India’s 2011 census shows a serious decline in the number of girls under the age of seven — activists fear eight million female foetuses may have been aborted in the past decade. The BBC’s Geeta Pandey in Delhi explores what has led to this crisis.
Kulwant has three daughters aged 24, 23 and 20 and a son who is 16.
In the years between the birth of her third daughter and her son, Kulwant became pregnant three times. Each time, she says, she was forced to abort the foetus by her family after ultrasound tests confirmed that they were girls.
“My mother-in-law taunted me for giving birth to girls. She said her son would divorce me if I didn’t bear a son.”
Kulwant still has vivid memories of the first abortion. “The baby was nearly five months old. She was beautiful. I miss her, and the others we killed,” she says, breaking down, wiping away her tears.
Until her son was born, Kulwant’s daily life consisted of beatings and abuse from her husband, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. Once, she says, they even attempted to set her on fire.
“They were angry. They didn’t want girls in the family. They wanted boys so they could get fat dowries,” she says.
India outlawed dowries in 1961, but the practice remains rampant and the value of dowries is constantly growing, affecting rich and poor alike.
Kulwant’s husband died three years after the birth of their son. “It was the curse of the daughters we killed. That’s why he died so young,” she says.