Despite the clear prohibitions against child-murder by all major religions, female infanticide has been for centuries a prominent and socially acceptable event, notably in one of the most populous countries in this world, India. Even today, the extent of the problem is measured in alarming proportions all around the globe: "at least 60 million females in Asia are missing and feared dead, victims of nothing more than their sex. Worldwide, research suggests, the number of missing females may top 100 million." The data is more astounding in India. According to the Census Report of 2001, for every 1000 males the number of females has decreased to 927 in 2001 from 945 in 1991 and continues to decrease. It is clear that the burdensome costs involved with the raising of a girl, eventually providing her an appropriate marriage dowry, was the single most important factor in allowing social acceptance of the murder at birth in India. Nonetheless, in addition to the dowry system, the reasons for this increasing trend have also been attributed to the patriarchal society, poverty and the availability of sex-selective abortion.
India's population growth has been rapid, resulting from longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality in recent decades. Before independence, the high birth rates were balanced out by high death rates. In the half century since India gained independence from Great Britain in 1947, the average life expectancy has risen from just 39 years to 63 years, as high as that in Russia today. Conversely, after independence, the numbers changed but mortality rates dropped without a matching drop in birth rates. The perception of children became very different. The urban poor contributed most to the population and the reason for this is that they started viewing children as "sources of income rather an investment". They were seen as an old age security and the more the better. Furthermore, even though the mortality rate dropped, it was still relatively high compared to the survival rate. For this reason, fear of child death and contagious diseases caused the urban poor to contribute even more to the ever-increasing population. Part of the reason India is gaining on China as the most populous country in the world is that China has had very severe family planning laws, enforcing a one-child-per-family policy on most of the population. This policy was adopted because Chinese leaders anticipated that traditional large families would quickly overtax the country's resources. While India has tried many approaches to limiting family sizes, this democratically governed country has not enforced strict limits as China has. Family planning has proceeded chiefly through education and health programs, which are effective but which break down traditions slowly.
India is an extremely conservative and patriarchal society. In this society, women are considered inferior to men in all regards. In most families, the first child is usually welcomed- with joy if it a boy, with sad acceptance if it is a girl. Females are unwanted at birth, ill-treated as infants, and not educated in childhood. Be as it may, preference for the male child is mainly dominant as it is related to the age-old Hindu myth that states, "a person's soul is liberated only when a son performs the last death rites". (Dr. Madhumita Das, The Quest for a Male Child). In other words, the birth of a son assures the passage to heaven. The bias against females in India also relates to the fact that "Sons are called upon to provide the income; they are the ones who do most of the work in the fields. In this way, sons are looked to as a type of insurance. With this perspective, it becomes clearer that the high value given to males decreases the value given to females." (Marina Porras, Female Infanticide and Foeticide.)
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