For a generation, India had a bad combination of prejudice against girls, and widespread technology to tell the sex of babies before they are born. The result was massive use of sex-selection abortions. In parts of northern and western India, particularly in villages, sex ratios of 800 girls for every thousand boys were common. Activists against girl feticide report that there is a country saying that if you have two girls, you must have done something wrong in a past life. The practice has been going on so long that young men in these regions face a serious shortage of potential brides. They have taken to buying brides from regions hundreds of miles away.
The Indian government cracked down in 2001 on selection-abortions and doctors who misuse sex-identification technology. This has helped in reducing the practice of killing girl fetuses.
A new study, reported in the British medical journal The Lancet, now reports that the problem is not over. Researchers Prabhat Jha of St Michael's Hospital at the University of Toronto, Canada, and Rajesh Kumar of the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Research in Chandigarh, report that not only is sex-selection abortion not over in India, couples who have had a girl are increasingly likely to select a boy when pregnant with their next child. Jha and Kumar estimate that India is short half a million girls a year because of sex-selection abortion.
As I sit here with my second daughter getting ready for school, I find this chilling. The good news for Americans is that, for all the difficulties that girls might have here, we cherish their lives.