India’s Lost Girl Babies: What Might They Have Become?

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Thursday, August 15, 2002

Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, The Beverly LaHaye Institute

Mother Teresa has been voted India’s greatest citizen.

Indira Gandhi, India’s Prime minister for 15 years, placed 4th.

Associated Press-August 13, 2002

Killing of unwanted baby girls in India continues to increase. 8, 2002

Two separate items from India this week seem implausibly linked: Mother Teresa was voted India’s greatest citizen since independence in 1947 and it was reported, separately, that the killing of unwanted baby girls is increasing in spite of legislation enacted to curb the practice. The latter is especially ironic in light of the former: the poll identifying Mother Teresa as the “greatest Indian” and another woman, India’s own Indira Gandhi-who was prime minister for fifteen years-at number four. How tragic that a nation which recognizes the extraordinary service of a Macedonian nun who poured out her life as an adopted citizen in the slums of Calcutta and a distinguished woman of political accomplishment and statesmanship like Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, will at the same time turn a blind eye to the abortion of millions of baby girls who are a potential Mother Teresa or prime minister Gandhi.

These items caught my attention in part because the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently endorsed passage of the United Nation’s sponsored treaty CEDAW (the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women), a treaty that is supposed to end practices like sex-selection abortions that overwhelmingly target girls. (CEDAW, of course, is the treaty that would supposedly help women around the world; while it would prohibit that type of discrimination it does nevertheless, aim to assure a woman’s so-called “right” to have an abortion –just as long as it wasn’t aimed at sex selection.) Yet, India already outlaws the custom of killing unwanted baby girls. The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Test Act, that outlaws using ultrasound to determine the sex of unborn children and outlaws attempts to conceal a birth by secretly disposing of bodies, is widely violated around the nation with an estimated 5 million baby girls aborted every year and, according to a recent survey, there are a tragic 10,000 cases of female infanticide annually.

The liberal proponents of CEDAW would have us believe that the UN, armed only with a paper treaty, can end such “discrimination” against women, if only the U.S. Senate would hurry up and ratify it. I doubt it. There are deeply-rooted cultural reasons why families in India want sons. Eighty percent of the mothers who abort their baby girls say that they were forced to do so by their husbands or in-laws. According to local beliefs, nirvana is ushered in by the birth of a male child. Cultural practices such a female dowry, funeral pyres, and care of elderly parents perpetuate the desire to avoid having daughters –only a son can light the funeral pyre, sons assume care of elderly parents whereas daughters care for the in-laws, and the wedding dowry is often an unbearable, even devastating, financial burden for a family. These cultural practices are grounded in religious myths and human selfishness and thus are largely impervious to outside intervention. It will take much more than mere human laws and treaties to make a dent in the kind of values that justify and embrace abortion of girls and female infanticide. The real solution is a change of heart –spiritual transformation. The Good News must be spread –we all, male and female, are created equal in the sight of God.

Mother Teresa, with her servant’s heart, illustrates the widespread impact that a woman, though poor and in an adopted country, can have when her life is totally committed to serving the least among us. Indira Ghandi, with her statesmanship and astute political instincts, illustrates what a wealthy and privileged woman can do with her life when she has vision and is dedicated to her country. These women were distinctly different in personality and gifts; they moved in very different circles and they were motivated by very different goals and ambitions. Both, however, had dramatic positive impact on the nation of India. Both illustrate the tragic loss that India is suffering from the destruction of its girl children.

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