What kind of parents-of-sons do parents who kill, abandon or abort baby-girls make?

What kind of parents-of-sons do parents who kill, abandon or abort baby-girls make? Does their preference for male children (and their reasons for the preference) reflect in their reactions to things like respect for women, dowry, bride burning, street sexual harassment, domestic violence and female infanticide etc? Are they likely to pass on these attitudes to the sons they raise?

These parents avoided having girl children because they expected to benefit in some way from choosing to have male children? Do they feel cheated when they see the law or the society trying to deny them, say, dowry?

– Why exactly do Indian parents want only male children? Would they abort baby girls if having sons did not mean – obedient, hard working and dependant daughters in law; dowry; and/or male-grand-children?

What are the chances of their expecting these male children to be of ‘benefit’ to them? Do those reasons make them good parents in a society where baby girls are still being born and raised?

Do you think Indian parents who do not want to have daughters would make good parents of sons?

Roshan D shared this link – what do you think?

Why Indian parents should be allowed to choose whether to have girls – Atanu Dey

….In Indian families, as in other agrarian societies, there is a preference for boys over girls. The desire essentially boils down to economics. Boys are more valuable because they can earn more, the accumulated savings are retained in the family across generations, and are a source of old age security for the parents. Investment in boys, in other words, has a higher rate of return.

Girls have lower earnings compared to boys, leave the family when they get married, and what is worse, the family has to pay a dowry to get them married.

…The preference for boys over girls is a rational response to the prevailing social and economic conditions…  [To read more click here]

Related Posts:

So what could make even the average, selfish, money-minded Indian family welcome baby girls?

Only when raising ideal daughters in law is not their goal, would Indian parents be able enjoy having and bringing up girl children.

First name, Unwanted. Second name, Dad’s or Husband’s name.

Is it possible to solve a problem without treating the cause?

Haryana panchayat cuts off married girls from parents’ property

An email: My principal fear is my wife is not going to be able to love my parents as much as I do.


72 thoughts on “What kind of parents-of-sons do parents who kill, abandon or abort baby-girls make?

  1. Excuse me?? “Boys are more valuable because they earn more”…..right?? How about: girls aren’t given the same education, opportunities and upbringing; they’re told the purpose of their lives is to get married and stay married, not make a career and AS A RESULT they end up earning less? Talk about getting cause and effect messed up! The prevailing social and economic conditions ARE THE RATIONAL RESPONSE TO the preference for boys over girls. That’s what happens when you waste away one half of your available workforce. Numerous studies have shown that at the lower income levels, when a man is in charge of money, he spends it on alcohol, drugs and women. When a woman is in charge instead, she spends it on her kids’ nutrition/health and education. Educating women is the single most effective catalyst of economic development in underdeveloped areas. (There’s a UN report that says the same thing, if someone wants to look it up.)


    • The author is just saying why boys are preferred to girls. For prevailing patriarchal attitudes to change economic realities have to. If there were an universal pension/healthcare system in India, then things may have been different.


      • Then how would you respond to the fact that one reason economic realities haven’t changed is because patriarchal attitudes haven’t changed either? Can’t it go both ways? Weakening patriarchy can help the economy (for all the reasons Wild Child mentioned) and a changing economy can weaken patriarchy. Why does one have to come first? Are we just supposed to wait around until the entire Indian economy is transformed before we can start treating women like humans? If that’s the case, then I think we’ll be waiting a very long time.


      • They MAY have been, but I doubt if introducing a universal pension/healthcare system in India will bring about that change NOW. You see, that will be sort of an equalizer. It might guarantee a minimum standard of living to the elderly. But parents of sons who’ve been waiting to reap the benefits – “humne isse itna padhaaya-likhaaya” – won’t give that up to settle for what their dhobi is getting from the government. They won’t turn down a dowry because of it. They won’t pack their bags on their 60th birthday and leave their sons’ house, which means a lot of elderly folks will continue living with their sons, a lot of women will end up getting married into joint families, and a lot of marriages will start with that imbalance of power that leads to the expectation that it’ll be the newbie that “adjusts” to established ways. And so people will continue to prefer sons.


        • Sorry, I should have added it won’t make the son leave on his parents’ 60th birthday either (cos in most cases it’s the son who continues living in the family home).


        • There is another aspect to this.. you see going to an oldage/health care is seen in a negative sight here.. People say that they have been kicked out by their children and that they are not returning the care and affection they had shown when the children were infants.. They do not see it as a means of getting better care or attention to their health or just that in cases their kids donot like them.


    • Hahahaha this is hypocracy at its worst. I wish men could also concieve. Wouldnt it be awesome if women cud concieve boy child n men concieve girl child. Imagine wat cud hapen then apart frm population explosion?


      • Giving tax breaks to couples with girl children may be a good move. That won’t make a difference to those that are below the taxable-income levels, but a lot of male-child preference is among the educated middle class.


    • When a woman is in charge instead, she spends it on her kids’ nutrition/health and education.

      It’s not as black and white as that. There’s a substantial amount of research which shows (as you correctly pointed out) that women from that economic strata spend much more money than men on nutrition and health. However, the same research also suggests that they end up spending far lesser on education than men would when placed in decision making positions. Moreover, while men spend greater amounts on non-productive activities, they also tend to invest more resources into productivity increasing/income-generating activities than women do.

      Off the top of my head, there’s a paper by Eric Edmonds which studied black children in South Africa who lived in households supported largely by social pensions, and found that while households with a woman receiving the pensions ended up with healthier, more well-nourished children, those with a man receiving the pensions ended up with better educated ones. A more focused study by Esther Duflo bore that out as well.

      There was also a paper by Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, who studied the differences in decision-making between male and female members of village councils in West Bengal and Rajasthan. Again, he found that faced with limited budgets, both men and women spent more on things that were a higher priority for their own sex, despite the fact that their constituencies had nearly equal numbers of both sexes. For woman leaders, water, fuel and roads were a bigger priority, while men invested more in education and irrigation.

      I’m pretty sure there are several more papers of that sort, but I can’t quite place them right now.

      What this reflects isn’t that women (or men) are ‘better’ handlers of money. Instead, it shows that when resources are very limited, they have different primary priorities, which is something that should be taken into account by policy-makers so that a balance can be achieved.


  2. That author is ahead of his time. Too far ahead, I think. Yes, ideally, parents should have freedom to choose everything about their family – how many children they have, and yes, even whether they are having boys or girls. But we do not live in an ideal world.

    He says families should have the choice. But when he says “families,” does he not mean “patriarchs” (and the odd mother-in-law who is also steeped in patriarchal customs?) What about the mother of the child? Does she get a choice? Or should she be forced into bearing only male heirs for the family she may or may not have had a choice to marry into in the first place? How far does “freedom of choice” go? Does it go to the individual? To the mother who wants a baby girl to dress up in beautiful clothing?

    And the author himself lives in the United States. Fine, have your male children. Sex-selective abortion’s totally legal here. But shout it from the rooftops how many abortions your wife had before you got your precious boy. Post that along with your son’s height, weight, and birth date on the birth announcement. And the facebook status – “After five tries, we finally got one with a penis!” Let the neighbors know proudly this fact. Display your backward ideologies to the world so that mothers of daughters know which families never to marry their girls into. Freedom of choice means taking responsibility for the choices you make. If you are not willing to face the consequences of your choices, then maybe you actually DO NOT have the maturity to be making them in the first place and the government really ought to step in.

    But the sad fact is, India is simply not ready for this yet. Allow women economic security, stop thinking of them as someone else’s future property, let them care for their own parents, and allow this to become ingrained in the fabric of the culture. Only then can you start making statements like “we should be able to abort girls if we want to.”


  3. First?

    Anyway, I read the article and it was interesting. I never thought of sex selective abortion as an infringement of parental rights. I guess it is.

    Now what kind of parents do people aborters of female fetuses make? I guess they pass on their beliefs to their sons and a majority of the sons continue the cycle. Some don’t because they are ‘enlightened’. I’ve read that children of abusers are most likely to be abusers themselves so I guess sons of female fetus aborters are likely to hold the same views as their parents.


    • Sraboney, even if it was about parents’ rights and choices, I think Andrea Mandal asked a good question – do the mothers always have a choice in sex selective abortions?

      And the author also considers aborting to have boys a ‘rational response’. Do you think such people should be expected to let their future spouse and in laws know how they feel about women/girl children?


      • IHM, I understand that but for women to have the freedom to choose and stand up for themselves, patriarchal attitudes need to change and that can only happen if there is financial security especially in old age.


        • One way you could encourage financial security, Sraboney, is to encourage and support the young women you know who are taking care for their parents in equal measure as their husband’s parents. There is an ingrained myth that daughters don’t take care of their parents. Geez, in huge cities like Bombay and Delhi they aren’t moving so far from their parents and can visit them whenever they need to. I have met many young Indian women whose mother or father have moved in with them (usually after the death of one of the parents). These women (and their husbands) are faced with some social censure that they are taking care of the woman’s parents. But you know what? It happens all the time. Far more than people realize so you are just skirting the issue saying that patriarchal attitudes will only change with proper elder care — these women are already flouting patriarchal attitudes to take care of their parents. Why not show more support for that? Make it a new normal.


        • Sraboney, that’s a chicken and egg situation.

          If every Indian woman decided to fight for a little privilege every single day, then the system could be dismantled in a few decades.

          Women themselves are also to blame for not demanding a better life for themselves.


        • I lost my mother recently and my father would be moving with my sister in a couple of months. And my brother-in-law is very supportive of this decision so much so that they are buying a new flat with more rooms so that my father can have a big room for himself. We have decided that we will not entertian any unwanted comments about my father staying with his daughter blah blah blah. It has to start somewhere and when the family members are strong and postive about the situation, those who are ready to offer free opinions and advice have no choice but to divert their energy to do something constructive. I have known of few women who have and are taking care of their parents and this will gather momentum if many people stop considering daughters as ‘paraya dhan’.


  4. I think people who resort to sex selection to have a male child are having children because they need someone to look after them in old age. They have their own selfish motive for raising sons. I read this article…The name of the writer seemed very familiar and on googling him, realised that I had met him during one gathering here in the bay area…
    I do not agree to most of the points he has made in the article.
    While I do agree that banning sex selective procedures is not targeting the root cause of a skewed gender ratio, but that does not mean they are not necessary. For example, if a person who is poor and short of money steals money, he must be punished. Yes, punishing him is not targeting the reason why he stole (poverty) but that does not mean it (stealing) is the right thing to do! Similarly, banning sex selection tests is not targeting the root cause- which is the mentality of the people to have a male child (for whatever benefit they want from them).
    The other thing I think he is trying to say is economic development of a society is more important than protecting the rights of a part of population (here, females). By saying that males are more economically beneficial to the society and society benefits more from them, and in such a society the choice of sex of baby is to be left to the parents is nothing short of a recipe for disaster. And are the opportunities which girls and boys get (even today) at young age and later in life equal to even compare their economic contributions? I wonder if men today face the same pressure from in laws to quit jobs to look after children, or to chose work so that they can “juggle work and home”!


  5. I see so many logical mistakes in this author’s argument.

    1. Boys are more valuable because they earn more
    Why do they earn more? Because in agrarian societies that are used as example, women are not paid for their work. No wonder men earn more! Maybe we should talk about who does more work.

    2. Girls leave family after marriage and need dowry
    This is a social traditional. Nowhere is it said / proven that without dowry or shipping her off, the women will wither and die. How about NOT paying dowry instead of just killing her off?

    3. Government is protecting rights of a fetus vs right to decent life
    I do not think parents who prefer male children and treat them in a patronizing manner make good parents. They may provide the child with good food and nutrition, but the child grows up with the same regressive conditioning and carry skewed views about the other gender. In other words, the dont grow up to be mentally healthy people. So either way, kids of such parents suffer.


    • Thumbs up!

      To add to point #3, the fact that a hundred million female foetuses weren’t protected has definitely added to the strength of patriarchy. What is the idea? To let people choose until women get exterminated? And when there are very few women left in a strongly patriarchal country, can you imagine how little power they would have? It’s not just about the ones that weren’t allowed to be born (supposedly to save them from a not-so-decent life), it’s about the rest of them as well.

      Look at all the countries where women don’t have voice and/or visibility. They’re like boys’ locker rooms. Testosterone charged. Busy blowing each other – or themselves – up.


      • You are right. This is not something that would naturally work itself out. Instead, the few women that are there would be ‘valuable’ in the sense that a rare diamond is valuable. They would not have freedom or autonomy and the males would take to fighting over the scarce “resource” of a child-bearer. One woman would be shared by multiple men (and backed up by religion!) The fewer women, the bleaker the plight for women. It will not be a chance for women to be more choosy; it will make their safety that much more vulnerable.


  6. In Indian families, as in other agrarian societies, there is a preference for boys over girls

    As in other agrarian societies? What other agrarian societies? Does he mean ‘… as in China and India and a few former Soviet Republics’?

    A small group of Asian countries do not constitute all the agrarian societies in the world. Sex-selective abortion never emerged as an economic strategy in large swathes of the world, including places with as much naked poverty as Sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, it is not even a pan-India phenomenon, being rather rare in the North East.

    To me, this fact alone is proof that the phenomenon is not a purely economic one, but also a cultural one.

    I’m also interested to know what the writer considers ‘prevailing economic and social conditions’. There are no universal prevailing economic and social conditions in India, but the preference for males cuts across socio-economic lines in most parts of India. It is not limited to underprivileged sections of society. The last Census confirmed that some of the richest parts of Delhi, for example, have the worst sex ratios. This is because these people have the wherewithal to act on their preferences in the face of hostile laws. There are people who can (and do) make trips to Thailand to get sex-selective abortion procedures done without legal hassles. Surely, their socio-economic situation is very different from that of a landless laborer in rural Haryana.

    The claim that their actions are a response to a certain situation does not make sense, since people who perform these actions come from very diverse social strata.

    This is little more than shoddy, under-researched pop-socioeconomics.

    Don’t have time to answer IHM’s question right now. Will respond later.


  7. PayaI, I agree with you. Gender inequalities can only be eradicated if women are supported by resources and political commitment which unfortunately most of our politicians don’t have. If healthcare including pre and postnatal healthcare and education were guaranteed and further genuine efforts were made to guarantee an economic future for women, then things would change. Again, all these things would have an economic impact not only on women but the family as a whole. When the financial situation of a family changes, attitudes change. Oh, btw, I do think women should be viewed as human. You see, I am a woman too and I can’t STAND being looked down upon and I try to do whatever I can to ensure that doesn’t happen to me or my daughter.


    • I suspect rural and urban poverty would reduce drastically if women were empowered.

      Women from the lowest socioeconomic classes are powerful enablers of progress. They’re fierce in their determination to craft a better future for their children — to offer them a life that’s better than their own.

      I don’t understand why Indian public policy doesn’t make women the centrepiece of development efforts. Programs that allow women to have greater access to resources and decision-making seem to work wonders. Ela Bhatt’s Seva for instance. Strangely, the government seems disinclined to replicate them nationally.

      I’m not a development expert, but daily interactions with working-class women have convinced me that their zeal and committment would work wonders if public policy acknowledged their contributions.


      • I don’t understand why Indian public policy doesn’t make women the centrepiece of development efforts

        In many aspects, it actually does (or at least claims to).

        Of course, it does not work, partly because of astronomical bureaucratic imbecility, but also because the concept is semi-flawed even in theory. The empowerment of women, without doubt, produces positive outcomes from communities, but this empowerment cannot be divorced from generalized empowerment of underprivileged individuals.

        The Indian government treats ‘development efforts’ as though they are magic words that produce overnight results. You cannot direct development efforts at certain specific groups and expect them to become empowered independently from the society they live in. It simply doesn’t work that way.

        Development is almost always an organic process. Moreover, it is mind-bogglingly complex, due to the fact there are just so many things going on at the same time, so many concurrent sub-processes, so many unique parameters, so many participating agents, so many external influences and so much unpredictability in general. There as actually been a growing fad among economists involved with eco. modelling and QM (Quantitative Methods) to use chaos theory to predict economic outcomes.

        There are several case studies on SEWA which point out that while it has had phenomenal success in creating self-reliance among poor women, it largely failed to provide them opportunities to upscale their skills in order to move to better paid jobs, it failed to substantially increase family incomes, and it failed to pull a substantial number of families above poverty line. What SEWA achieved is certainly commendable, but it is not enough. It is not nearly enough, and while there is merit in replicating the SEWA model, it needs a whole supporting framework to allow it to achieve its true potential. There is no changing the status quo without economic liberty.. The empowerment of women cannot be done in a vacuum, but rather, needs to be done through a much broader effort focused on protecting individual rights, protecting the rule of law, and on creating generally more opportunities for economic mobility among the non-elite sections of society.


      • This is from a paper entitled “Gender Equality in Development” by Esther Duflo, who is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT.

        I’m not saying her views are unambiguously agreeable (or disagreeable to me), but she does have a somewhat balanced and nuanced take on a complex topic:

        Women’s empowerment and economic development are closely interrelated. While development itself will bring about women’s empowerment, empowering women will bring about changes in the decision making, which will have direct impact on development. Contrary to what is claimed by some of the more optimistic policy makers, it is, however, not clear that a one-time impulsion of women’s rights will spark a virtuous circle, with women’s empowerment and development mutually reinforcing each other and women eventually being equal partners in richer societies.

        On the one hand, economic development alone is insufficient to ensure significant progress in important dimensions of women’s empowerment, in particular, significant progress in decision making ability in the face of pervasive stereotypes against women’s ability. On the other hand, women’s empowerment leads to improvement in some aspects of children’s welfare (health and nutrition, in particular), but at the expense of some others (education). This suggests that neither economic development nor women’s empowerment is the magic bullet it is
        sometimes made out to be. In order to bring about equity between men and women, in my view a very desirable goal in and of itself, it will be necessary to continue to take policy actions that favor women at the expense of men, and it may be necessary to continue doing so for a very long time. While this may result in some collateral benefits, those benefits may or may not be sufficient to
        compensate the cost of the distortions associated with such redistribution.

        This measure of realism needs to temper the positions of policy makers on both sides of the development/empowerment debate.


  8. “Boys are more valuable because they can earn more, the accumulated savings are retained in the family across generations, and are a source of old age security for the parents.”

    I suppose the money accumulated by the sonny boys, the notes and the coins, would walk out of the old oak chests and take care of the old parents? Of course, they bring home a DIL purely on altruistic grounds, and put her to work maybe for entertainment? And the huge dowry they demand from parents of girls is because it is such fun having more in the coffers along with what’s been accumulated by the sons, right?! 😉


  9. Sex selective abortions have nothing to do wih the socio-economic condition of the couple. In India, you can find the richest and the poorest couple indulging in it. It is a conditioning which runs deeper than how much money a man has. I think it stems from these thoughts –
    a) A boy is a lesser investment because a girl has to be married with a dowry. So, the first step should be to heavily and strictly penalise people who indulge in such give and take during marriages. We need to be exceptionally strict about it.
    b) A boy stays with parents and takes care of them. Now this runs deeper and needs a change in the mindset. I know that in the past 8 years, I have hardly lived with my parents but my sister has always been there. So, the conditions are changing but the thought is deep rooted. Initiatives from the government can help to eradicate this.
    c) A boy carries the ‘vansh’ (family tree) forward. This is the most difficult thought to tackle and I think this is the root of all evil. We really have to uproot various basic pillars on which our culture is standing to kill this thought. I have always wondered why people give a fig about their vansh? They will be dead by the time the third generation of their family tree is ready to reproduce and no one will even remember their name by the time the 4th generation will be ready.
    I really do not have an idea how to kill point C. Maybe a few sane humans can prepare the next generation to show their middle finger to all this ‘vansh’ talk.


      • Is it really, though? Most people I know in Kerala welcome both girls and boys equally, and even if they have a girl first they don’t seem to try for another boy.


        • It is not only changing, the parents of boys are showing all the nakhras they are picking up from the Hum Ladkewale Syndrome that exists in other states.


        • Well, I don’t know if the number of male babies born is higher than the number of female babies born now, but even according to the latest census, Kerala has about 10 crore more females.


        • @B, yeah, that’s correct. I was referring to the population under 25 (can’t find the link, but IHM or someone else had shared it here a couple of months ago). Should have been more clear there, my bad!


  10. It’s complete bullshit that a male child is more valuable in agrarian society than a female child. You should read “The people’s history of science” … the most important techniques and innovations in agriculture have been pioneered and perfected by women throughout history.


    • Agreed. China is a rice growing agrian society. Rice does not need physical strength to grow, but precise conditions and many man hours to keep the conditions precise. Traditionally, the women and children of the household work in rice fields too, not just the man.

      So again, it is patriarchy that makes women less valuable, not necessarily any inherent economics. For whatever environmental reason it succeeded, Patriarchy itself is much harder to change than those reasons. Back in the day, women spent their entire adulthood in pregnancy and child birth to produce enough babies for some to survive.. making them dependent. However, now in China a woman spends only 9 months in pregnancy as they can only have one child. This makes them much less dependent and much more able to work and earn, and yet their society still prefer boys.

      Patriarchy provides boys’ parents with many benefits apart from economics, as I have stated in my main comment already. These benefits are obviously undeserved and unfair when the economics has already changed.


  11. Why all this business talk in a discussion on something as personal as family? Sons having greater ROI and daughters having higher depreciation/ shorter shelf-life……. I mean REALLY?

    I for one believe business and humanity do not blend well and should be treated separately. Business is inclined towards short term benefits and results in social degradation on the long run if pursued too aggressively. Drawing a parallel with sex-selective abortions, it makes short term business sense for the parents (albeit in a highly morbid fashion) but in the long run it hurts society and the repercussions affect the sons as well (all sons, no daughter in laws)!


  12. I kind of agree with the author. If abortion is legal, then it should be legal in all circumstances. It’s wrong to say you can have an abortion because you don’t want a baby or because of any other reason but not because you want a boy and not a girl. I have always felt that banning sex determination is like trying to cure the symptoms. It is easier for the government, it shows that they are trying, but it actually does nothing. The only solution is to obviously change the way society looks at women, to make them be as valued as men. But that is a very tough thing to do. A blanket ban and the accompanying lip service are so much more convenient, specially when so many of the people in power themselves believe in the inferiority of women.


  13. I agree with Amit.

    The main reason people prefer boys is patriarchy itself. I would think socio-economic factors contributed to the emergence and success of patriarchy, but today patriarchy has become much harder to overcome than these socio-economic factors themselves. Women are now earning and studying in higher numbers, just as much as men in when given the same oppurtunity, and still people like the author continue making excuses of socio-economic factors to justify patriarchy.

    In the majority of families, only the son gets to pass on his name to the kid, even if the wife earns the same. The patriarchal society works hard at keeping women dependent on men, if not for money then for security. If she is earning the same or more money, the patriarchal society condones threatening women with sexual and physical violence to control their freedom.

    I think patriarchal attitudes will die if we take away patriarchal privileges. If parents of girls can see that gender of the child makes no difference to their future prospects, son-preference will disappear. My suggestions would be along the lines of:

    1) Change the naming system. Stop this ‘vanish’ carrying business. Let men and women pick a new family name when they marry or have a baby. Ever ‘family’ then has it’s own family name. It can be a combination of the parents last names or something, can’t be that hard to figure it out.

    2) The bride and groom both ‘leave’ their homes and set up their own home together. Affordability could be an issue.. but I think if the system changes, the economics would change too. More women might then work, as them and their hubbies need to support themselves. This would automatically make dowry pointless.

    3) Give people parental leave when they have kids, which can be split between the mum and dad. Countries like Sweden do this and the result is that the mum and dad both commonly take equal time off to have babies. Let’s stop forcing women to be the primary parent and men to be absent parents!

    and so on.

    To answer IHM’s question:
    People who kill girl babies make bigoted parents of sons, teaching them the same disrespect for women. They probably also want to control their son’s life and freedom since they granted it the favour of being born, unlike the girl foetuses. So I think they also become selfish parents of stunted sons.


    • Carvaka, replying to point #1. Patriliny is still practised in most of the developling world. Indeed President Obama carries his father’s name though that gentleman did not play a crucial role in his son’s life.

      Yet, most Western societies do not carry it to the extremes that Indians do. Somehow, the affective element of the custom has reduced.

      Many Indian men fear their name will “die out” if they remain sonless. This doesn’t seem to be a powerful concern in Western families.


      • Hi Biwo, yes the west doesn’t carry it to the extremes India does. Patriarchy has been challenged for longer here and there is greater gender equality in general (they don’t kill girl babies selectively either).

        The passing of the name in married couples is still very much a sensitive issue though. I only know from personal discussions with friends and blogs I read here. It’s still hard generally for a married man in the west to not want to pass on their name. There’s much more acceptance of keeping your own maiden name after marriage now, but kids and ‘passing on’ of names are still tricky. 🙂

        Women here are also still fighting for equality, although they have covered far more ground. The vast majority of married households pass on the man’s name here as well. The wife is much more likely to give in than the husband.


  14. Abortion is not a sin. A man and a woman old enough or responsible enough to make a baby (or should I say irresponsible enough) also have the right to choose whether they want to carry the fetus or not. Abortions, as I’ve seen (and heard) are done because (a) The woman (or man) is not ready to be a parent (b) Medical complications.
    I haven’t come across a woman that chose to get pregnant that suddenly decides to selectively abort a girl fetus out of her own volition. That said, Atanu Dey as much as I admire him for his blog and economic inputs, is not in touch with Indian reality. His notion of “families” is nothing but a sham right now in India. Even the next door neighbor thinks he has a say in when the woman has a baby or how she needs to be treated. His scheme wouldn’t exactly work in current India.


    • I understand that abortion is inevitable when a woman experiences medical complications. But the couple can always adopt protective measures if they are not ready to be parents. Of course there are rare cases where the measures fail.
      Agree that everyone has a say when a woman has a baby. “Have a boy first, and then you can have a girl”, “oh it is good if you have twins, one boy and one girl then you need have more kids and you can close your account” “you have small round stomach, that means you will have a girl. oh then you will have try for a boy again1” phew!! Why dont they just wish the mother a safe delivery!


  15. Gender equality is the highest in the EU esp. Scandinavia because they have government enabling policies regarding healthcare, childcare, education, financial resources, property, equal pay and equal representation. Whenever one of these aspects is compromised, the status of women is affected. Also, marriage is not important in these countries and there are laws in place which ensure that common law spouses have the same rights as legal spouses. As I have mentioned earlier, political will is required to changed the lives of women.


  16. I do not know who Atanu Dey is, but his thought process seems to be frightening in its ando-centric stupidity. Has it occurred to him that he would not exist if his maternal grandparents had decided to follow his advice and “choose” not to have his mother.

    As for it being rational economic decision-making — he is probably unacquianted with behavioral economics. If human beings were perfectly rational creatures, then old people would be killed off and these very parents who fondly desire sons would be fighting to live once old age struck.

    Behavioral economists routinely expose the irrational motives that spur our everyday decision-making. So “rational economic decision-making” is a pretty irrational concept.


    • Absolutely agree with the idea of irrational motives of human beings. If every decision comes down to economics, we would have mentally-challenged, physically handicapped and the aged killed in droves. The very same child who is fed and clothed in the hope of being a golden goose, has every right to throw the old parents out of the house, as they are not ‘economically viable!’.

      To the chagrin of the author, democratic governments are responsible for ensuring equal rights to all. America may allow abortion and sex determination, but it is important to note that the two do not go together. The girl child is not a burden to the vast majority of American families, and they do not discriminate they way a typical Indian family might. Till such a culture prevails in India, the government has to take preventative measures, if only to ensure that the marginalized female population gets a chance to live.


  17. The core of his argument is this: “The preference for boys over girls is a rational response to the prevailing social and economic conditions.”

    I agree with that. Indian people are no more and no less rational than other human beings, so when many desire a boy, it is not because they are evil, stupid or irrational, but instead because the conditions they live in, and the culture they are a part of, is such that having a boy really is better.

    We all agree that this culture, and these conditions, should change. We want a world where opportunities are the same regardless of gender, where a boy and a girl have similar chances in life. When that happens, parents stop having preferences.

    The question is how to make this happen. And this is where I disagree with the author. Having less girls creates many problems, for both genders. For example, most men desire to marry a woman, and if there’s many more men than women, then many men will be single their entire lives whether they want to or not.

    He essentially says that because current culture is opressive towards women, we should allow people to abort unwanted girls. I think that’s precisely the wrong reason – precisely *because* current culture is oppressive towards women, it’s important to have strong laws that prohibit discrimination.

    Put differently: If the culture was pretty neutral overall, it’d be okay to let people choose the gender of their children – there would be a balance anyway. But if the culture is such that most people will choose boys, then that is in itself a reason to forbid it, both because it would create practical problems, *and* because laws influence culture.


  18. Quoting from the artcle:
    //So the denial of reproductive rights to women in India should not come as a surprise. This, however, is a particularly heartless move. It condemns too many girls to lives of great misery and to some to a death penalty for the crime of being born a girl.//

    First off, is the ban on sex determination equivalent to a denial of reproductive rights? I don’t think there is any ethical ambiguity in women not being allowed to have an abortion on the grounds of the fetus being female.

    What we are witnessing in India is nothing short of a social catastrophe, what with the sex-ratio steadily nosediving, and drastic situations require drastic measures.

    I would liken it to the food-rationing in times of war or famine in the previous century, when people were not allowed to consume more than the stipulated amount of a certain food item despite them being able to afford it. Of course in normal times you could buy as much of it as you wanted as a matter of right. So it is with sex-determinbation–you can well be allowed to abort on the basis of the sex of the fetus if you happen to be at a place where the sex-ratio is not a cause for worry. India, unfortunately, is not one of those places and so the ban on sex-determination doesn’t just need to be there, it needs to be rigorously implemented too.

    Things could rapidly spiral out of control in India if you take the stigma of illegality out of sex-determination. Of course the ban only treats the symptoms and doesn’t cure the underlying malaise but something is surely better than nothing at all !


  19. Male child is still preferred over girl child because even after 65 years of Indian Independence, there still exist a patriarchal society where the head of the family is still a male and girls and women are still regarded as economic liability. I don’t think that aborting a girl child and bringing up a male child does not make good parents. In my view girls are never, at least in today’s modern world, economic liability. They are more intelligent, hardworking and care for their parents much more than the sons.

    Thanks for such a thought provoking post.


  20. I think we should stop thinking of girls and boys and start thinking as human beings .
    I wanted a girl, craved a girl, it has always been inthe back of my mind when i thought of a family was to have a husband and a daughter and to name her mithra !!!! i don’t know why. before kids me andmy husband would talk about this and fight over the name, he wanted shruti , we both didn’t want more than 1 girl ,hence the bickering over the name. later when i was pregnant and quite tempermental ( nothing new) we decide to name the girl shruti mitra.
    Then we got the shock that there were twins in there, great we now had a shruti and a mitra, the next bomb was they were boys !!!!! our world ( atleast mine) shattered, or it felt like it them. my dreams were lost , and yes my first thought was i didn’t want to carry these babies. i was adamant in not going thru more than 1 childbirth and adamant to giving up my dreams. and my husband agreed . i still can’t believe why he agreed but he did. we went to the dr and the nursing home was shocked. i9 mean the entire nursing home … but i couldn’t do it. and my husband again agreed. and oh i went back and forth a couple times, much to the horror of a few people. the gynec was my husband’s aunt and she supported me ALL the way, prepped the Or and i walked out prepped it again and i left again. it took me 2 months to settle down. no one said a word to me ( or my husband didn’t let them) yes they probably thought i was loony . but now i sit back and think what if it was int he reverse ??? what if i wanted to abort my twin girls because i dreamed of having a son and only a son an dnaming him krish 🙂 and i’m not talking pressures here, i had no MIL/FIL etc.,parents out of the picture , relatives not in touch and money was not an issue .
    what then would i have been wrong?


  21. I don’t know if Atanu Dey is right or wrong in his argument about sex-selective abortions, but he raises a very important point. If families have unwanted daughters, would that make mistreatment of those daughters more likely?
    I also agree with him that technological intervention without a change in the underlying attitudes will never work. People will always come up with a way around it. It has already been stipulated that girl child preference is very much prevalent in the affluent and educated classes. These people will either find illegal laboratories or go aborad for sonograms.
    I am not saying that sex-selective abortions should be made legal (I am also not saying that they should be either, I really don’t know), but what happens to the girls who are born to reluctant parents? Have there been any studies on this?


      • I don’t know. And I think these questions are not right for speculation, it should be studied in the field. Misogyny is rampant in India, but stopping sex-selective abortions is not an answer to that. Nor does it aim to be – it really is only a public health tool that the government uses to maintain a natural sex ratio, it has nothing to do with protecting human dignity or changing attitudes.


    • If that were the standard, then 99% of Indian women are unwanted.

      Let’s face it, how many Indian parents jump for joy when a girl is born? The disappointment is universal, only the degree varies.

      So if sex-selective abortion were to be allowed because girls are not welcomed, then ALL Indian women are unwanted and should not be allowed to live.

      I for one, curse this society — that it may see a time where women become so scarce then its precious men face certain extinction.


      • I’m not saying that should be the standard. But neither should we close our eyes and think all is well because we saved a female foetus – what happened to that foetus when it became a girl, a woman? Don’t you think this needs to be seriously studied? Do parents resent girl children more if they are aware of the possibility that they could have found out the sex and aborted, but were prevented from doing so by law? What can be done to make the lives of those girls better in that case? Should there be more “no questions asked” orphanages where parents can leave unwanted girls? Are those girls actually better off with thier parents anyway? Is the loss of a female foetus as bad as condemning a girl to a life of humiliation and injustice? I don’t think these questions should be dismissed off hand.


  22. I agree with some of the stuff the author writes…and to be fair guys I don’t think he says he AGREES that boys are more valuable than girls or any of the other reasons he cites. I think he’s just trying to explain why there is a preference, not that he has the same preference. And I do think he has a point that if abortion is okay, then sex-selective abortion should be too, for all the reasons that abortion is okay (woman’s right to choose etc.).

    But but but imo letting Indians go through with sex-selective abortions legally is not a good idea because it just reinforces partiarchy. The govt. through schools, anti-dowry enforcement and such should be empowering women so they are not viewed as a liability, and we ourselves as part of society should be doing what we can to make things more gender equal. Then once some sort of gender equality is established sex-selective abortion can be legalized. But not yet…
    – 100% agree that this lineage business needs to be changed… maybe the last names of the parents can be combined… or 1st child has one parents’ last name, the 2nd has the other parents’…

    As for whether parents who kill,abort, or abandon baby-girls make bad parents… they will be passing on their patriarchal thinking to their children so they will make bad parents in that sense. But it’s a bit like asking whether people who eat meat (are ok with killing animals) will make bad pet owners…there may or may not be a correlation. Such parents might very well be good, loving, supportive etc. parents to their SONS, but likely not towards daughters or dils. So they might make good parents, but not good citizens/people perhaps?


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