The news that Casey Anthony was acquitted of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee (and thereby avoiding a death penalty), reminded in some ways of a horrific social problem in my own native country, India.
One of the most frightening aspects of life in India is the wholesale disregard many people have for baby girls – literally millions have been murdered, often by their own parents.
Whereas Casey Anthony’s guilt remains debatable (most people seem to believe she killed her child), there is no doubt that life in India for infant girls (as well as fetuses) involves extremely high risk.
The numbers are terrifying.
On top of an already-disturbingly high mortality rate of female babies (estimated at 52 deaths for every 1,000 live births in 2009; versus 49 for boys); untold more female infants are killed shortly after birth – usually by their parents.
Among other things, this is skewing the sex ratio in the country. According to India’s latest census report, in some parts of the land there are about only 780 young girls per 1000 young boys.
The preference for boys is deeply rooted in ancient customs, and remains prevalent in traditional rural areas. For one thing, a daughter is viewed as a burden because once she is married off, the groom’s family will demand a dowry – the size of which can sometimes amount to many times a man’s yearly salary. Obviously, for India’s poor such a financial burden creates an untenable predicament.
Dhruv Sanghavi, an Indian activist based in Delhi told HETQ Online, an Armenian news agency: I have a few friends that come from the state of Rajasthan which is a northwestern state in India which borders… Pakistan. In that state, there are villages which are famous for having not a single girl child at all and so there are only male children in villages. In Rajasthan there are numerous reports every year that the girl child as soon as she is born is killed,
However, female infanticide also occurs among India’s wealthy classes. While ultrasound tests to determine an unborn child’s gender is illegal in India, affluent families sometimes pay for such medical examinations. If the fetus is a female, an abortion (also generally illegal) often occurs.
Sanghavi added: These aren't unique cases. I do not think that when you have villages with only men and only boys, this can be called to be unique. Of course, if you look at the whole population of India, there are few cases that come to light. But these cases do show that these practices are still prevalent. Of course, they are not a majority. But the fact that it still happens in some rural areas as a matter of practice is shocking indeed.”
Even if a case female infanticide is provable, criminal prosecutions are rare or very slow.
Sanghavi explained: “Whenever these cases come to light and whenever it is brought before the judicial system, they are brought to justice. Of course, there is lot of manipulation that can be done with the judicial system, as well, but most definitely our judiciary is strong and independent and does take action whenever possible.”
But this problem pervades across Asia.
Mara Hvistendahl, a Beijing, China-based author and researcher has written extensively about female infanticide across Asia, In her book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, she estimates that 100-million women are “missing” from the world.
The United Nations Development Program reported that of the 100-million females “missing”, India and China accounted for 85 percent of that figure.
Of course, the Casey Anthony case has little to do with female infanticide 10,000 miles away – however, it should be noted that while her trial has received saturated media coverage, the murder of millions of young girls in Asia continues unabated.