India’s skewed sex ratio blamed on US policy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 1:14am


Millions of sex-selective abortions in India have skewed gender ratios, and the origins of the problem can be traced to American-supported population control strategies decades ago, a US congressional panel heard.

Republican Chris Smith, a staunch opponent of abortion, took up the issue on Tuesday at a hearing of the House of Representatives' subcommittee on global health and human rights about India's "missing girls".

Smith railed against what he called the systematic extermination of female fetuses and authorities' failure to enforce laws against it. India's gender imbalance has grown even as the country has witnessed strong economic growth. The 2011 census showed 914 girls for every 1,000 boys younger than six.

That was a drop from 927 girls for every 1,000 boys a decade previously.

Experts say such ratios are the result of abortions of female fetuses, or sheer neglect leading to a higher death rate among girls.

Part of the reason Indians favour sons is the enormous expense of marrying off girls.

Matthew Connelly, a history professor at Columbia University in New York, said it was Western development professionals focused on controlling global population growth in the 1960s who first promoted sex-selective abortion.

He recounted how the United States-based Population Council instructed Indian doctors in how to determine the sex of a fetus, and publicly advocated sex- selective abortions, which began to be done systematically in India by the late 1970s.

"It is precisely because the US took a leading role in advocating population control worldwide that we cannot pretend that we have no responsibility for the consequences," Connelly said in testimony to the panel.