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Did you know that there is a link between female foeticide, female infanticide and human trafficking? Learn more about it here.
Sample this quote from Amudha (name changed), a woman from a village in Tamil Nadu: “A girl is a burden. We cannot have daughters – we are already poor, and now having a daughter means that our money will run out when she gets married. But a son, he will bring in money all the time – when he works, when he gets married, all the time!” So, how does she hope for her son to be married if all the girls are killed in the womb? “Girls can be brought from elsewhere. That’s how they come anyway.”
What Amudha shared gave way to a terrible truth. The regular rise in the number of instances of female foeticide and infanticide has also caused a steady rise in the trafficking of women. These women are then trafficked for marriage, and on occasion, even diverted into flesh trade if they remain unwed.
Being born a girl in India, as many stories already show, comes with a challenge. Culture, tradition and empty belief culminate in the demand for the male child, and ensure that a girl is not a preferred choice. If anything, a girl is perceived as a liability for many families in India, while a boy is seen as an asset. For families that are ridden by poverty and schooled in a very patriarchal cultural ideology, a girl is perceived as an extra mouth to feed and an economic burden since she cannot work as a male child can, and since her marriage would demand the payment of a dowry. This drives many families to avoid the girl child at any cost: right from killing her in the womb to killing her after she is born.
In the event that a girl is allowed to live, she is married off at 12, or 13, even before she can say “adult”. She gives birth to her first child within the first year of her marriage, and then mothers many, many more in the years to come. In India, being female is a risk factor: the sword of patriarchy, socio-economic deprivation, rape, sexual violence, harassment and domestic violence looms large over her head. In 2011, 15,000 Indian women were bought and sold as brides in areas where foeticide has led to a lack of women. The killing of women obviously creates a skew in the sex ratio, which in turn leads to increased trafficking of women and girls.
Simply put, female foeticide has led to an increase in human trafficking.
The relation between the two crimes is very easy to understand. When there is a continued campaign of killing girls in the womb or within a few hours after they are born, there is a sharp reduction in the number of women. This in turn makes the state of affairs, a case of ‘paucity’ of women, where there aren’t enough brides or potential brides for men to marry, procreate and carry the names of their families forward.
As ironic as it is, these are the very men who decide that daughters are worth killing, and yet search high and low for a woman to marry, so she can bear him sons. All the while, these men remain either oblivious as they are uneducated, or unwilling to accept if educated, to the fact that the chromosome structure of the man in a couple is what decides the sex of the child.
A UN commissioned report on Human Trafficking in Haryana (state in India), indicates that this phenomenon is particularly rampant in the said region. It appears that women are brought in from other states where foeticide isn’t rampant, such as in the states of Assam and West Bengal, to the regions where the phenomenon thrives unhindered. The report indicates that these marriages are often projected as voluntary ones, where the girls themselves are lured into marriage under the promise of a happy life to a rich or affluent family.
Female foeticide obviously results in a drop in the sex ratio, which becomes skewed towards men. With the lack of women being a slowly burgeoning issue, it has led to the trafficking of women – particularly in the rural parts of the country – where trafficked women are subjected to forced marriages. As UNICEF puts it, “decades of sex determination tests and female foeticide that has acquired genocide proportions are finally catching up with states in India”.
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