This is my son, Gideon.
I love this picture of him. He was discovering the simple joy of playing inside a box! Gideon brings such light, life, and happiness to my heart and our family! I couldn’t imagine life without my baby boy.
My husband and I would have been happy with either a boy or a girl, but for many families in India, they do not want girls. In fact, they will do anything to avoid having to care for a daughter—even kill her.
Dowry is a big factor in this. Although technically outlawed, dowry is still widely practiced in India. A girl’s parents have to pay a large dowry (a gift of money and/or goods) in order to get their daughter married. Girls are seen as worthless. A burden. Unwanted.
But families expect sons to provide for them. That means parents want to have sons to take care of them when they get older. Girls, on the other hand, are seen as disposable. And that belief (that girls are disposable) is showing up in heartbreaking statistics. An estimated 12 million girls have been aborted in India over the last 30 years.
Babies and toddlers in India are regularly murdered for the “crime” of being girls. In India’s capital city—Delhi—there are only 866 females for every 1,000 males.
I can’t imagine my family and friends pressuring me to abort a baby that’s growing inside of me. Pregnancy and the birth of a child always brings such joy to us! But the tragic reality is that parents in India often face intense social pressure to murder their daughters.
Girls are abandoned in rivers, garbage bins, ditches … some are hidden in boxes (like the one my son, Gideon, is playing in). Alone in the hot Indian sun, these baby girls are expected to die from exposure to the elements and starvation.
Even if daughters are allowed to live, they face a difficult life. If a family is poor, a son is the first to be fed … and the “less valuable” girl is given leftover scraps to eat. Parents are more likely to seek medical help for sick sons than daughters who are ill. As a result, girls are at an increased risk of dying from malnutrition and preventable diseases.
India’s government is aware of the problem of female infanticide, and they outlawed ultrasounds in 1996. They hoped that preventing parents from finding out the gender before birth would reduce the chances of that girl being killed. Sadly, even after they are born, baby girls (and even toddlers!) are in danger of being murdered by their own family.
I was really surprised to find this out—and maybe you will be, too!—but there is very little protection for girls, no matter if they are from poor or rich families. Poor families fear that having to pay a dowry when the girls grow up would leave them drowning in debt for years. And wealthier parents are often the ones who are able to afford illegal ultrasounds and medically-induced abortions.
“The missing daughters occurred mostly in families which already had a first born daughter. Although the preference for boys runs across Indian society, the abortions were more likely to be carried out by educated parents who were aware of ultrasound technology and who could afford abortions,” this Reuters article says.
As a mom, my heart is especially burdened for these girls. They face danger every day.
Will you join me in these 5 prayers for India’s girls?
I also wanted to give you an opportunity to learn more about female infanticide in India. So, here’s a powerful video about how it affects real families.