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Treatment of Women

Disappearing Daughters: India's Female Feticide

George Thomas

RAJASTHAN, India -- Every 12 seconds, a baby girl is abortedin India. That's about 7,000 girls killed every day just because they arefemales.      
The United Nations now calls India the most dangerous place on earth for agirl.

So why are these parents taking such action? CBN News wentsearching for answers in a remote village of Rajasthan in northeast India.

Beware the 'Medicine Man'

In rural villages and big cities, millions of families areturning to men like Kilash Boria to help eliminate their girl children.

For more than two decades, Boria's father was known aroundRajasthan as the medicine man. He created a secret brew that he'd give topregnant women to help abort their babies.

"From the time I was a child I saw my father giving thisdrink to women in the village," Boria told CBN News.

"Do you have any idea how many women your father sawduring his lifetime?" CBN News' George Thomas asked.

"At least 500 women," Boria replied.

Abortion is legal in India. Sex-selective abortion, however,is illegal but widely common. The impact is devastating, with census figuresshowing the child sex ratios getting worse. 

In 2001, there were 927 girls for every 1,000 boys. Now thegirls in that ratio are down to 914. In some parts of the Indian state ofPunjab, the ratio is as low as 300 girls.

"Indians are obsessed with having a boy," Boriaexplained. "They just don't want to have girls."

Boria's Deadly Brew

Like his father, Boria is also a farmer but with no trainingas a professional doctor. Nevertheless, Boria took over his father's gruesomeline of work when he passed away three years ago.

He now sees on average between four to five women each month.He showed CBN News how he concocts the traditional abortifacient.

"I crush the bark of the mango tree and marva treetogether into paste-like substance," he explained. "It has to sit forabout two hours. I then mix it with other ingredients and black magic."

The instructions to the pregnant woman are very specific: Hetells her that this entire glass has to be consumed. But before that happens,Boria explains that about 100 milligrams of a locally brewed wine should bemixed with the pasty concoction.

Then on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning, half ofit needs to be drunk. The remainder is to be taken right before going to bedwith a full stomach.

"Within two or three days the women has anabortion," Boria said.

And what is the evidence that Boria's concoction is actuallyworking? After each abortion the patient would place two coconuts on his frontporch as a way of thanking him for his efforts.

Kaveena, 26, was one of those women. Several years ago sheunderwent an abortion with Boria's help.

"I already had a son, but then I became pregnant againand discovered that I was having a girl," she told CBN News. "Thefamily and village pressure was so much I had to do it."

War on Baby Girls

Kaveena's story is one that's playing out in millions ofIndian homes.

"This is probably the worst kind of violence we arefacing in our Indian history," Dr. Sabu George, India's leading advocateagainst female feticide, told CBN News. "It is genocide."

According to a prestigious British medical journal, some 6million females were aborted in the past 10 years.

"And we are heading towards 10 million girls in thecoming decade," Dr. George warned.

While the centuries-old preference for boys is often cited asthe main reason, money is another big reason families kill their daughters.

Dr. Puneet Bedi works at Apollo Hospital, one of India's topmedical facilities. He said because of the country's dowry tradition, theparents must often pay large sums of money to marry off their daughters.Sex-selective abortion is a quick way out of that economic burden.

"A daughter is considered a liability, and nobody wantstoo many liabilities in the house. So it is generally done in the second orthird child, though of course some people will do it with the firstchild," he said.

Author Gita Aravamudan has written about the problem in herbook, Disappearing Daughters. She said this killing is more like aholocaust.

"It's almost as if a whole gender has been exterminated,and we really don't realize today what the repercussions are going to be,"she said.

Violence against Women

Violence and abuse against women is rampant. Rape cases arerising, and growing numbers are being trafficked or sold as brides.

"We just don't feel safe on the streets," oneIndian woman said.

India has banned the use of medical technology to determinethe sex of a baby, yet ultrasound clinics are a booming business.

Dr. Bedi said women have little trouble finding a physicianor technician willing to break the law. Sex-selective abortion has emerged as alow risk, high profit business.

"The law against female feticide is now about 17 yearsold, but it has never been used. No doctor has really paid for his crime asyet," Bedi said.

Back in Rajasthan, Boria isn't getting paid anything nearwhat trained medical professionals in the big cities get to performgender-based abortions.

Still, he insists that he plays a crucial role in hiscommunity.

"I don't do it for the money," he insisted. "Ido it to keep families together, to keep the harmony in the community. If Idon't, there will be lots of trouble between family members."

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Treatment of Women