Stage Two Women’s Studies
The issue of sex selective abortions is reflective of women’s inferior status throughout contemporary Indian society.
Feminism and women’s rights have resulted in abortion rights throughout many countries, which are thought to benefit womanhood for a range of reasons. However, in developing countries such as India, abortion rights are reinforcing the patriarchy that has oppressed women for millions of decades, through the practise of sex selective abortions. Historically, son preference has existed throughout the entire country, and is still a growing phenomenon. This phenomenon, along with abortion rights, has resulted in an increasing number of women who choose to or are forced to commit female foeticide. Although variations in male to female ratios persist throughout different districts, the average ratio of 933 females to every 1000 males in India indicates gross violation of women’s rights, while making it evident that female foeticide is a significant problem. The termination of a female based entirely on her gender is not only morally unacceptable, but also represents the gender bias and lack of equal rights and opportunities for women in India. These abortions represent and reinforce devaluation of girls and further entrench gender prejudices. Many demographic and socioeconomic factors affect the frequency of sex selection. These abortions have numerous implications for the entire Indian society, especially for the women. Legal and feminist responses have not been adequate enough to significantly reduce this practise, thus, additional awareness is necessary.
Arguably, one of the major factors that affect the prevalence of sex selective abortions in India is son preference. Son preference is motivated by cultural, economic, social and religious desires and norms that favour males over females. Preference of sons is deeply rooted within the structure of Indian society and exists for a range of different reasons. Firstly, daughters’ chastity must be protected and suitable husbands must be found. Domestic violence, prejudice, ill-treatment and disrespect are substantial problems within marriage, in which women are most vulnerable. Extreme cases of violence that can even lead to death through practices such as ‘bride burning’ are often perpetrated in domestic conflicts. Therefore, parents face additional stress and difficulty in finding an appropriate husband. Universalisation of the small family is yet another factor that has undoubtedly exacerbated son preference. The Indian government has undertaken population control measures by promoting a reduction in family size. Slogans such as “Hum do, humare do” (We are two, and we will have two) encourage a two child family. Most families generally desire to have at least one male child and since couples now only have limited chances at producing a male, sex-determinative tests and sex-selective abortions have become more prevalent.
Moreover, daughters are generally not financially independent and do not economically contribute to the household or support parents in their old age, while sons are equated with economic security. Although a rise in literacy rates has recently lead to more women gaining economic importance, traditional Indian culture continues to attribute women to the private sphere. Wealthier families prefer women not to work because this is seen as a symbol of social status and economic prosperity. Also, the patriarchal nature of Indian society allows only sons to inherit property and the family name. Dowry, a practice in India in which the female’s parents must provide the groom’s family with a large sum of money upon marriage, further motivates son preference. The practice of dowry is socially justified as the last expense that a daughter’s parents must bear, as she becomes the responsibility of her husband after...