Female infanticide is the deliberate killing of newborn female children. In countries with a history of female infanticide, the modern practice of sex-selective abortion is often discussed as a closely related issue.
In seventh-century Arabia, before Islamic culture became established, female infanticide was widely practiced. This is attributed by scholars to the fact that women were deemed “property” within those societies. Others have speculated that to prevent their daughters from a life of misery, the mothers would kill the child. With the arrival of Islamic rule, the practice was made illegal and was abolished with time.
India has a history spanning centuries. Poverty, dowry system, births to unmarried women primarily due to rapes, deformed infants, famine, lack of support services and maternal illnesses such as postpartum depression are among the causes that have been proposed to explain the phenomenon of female infanticide in India.
Although infanticide has been criminalised in India, it remains an under-reported crime due to lack of reliable data.
Human rights groups have called it a “genocide.” Former Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh called it an “embarrassment for the nation” and called on the people to “fight” to save the lives of girls.
A report published by the Indian government in 2018 said that the desire to have boys gave birth to 21 million girls who were not wanted by their parents. The Finance Ministry report said that couples give birth to children in the desire of a son and if a daughter is born then she is deemed an unwanted burden.
Every year, 460,000 girls are killed through abortion because parents want a son. The female mortality rate in India is also high because girls are neglected after birth.
The whereabouts of 46 million girls born in India in the last 50 years are as yet unknown.
One of the many reasons for this heartlessness is an ideology that with the birth of a son they will be better off financially and the son will take care of them in old age and also carry forward the name of the family. On the other hand, in Indian society, if a girl is born in your house, she will leave home after marriage and the family will be forced to give traditional dowry to the groom.
Another major reason given for infanticide includes unwanted children, such as those conceived after rape which has unfortunately become a norm in India, deformed children born to impoverished families, and those born to unmarried mothers lacking reliable, safe and affordable birth control or basic knowledge about the process.
According to women’s rights activist Donna Fernandes, some practices are so deeply embedded within Indian culture it is “almost impossible to do away with them”, she added that India is undergoing a type of “female genocide.”
The United Nations has declared that India is the deadliest country for female children, in 2012 female children aged between 1 and 5 were 75 percent more likely to die as opposed to boys.
The children’s rights group CRY has estimated that of the 12 million females born yearly in India, 1 million will have died within their first year of life.
In 1986 it was reported by India Today in a cover story ‘Born to Die’ that female infanticide is a widespread practice in various regions of India.
The Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) wrote in their 2005 report, Women in an Insecure World, that at a time when the number of casualties in war had fallen, a “secret genocide” was being carried out against women.