Is a girl child really welcome in an Indian family?

 Aishwarya Rai Bachchan gave birth to a baby girl bringing unending joy to her family and fans. However, a recent international research shows that sex selective abortion is conducted in wealthy families across India, not so much in poorer homes. An overview

Notice this: When it’s a baby boy, hardly anyone bothers to add any more description. When it’s a baby girl, an adjective is often added, almost to justify her coming into this world. For example —“she is beautiful”, ``she is really cute’’ and so on.

In fact, internationally acclaimed author Tasleema Nasreen’s Tweets reflect the attitude towards the female child. She had tweeted “I love Aishwarya Rai. But when I said ‘I wish she would give birth to a baby girl’, people asked me, ‘Why do you hate Aishwarya?’” She tweeted once more: “Why do you think if I say it should be a female baby, is not a healthy baby? ...but her having a daughter can encourage millions of couples not to kill their unborn female babies.”

I remember when I delivered my daughter, our first child, my husband was ecstatic. However, when he began calling up his friends, he was consoled…”oh. It’s very lucky to have the first daughter, she is Laxmi …” “doesn’t matter, there is always a next time” “Ohhh, so are you disappointed?”

It’s tragic that thousands of girls have been and are being snuffed out even before they are born and thousands immediately after birth. The result: a lop-sided girl-boy ratio, tilting towards the male fraternity.

What’s even more horrendous is the recent international research report which states that sex selective abortions occur more in affluent families of India than in poorer homes. A fact narrated to me by a leading gynaecologist of Pune who stated, “Poor parents cannot afford the test; middle-class parents normally have just one child and they do not mind whether it’s a girl or boy but it is the rich patients who indulge in sex selective abortions.”

Lancet, the reputed international medical journal which published the research report conducted by Centre for Global Health Research (CGHR), issued a press release recently stating the research shows that “…in Indian families in which the first child has been a girl, more and more parents are aborting their second child if prenatal testing shows it to be a girl, so they can ensure at least one child in their family will be a boy. These declines in girl to boy ratios are larger in better-educated and in richer households than in illiterate and poorer households, and now imply that most people in India live in states where selective abortion of girls is common.”

Lancet’s press release also stated: “...the 2011 Indian census revealed about 7•1 million fewer girls than boys aged 0-6 years, a notable increase in the gap of 6 million fewer girls recorded in the 2001 census and 4•2 million fewer girls recorded in the 1991 census. In this study, the authors analysed census data to determine absolute numbers of selective abortions and examined over 250,000 births from national surveys to estimate differences in the girl-boy ratio for second births in families in which the first-born child had been a girl.”

The study found that “girl-boy ratio fell from 906 girls per 1000 boys in 1990 to 836 in 2005; an annual decline of 0•52%. Declines were much greater in mothers with 10 or more years of education than in mothers with no education, and in wealthier households compared with poorer households. But if the first child had been a boy, there was no fall in the girl-boy ratio for the second child over the study period, strongly suggesting that families, particularly those that are more wealthy and educated, are selectively aborting girls if their firstborn child is also a girl.”

After adjusting for excess mortality rates in girls, the researchers observed that “number of selective abortions of girls rose from 0-2 million in the 1980s, to 1•2-4•1 million in the 1990s, and to 3.1-6 million in the 2000s. Each 1% decline in child sex ratio at ages 0-6 years implied between 1•2 and 3•6 million more selective abortions of girls. Selective abortions of girls are estimated at between 4 and 12 million over the three decades from 1980 to 2010.

The authors point out that the between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, more than twice the number of Indian districts (local administrative areas) showed declines in the child sex ratio compared to districts with no change or increases. They also point out that, the Indian government implemented a Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act in 1996 to prevent the misuse of techniques for the purpose of prenatal sex determination leading to selective abortion of girls. Yet they add it is unlikely that this Act has been effective nationally.

Isn’t this a national shame?

For the full article in Lancet, see:



Budhendra Pratap Singh Deo
4 years ago
Give suggestions to improve d sex ratio in India..we know d mind set of family,Communities and society. ..Law wl not going to hep you...only we can...
8 years ago
I would want a son, NEVER a daughter for the following 12 reasons:

1. As he grows up, there will be no problem of waxing his body hair which I know costs a lot these days, and I am not from a wealthy family.

People may say that body hair does not matter and stuff, but I have tried not caring, going out in public wearing capris and shorts without waxing, so my parents don't have to spend money on me, but people are cruel. They laughed and mocked and pointed at me, ridiculing my legs and making it very obvious.

Also, girls' haircut costs much more than boys' haircut.

2. There will be no problem of periods. No doctor-visits if the periods are irregular, no worry if there is a stain, no expense for pads. He can go swimming any time he wants without worrying.

Now, people may say that girls can wear tampons but they are not available in my area, and if they exist, are very expensive.

3. No worrying about going out - no eve-teasing/harassment/stalking/acid-throwing/rape/indecent touching - during the day or the night.
Consequently, no rape=> no pregnancy problems. I know drinking is bad for everyone, but if he does stray across the line, all I need to do is scold him. I don't need to worry if he has been raped, if there is an MMS about him etc.

He can just leave home and go wherever he wants to the mall, a pub, a metal concert, a crowded place, a secluded place, a faraway place. I don't have to drive him everywhere just so he can be safe.

4. When he gets a job, he will be paid his salary as deemed by the laws. A girl has to fight for equal salary in many disciplines even in the 21st century. There is no battle for boys in this regard.

5. He can do any job he likes - from mechanical to technical to office work and field work. He can even join the army. I know girls can do all these things too, but she will have to face a LOT of resistance either from the family, or the job itself, unless of course she is extremely lucky.

6. When my son will get married, he has the option of moving out or staying at his own home. Girls in my society only have to live with the in-laws (I am not talking about the elite like Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao and stuff). Thus, my son will bring in money on the table that will not go to his in-laws as dowry.

I know dowry is wrong, but you will be surprised to know that in 99% of the cases the girl's family ends up giving dowry in large amounts due to severe societal pressures.

7. Even after my daughter's marriage, I will have to worry about torture/marital rape/harassment from her in-laws/dowry demands/beatings from her husband etc. No such problem with sons.

8. After my daughter gets a job, I will have to make sure the boss isn't a perverted jerk, or else she will have to switch jobs, even if that is her dream job. No such problem with boys.

9. If my daughter has to work late at night for her job, how will she return? We only own a scooter, and that will not be safe in the unsafe streets of Delhi. Even if she hires the office cab, will the driver and/or her colleagues be trustworthy enough for her to travel with them at night? What if she's the only woman in the cab?

She will either have to get her timings shifted to an earlier hour with the possibility of reducing her salary, or leave that job altogether.

No such problem or worry with sons.

10. A daughter might die after pregnancy. No such problem with a son.

11. A son, being physically stronger, can protect the house from any unwanted element - policeman, intruder etc better than a daughter. He can protect his parents in old age - if they are to be taken to the hospital in the middle of the night etc - it is safe for a boy to travel at night, never a girl, especially in a city like Delhi.

12. I will not have to tell my son - you can't do this, you shouldn't do that. Moral policing is very less for boys as compared to girls.


What I am trying to say is that I, being a girl, am all for freedom and independence. But from my experience, this is only possible in India in a textual manner, or within the confines of her home.

As soon as she steps out in the big bag world, the wolves are ready to pounce on her for NO FAULT OF HERS. Ideally, a girl's extra expense in only in her sanitary needs. REST ALL are due to societal pressures - waxing, rape, unequal wages etc!

And I an not saying that unforeseen circumstances befall only girls. They can obstruct anyone's life. What I'm saying is that besides the usual bad luck one has to deal with in one's lifetime, a girl has to face MUCH MUCH more than a boy, which is extremely disappointing, frustrating, humiliating, insulting and exhausting, not just for the parents of the girl, but for the GIRL HERSELF !!!

I WILL NOT HAVE ANY REPLY FOR MY DAUGHTER WHEN SHE WILL ASK ME, 'Mother, why me? What have I done wrong?'

"Why should I always have to look pretty by waxing? Why am I teased even when I don't reveal anything? Why can't I step out even at 9 at night? Why should you worry so much about me? Why should you spend so much more on me? Why is the ultimate goal of every girl a husband? Why can't I relax for a change? Why must I fight for equality all my life, when this is my fundamental right? Why can't I live my dream in reality?"




That is why I say she is better off in Heaven where the claws of inhumanity that exist in our society can no longer reach her and scratch her dignity right off her soul.

The Fifty Million Missing Campaign
10 years ago
Even Indian communities outside India, in the U.S., U.K. and Canada have horrendously distorted sex-ratios. We all agree that this is a 'mentality' issue. But what are NGOs, government and media doing to address and challenge this mentality?
Replied to The Fifty Million Missing Campaign comment 10 years ago
UTI had an unique girl child scheme called
"Rajalakhmi saving cheme". For some strange reason this scheme was suddenly withdrawn.
Even supremecourt could not help with a favourable verdict for the consumers.
10 years ago
At this rate, the Haryana govt. must look into legalizing same sex marriages. Girls are most welcome provided there is a shift in mindset that they should be educated and made capable of supporting themselves, instead of the age-old Indian philosophy that they are liabilities. Educate India and get rid of this mentality.
Shehnaz Chawla
10 years ago
Vinita "why is a girl child unwelcome"

Is it because she is a responsibility - she belongs to someone else?

Is it because you need to save money/gold for her marriage?

Is it because she cannot look after her parents - she is not "budape ka sahara"?

Is it because she will not be able to keep them in her home after she is married?

What are the fears that face our Indian parents? It falls into one of the four points listed above? And all these are really selfish reasons. How can a parent who is capable of unconditional love have these secret fears in their hearts?

What is it? Why so much fear and anger toward a girl child?

Do parents realise that if they educate the girl child well she can be a great support and look after parents in their old age better than what the sons can?

I was fortunate to have a father who rejoiced when we were born. Infact he is always told us that he was blessed to have two girls. At times he used to say my two girls are my sons. And we fired him saying why girls can't be daughters, why the comparison. He would lovingly reply and say I did not mean that, you both are capable of doing what the boys can. :-)

His only objective and goal in life was to educate us and make us fiercely independent. His logic was once that happens all else will fall into place. He also said that you will find your own life partner once you stand on your own two feet. Sure enough the education and my upbringing helped me find a progressive partner who did not believe that girls cannot earn money, cannot look after their parents in their old age and need to shower gifts and money to the boy and his parents. Ditto for my sister.

My mother at no point in her life has missed having a son. She means it and always says 'A son is a son till he takes a wife, a daughter's a daughter the rest of her life'. So dear parents there is nothing a son can do that a daughter can't. Just bring her up with respect dignity and education.

Also if all of us with sons stop misusing our customs and traditions and expect the girls' side to do all the lena dena, have lavish weddings take money from them (dowry or otherwise) - parents will be happy to have daughters and we will be lucky to have girls for our sons.
Replied to Shehnaz Chawla comment 10 years ago
Shehnaz if what you have written is true, you are the most fortunate woman ever born on this earth. Please go to a 100km away from cities and see the life of a woman both educated and illiterate. These women are no more than maid servants. From morning till late night they work. Bonus points from inlaws.
Mere ghar ki rani banegi kisike ghar ki kamwalli. If one of them raise a voice she is either divorced or tortured with all available means. Forget contacting the parents, in some cases old parents are too sick or poor to travel to see their rani. Please accept the facts and avoid living in delusion
Narendra Doshi
Replied to Shehnaz Chawla comment 10 years ago
Very well said Shehnaz
Replied to Narendra Doshi comment 10 years ago
What a wonderful letter. God bless you Shehnaz.
Babubhai Vaghela
10 years ago
Anna Hazare Village Ralegan Siddhi has also strangely skewed sex ratio of 83 percent.
1265 males and 1041 females.
10 years ago
Indian society is full of Hypocrites.

It's the same 'doting parents' who do not intend to give any share of their inheritence/property to their daughter since they believe it's the right of their son only. And in front of rest of the world they want to show they love their daughter.
Replied to rakesh comment 10 years ago
Sir.... the reason for this skewed bias in property rights is the religion based personal laws. If India had a common civil code instead of the Hindu Succession Acts and other religion based acts, you would never have had a gender bias in the distribution of inheritances. You should thank the bloody politicians that Indians voted in over the past 65 years+ that brought things to this stage.
10 years ago
Saying that people want a girl child is more prevalent in the north Indian culture where a boy is believed to carry on the familyline. In south India, mainly people of Kerala, we all give more importance to the girl child. If anyone among us receives the foolish comment like better luck next time, that person would get a lot more than words. I longed for a baby girl and though I had a baby boy, I am happy that I have a healthy and smart son. Many of my friends also pray for baby girls and not boys which goes to show that the new generation unlike its older counterparts are not swayed by gender bias.
10 years ago
Thank you for this awakening article. When my in-laws pleaded that we should get a son as a third child we emphatically refused. We concur with the views of Mr.muralidhar absolutely. As software engineers they excell not only in office but as efficient mothers manage the home too very well. We would not exchange even if the entire world is offered in place of their affection towards us.
10 years ago
Yes.I love to have a girl child. They are more attached to parents than boys.They are more caring..It is always nice to see the girl child growing and becomes hard to digest when she leaves after her marriage..Truly girl child makes father proud
Narendra Doshi
10 years ago
Government needs to go to the drawing board once again, superfast and get the implementation also, fast.
10 years ago
India and certainly some of its northern states are headed for trouble in the coming years. This is stupidity of the first order. Interestingly, this girl-killing is not happening among the Muslims.

Someone 's pointed out in that this is an example of the law of unintended consequences and trend may be due to the Hindu Succession Act, because of which the farmers are forced to divide the land among the daughters too, so they are killing them to protect their holdings. The HSA has also been held responsible for the increase in dowry deaths, because the in-laws demand a value equal to the daughters legal share in the land, which most of the fathers are unable to give. If this is true then this is another example of the density of our law makers and their ill-considered laws.
May be the motto of our parliament should be "The road to hell is paved with good intentions".
Sachin Purohit
Replied to Java comment 10 years ago
You can't hold a good law responsible for some unintended side-effects. The enactment you are citing (if what you say about that law is correct) is actually a good law that holds a girl child at par with the boys, when it comes to inheritance. If what you are suggesting is that the wealth should instead be inherited by only the boys of the family, then though you are not in favour of killing a female foetus, you continue to advocate boys more equal than girls.
Replied to Sachin Purohit comment 10 years ago
Sachin, thanks for your observations. I think one should distinguish between good intentions and good laws. Consider the possibility of a badly considered law made with the best of intentions. Absolute good and evil happen only in fairy tales. Really worthwhile decisions involve weighing the pros and cons, something our parliamentarians have stopped doing long ago, with quick popularity being the sole criteria. A poor farmer trying to eke out a living from his meagre landholdings will probably not be impressed with egalitarian ideas when it's a question of survival of the family. What you are advocating is that he should be prepared to sell off the daughters' share of the land and hand it over to them when they are married. In a generation the rest of the family would be without land and without livelihood. Although I am sure the farmer would be feted as an exemplary, modern, egalitarian individual by urban philanthropes. Regards.
Nitin Kirtane
10 years ago
Yes child is a child , be it a girl or boy , there should be no difference , a good article , all the best NK
Sachin Purohit
10 years ago
I feel like wanting to say "F#@k you" to all those idiots who tell me "Better luck next time" on hearing that I have two baby girls. They came in hordes, "sympathising" with me when my second girl was born. The elder one is 7 year old and the smaller one is 4. I feel the two of them are the sweetest things that have happened to me.

It is shocking that a nation that takes pride in worshipping woman as the ultimate destroyer of evil on earth also killed millions of girls before they got a chance to be born. Also thanks Lancet for debunking the myth that such things happen only in uneducated rural households. I always suspected that education may not necessarily change anything on this front. This definitely means that the government needs to redraw its plans to save the girl child.
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