Roughly 6.7 million abortions occur yearly in India, but aborted girls outnumber boys by 500,000 -- or 10 million over the past two decades -- creating a huge imbalance between males and females in the world's largest democracy.No, if we're honest (and we rarely are), this isn't just the poor hicks in the dehat. We're talking about prosperous Delhi and Haryana and Punjab. We're talking about the educated elites who pride themselves on their modernity.
Ratios of men to women are being altered at an unprecedented rate in India and neighboring China, two countries which account for 40 percent of the world's population.
According to UNICEF, India produces 25 million babies a year. China produces 17 million. Together, these are one-third of the world's babies, so how their women choose to regulate births affects the globe.
Female infanticide -- whereby tiny girls were either poisoned, buried alive or strangled -- has existed for thousands of years in India. But its boy-to-girl ratio didn't begin to widen precipitously until the advent of the ultrasound, or sonogram, machine in the 1970s, enabling a woman to tell the sex of her child by the fourth month of her pregnancy.
That coupled with the legalization of abortion in 1971 made it possible to dispose of an unwanted girl without the neighbors even knowing the mother was pregnant. In 2001, 927 girls were born for every 1,000 boys, significantly below the natural birth rate of about 952 girls for every 1,000 boys.
In many regions, however, this imbalance has reached alarming levels and it continues to grow. In 2004, the New Delhi-based magazine Outlook reported, sex ratios in the capital had plummeted to 818 girls for every 1,000 boys, and in 2005 they had slipped to 814.
Attitudes are changing, though very slowly, painfully slowly. And, fallen human nature abetted by technology, and a "woman's right to choose," don't lead automatically to the glorious future of "progress" ... but these kinds of nightmares.
Just recently a family friend (a career diplomat who retired from the Foreign Service) shared a story about the birth of his twin daughter when they were in Washington in the early 70s. One of the staff had come up indignantly a few weeks after the girls were born, demanding to know why he hadn't distributed sweets around the office. "I'd heard you'd had a child!" But, when he found out it was twins, and twin girls at that, he slunk away. He just assumed that the lack of sweet distribution was because of this calamity that had befallen the family!