get the IPL to transmit this message. Even if one team/franchise agrees, you have a huge audience. It may sound impossible but is worth a try.

    • April 6, 2011 6:19 am

      @Sridhar — There has been some media coverage of this campaign. Perhaps the census results should have been with-held till after the cricket frenzy was over, because it got over-shadowed by it. Yes, we remain open to and are trying for tie ups with the media. One of the problems has been that the approach to female genocide in India so far by government, local NGOs and international organizations — has basically just been to plead with people to not kill or to give economic incentives. However, our argument is people kill because they can get away with it! And that message needs to be sent out that the judicial and criminal system will not tolerate this any more, and everyone is individually responsible. However, the old approach has a lot funding coming to it, and people and even fund-foundations are more comfortable with it, so there is a political element at work here. Though the government itself also admitted that the old projects are not working. And so perhaps our campaign now needs to confront this head on.

  9. April 10, 2011 3:29 pm

    We Support your activities. Not One But a thousand plus problems exist. Mostly due to Social Evil. Particularly, Ignorance, Illiteracy and indifferent attitude contributes. A lot be done, Very one a little bit will help. We support your campaign.

  10. Sreeni permalink
    April 11, 2011 4:28 pm

    The statistic is slightly misleading, as it says 0-6 this does not necessarily mean a 6 year old, of the 86 girls all could have been before birth, or all could have been at 6yrs old , you cannot tell from the statistic. I would hope that most of these were before birth as i cannot understand the madness of killing them after birth. After birth this is definitely murder in my view.

    Also i get the feeling that most people seem to think it is the men that are killing the women, bear in mind that the women are also involved in this crime, the statistic does not say it is the men that are the killers. I would argue that in most cases where it happens the mothers are as much to blame as the fathers,

    however in reality it is not both of them, they are both as much victims as the baby. Killing your own baby has sever psychological effects on the parents. I would say most do not wish to kill their baby but it is the poor economic circumstances they are in that this happens. I have never seen or heard of this type of activity in the part of India where i am from however that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen and i suspect it does in the poorer communities who are less wealthy and less educated. Ignorance is the greatest killer on earth.

    • April 12, 2011 7:21 am

      @Sreeni — 1) No the statistics are not misleading! The reason that the ratio is given this way 0-6 years instead of at-birth ratio is to hide the fact that it is not just female feticide that is occurring, but a high level of homicide of girls under 6. That is why we have included in this post three separate research studies that come to the same conclusion — that is the mortality rates of girls under 6 years in India is 40-50% higher than that of boys the same age. This is shocking and it is criminal.
      2) If you note we have not mentioned whether men or women kill the girls. It does not matter who (See our post — “When Mothers Kill Daughters“. In the eye of the law, a crime is a crime and every individual who violates it, male or female, stranger or relative, is fully accountable under the law.
      3) Well — the reality is that girls are being killed. The reality is that when a child is born in India or any other civilized democracy, as a citizen your first and most fundamental right is the right to safety and life, and NO ONE, has the right to take that life. This right is unconditional. So even if the killer is traumatized, as indeed most killers are unless they are sociopaths, you have to be tried under law.

    • Tania permalink
      April 15, 2011 3:38 am

      In comment to post-er’s comment ‘…i suspect it does in the poorer communities who are less wealthy and less educated. Ignorance is the greatest killer on earth…’

      There was a study done in Delhi a couple of years back looking at the child (0-6 years) male-female ratio and the continued use of pre-natal sex determination tests. A little surprisingly, the highest imbalance in sex ratio appeared in South Delhi where there is greater affluence.
      Economic status it appears, doesnt play a greater role than traditional mindsets as to why people prefer their sons; it merely provides an effective excuse as to why they dont want their daughters..

    • April 17, 2011 6:55 am

      @Tania — You are absolutely right! In fact that is the pattern that the 2011 census now clearly establishes. The largest gaps in gender ratios occure among the wealthier and more educated strata of Indian society. Also among states, the gap is most among the wealthiest states. We’ll be doing a full post on that soon.

  11. April 18, 2011 3:53 am

    We have started Invisible Girl Project to increase the perceived value of girls and women in the Indian culture. If the perceived value is increased then the girls can survive. We have to fight against this

    • April 19, 2011 4:56 am

      Brad — Unfortunately, the LARGEST gender ratio gaps are among the wealthiest middle and upper class Indians — which the census also affirms. How do you teach educated, professional, well-to-do Indians that a girl’s life has value too?

  12. April 18, 2011 8:31 am

    The statistics are very disturbing. I find them believable. My concern is a solution. I propose that parents are given incentives. For example parents of a daughter are given an allowance and education becomes free for girls upto university. This way a daughter becomes an asset to be cherished. It is the liabilities involved in having a daughter that parents want to avoid

    • April 19, 2011 5:01 am

      @ENGIWE — Perhaps you are not aware, that the largest gender ratio gaps are among the wealthier, educated, middle and upper-class sections of India!!! This is something the census confirms. These are people who are a part of India’s famed global, economic, super-powerdom. This same pattern is seen among the immigrant Indians who are doing well in the U.K., Australia, Canada, and the U.S. In fact, the gender ratio of Indians in these countries are so bad that the U.K. and Australia, too have universally banned sex-selected abortions. What kind of incentive do you think would work for them? As for the poor, the only pattern that is obvious is that the moment money and development (education, hospitals etc) come into a region — the gender ratio gap increases rapidly! The census shows that the wealthiest rural/village areas have the worst gender ratios!

    • April 19, 2011 5:07 am

      The only solution is the forceful implementation of laws pertaining to female feticide, dowry, dowry murders, dowry violence, infanticide and homicide. The British had tried the method you are suggesting a 100 years ago — they would set up a dowry fund. But it didn’t work. The villagers continued to kill girls. The Indian government too tried that method. Failed! The British then scrapped the infanticide law, abolished the dowry fund project and they began to treat infanticides as homicide (which it is) — and guess what. You were tried for murder and hauled into prison. And guess what? The gender ratio began to normalize. Then the British left, and the Indian government neglected all the laws, as it continues to do now.

  13. Karina permalink
    May 8, 2011 2:25 pm

    This is really an interesting article and really brings to light the sex- ratio problem. What needs to happen in India is that less stigma should be attached to elderly parents seeking aid from their daughters. It should not be a matter of shame to be taken care of in old age by them, it is the equivalent to being looked after by sons, arguably better attention and care is given by women. If women were given the same opportunities as men in a much more wider sense I’m sure they could also provide financial aid for their parents. Much more than that perhaps India needs to give up the hope and old tradition of extended families and a family unit consisting of sometimes 3 generations living together. Elderly people need some government reassurances so that they don’t need to be dependent on anyone.
    Another thing which needs to change and I am shocked to find has actually worsened which is a paradox to modernization is the increase in Dowry. Dowry needs to be replaced with girls being included in their parents will. Girls should not be treated as an object or seen as a ‘gift’ to their husbands. Within the institution of marriage, women provide a lot throughout their lives, and do not need to supplement this with financial benefits.
    Even if modernization and change occurs somewhere, unfortunately there will be idle villages which will be stuck in the past. Something needs to seriously change, for humanities sake.

    • May 14, 2011 2:16 pm

      @Karina — Many other countries have the same issue about son preference, or sons looking after old parents, but none of these countries (including Pakistan and Bangladesh) have female feticide or infanticide on this scale. More over the largest gender gap is in the middle and upper educated classes in India — so it is not an issue of ‘ldle villages stuck in the past.’ The same gender gap is in the well to do Indian communities in the U.S. and U.K. (we will do a post on that soon). So it’s not poverty or lack of education. We think the reason is dowry — see and join our ‘War on Dowry’ network.

  14. dee-zane permalink
    November 13, 2011 7:25 pm

    They think girls are just sexual resource not human beings? whats wrong with these people?
    most pathetic people on earth.

  15. Anonymous permalink
    November 18, 2011 4:38 pm

    what is the crime this she is a girl its not a crime we are living in 21 century and in this century daughters and sons have equal position when you will killed the daughters where you will bring daughter-in-law stop the kill daughters and save her

  16. November 27, 2011 7:13 am

    i being a father of two lovely princess i want to do somethingh for this cause so help me

    • emery permalink
      December 19, 2011 9:58 pm

      Mr. Singh i support what you are doing 100%. keep up the good work!

  17. emery permalink
    December 24, 2011 1:24 am

    i looked up the facts on women’s overall well being for Iraq to compare it to India. in several catagorys Iraq is better. when you consiter that Iraq is an active war zone this fact is all the more shocking. to se for yourself go to

  18. kani permalink
    July 8, 2012 9:44 pm

    Goverment need to take severe action Female child killers

    Please Save Female Children

    • emery permalink
      September 11, 2012 10:02 pm

      what they need to do is put such people in front of firing squads that’s the real answer to this problem.

  19. desi video permalink
    September 5, 2012 5:59 pm

    Its like you read my mind! You seem to understand
    a lot about this, such as you wrote the e book in it or something.
    I think that you could do with some percent to pressure the message home a bit, however instead of that, that is great
    blog. An excellent read. I will certainly be back.

  20. Myra permalink
    December 23, 2012 3:17 pm

    It’s not just men that are killing female children, the women also participate in it. However, if you consider how women are treated in Indian society you can understand why the women take part in such a mass killing. At the end of the day they could believe they are doing a favor to their daughters, by protecting them from a life of humiliation and violence.


  1. We Are A Nation of Daughter-Killers, Affirms India’s 2011 Census | Violence Against Women 2012
  2. The empire within: India’s imperialist misogyny, a response to Madhu Kishwar #Vaw #Patriarchy « kracktivist
  3. Warum soll die Vernichtung indischer Frauen als Völkermord (Genozid) gewertet werden? | Die Kampagne “50 Millionen fehlen”: Kampf gegen den Völkermord (Femizid) in Indien
  4. En Quoi l’Annihilation des #Femmes Indiennes est-elle un #Génocide? | The 50 Million Missing Campaign: Les 50 Millions Manquantes
  5. A Nation of Daughter Killers | Indian Women's Rights
  6. Daughters of ‘Mother India’ | Nayak Brothers
  7. Quora

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: