May 29, 2024

Indian authorities investigate extraordinary story of sex-selective abortion

Despite the headlines, it could be a statistical glitch

Authorities are investigating a possible epidemic of sex-selective abortions in Uttarkashi, a province in the remote northern Indian state of Uttarakhand state. Alarm bells went off after figures in a government database showed that none of the 216 children born across 132 villages over three months were girls.

Since 1994, sex-selective abortion of girls has been outlawed, but the practice continues. In 2013, the UN reported that 919 girls were born for every 1000 boys; in 2017, a government survey put that figure at 896. Last year an Indian government report found about 63 million women were “missing” from the country's population due to a preference for boys.

Officials in Uttarakhand said that legal action would be taken against families or medical professionals involved in illegal abortions.

It is quite possible that there simply has been a huge mistake in recording statistics. The villages in the district are small and remote and there are few doctors with ultrasound machines for checking the sex before birth. The district magistrate, told The Times of India: “The reality of the data will soon get crystal-clear within some days. We are getting a ground survey done in order to improve the girl child sex ratio in every village of the district and to eradicate any illegal practice.”   

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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