Female foeticide, or the termination of a pregnancy due to the gender of the baby, is an epidemic in India. Foeticide is against the law but is still a popular practice, even in states where people are more educated and have higher incomes.
In India, girls are not valued even before birth, and this sense of worthlessness simply because of their gender follows them throughout their lives. They are neglected and mistreated by their families and the communities in which they live. This maltreatment has led to the “disappearances” of over 63 million Indian women.
It’s more than likely most of these women are dead.
Due to fewer and fewer girls being born in India, the sex ratio in the country is extremely skewed, which leaves many men desperate for a wife. This desperation is tragic for so many girls, and millions of women disappear and are forced into sex trafficking.
“I was made to do field work, cut grass and feed cows, do all the work,” said Sanjida Khan, a woman who was drugged and kidnapped by a girl she met while playing as a child. “I cried for a year, I was in captivity for four years.”
Her kidnappers went on to sell her as a slave bride.
Sanjida is considered to be lucky because her husband and his family treat her very well. They now have four children: two boys and two girls.
Sanjida’s “luck” is rare, unfortunately. Most women do not end up with husbands capable of supporting them or their families. They are bought for very little money, sometimes as little as 6,000 rupees ($90 USD), are impregnated by their old or handicapped husbands, and are then left with nothing when the husbands die.
When they aren’t key players in the trafficking of their children, the parents of missing children suffer very deeply as well. Some spend years tracking their daughters down, and if they are so lucky as to find them, sometimes it is too late.
“I was sleeping when I heard a voice like my father’s calling out for me,” says Sanjida. “He told me he had come to take me home, but I couldn’t leave [because I was already three months pregnant].”
Even though he could not take her home, Sanjida’s father is extremely fortunate for being able to track down his daughter. Many families are not as successful. An anonymous couple, whose 13-year-old daughter went missing 6 years ago, live in fear of her traffickers, who are believed to live in their village.
“I’m still afraid,” says the hopeless, heartbroken mother. “We can’t talk too loudly because maybe the traffickers are listening.”
The couple has spent over 130,000 rupees ($2,000 USD) searching for their daughter. They say they will never give up hope of finding her.
“Economic development and higher level of education are not enough to promote or ensure gender equality,” says former India representative for UN Women, Rebecca Reichmann Tavares. “Even having a legal and policy system that has done everything to ensure legal rights for women and for girls, has not been enough.”
Tavares believes that the government is seriously committed to addressing this epidemic, which has been a well-known issue for quite some time. It is clear that even more needs to be done in this country to reverse the tragic fate for many women who have not yet even been born.
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