We Are A Nation of Daughter-Killers, Affirms India’s 2011 Census
“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)
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER