India and the 50 Million

Horrifying article at the Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly on the plight of female foetuses in Indian Society.

According to Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, there should be millions more women and girls living in India than there are. The acclaimed economist compared the natural ratio of men to women globally with the ratio in India, and twenty years ago had calculated that India was “missing” about thirty-seven million women. That number has escalated to fifty million today.

Rita Banerji ’90, whose photographs bravely document some of India’s least treasured citizens, explains, “Perhaps ‘missing’ is too innocuous a term for what is actually happening—the systematic and targeted annihilation of a group [through] female feticide, female infanticide, dowry-related murders, an abnormally high mortality rate for girls under five due to starvation and intentional medical neglect, and the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.

A few figures:

Some one million female fetuses are aborted each year.

Midwives in some regions regularly kill the infant girls they deliver for as little as $1.50.

Dowry-related murders of women stand at about 25,000 cases a year.

A UNICEF report found that the mortality rate for girls under five is more than 40 percent higher than for boys the same age.

WHO and UNIFEM estimate that one pregnant woman dies every five minutes in India.

Roopa (left) is a seventeen-year-old victim of India’s rapidly increasing dowry-related attacks and homicides. According to Banerji, her in-laws forced acid down her throat when her parents refused to pay dowry. Her internal organs are badly burnt and damaged and she has to be fed through a tube in her stomach.

Utter and complete bastards.

Her insides were badly burnt and for five months she couldn’t orally consume food and had to be fed through a tube in her stomach. She was wasting away and would not have survived without major surgery, which her parents could not afford.

Can you Help?

The Fifty Million Missing Campaign is planning a massive survey of gender relationships and the development of gender roles in India, using other countries and cultures as control studies.

Thus, Banerji is looking for a team of professional advisers to help define the study’s parameters and design appropriate surveys. She also seeks universities and colleges within India and outside India willing to help collect data for the study.

To find out more, or to volunteer to help with the project, contact Banerji at
50millionmissing {at} gmail {dot} com


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