In India, a Terrible Place to be Born a Girl

In the United States, the birth of a child is cause for celebration, regardless of the gender. But in northern rural regions of India, the birth of a daughter is a curse. This is because, in a country ranked 114 out of 128 by the World Economic Forum, most families cannot support the high cost of providing the traditional dowry required for the marriage of a girl. Unlike boys, who will carry on the family name and repay the costs of their childhood in support for his parent, does not provide her family compensation for the cost of her room and board.

Heartbreakingly, the harsh economic reality drives many mothers to commit infanticide- killing female babies immediately after birth. Even if they survive past infanthood, young girls are often denied medical care if they become sick. In rural areas, husbands will oftentimes abandon wives who repeatedly give birth to daughters. This leaves the single mother alone with limited resources, few economic or political rights and almost no way of providing for herself and her children. In the cities, the availability of sex determination has proliferated the practice of aborting female children.

According to this article from the International Herald Tribune, it is the low female literacy rate and exceptionally low age of marriage that makes rural India the worst place to be born a girl.

Gentleman, Amelia. “In India, a Terrible Place to Be Born a Girl. International Herald Tribune (accessed June 24, 2008).

Nicholas D. Kristof: In India, One Woman’s Stand Says ‘Enough’

In one of his most graphic articles, Nicholas D. Kristof, famous New York Times columnist, details the story of how one woman’s education altered the fate of her village forever. It is a story of triumph in the face of heartbreak. In the village of Nagpur, India a thug named Akku Yadav ruled with an iron fist. He systematically killed and raped members of a lower cast community who received absolutely no protection from the apathetic police. Yadav terrorized the town with his brutality. He murdered without cause and raped at every chance. However, there was one family Yadav always left alone: the Narayanes. This was because all five of the Narayane children had gone to college, a feat almost unheard of in the uneducated and illiterate community.

While on a visit home Usha Narayane witnessed Akku Yadav attack a neighbor. Usha went to the police, despite the gang’s warnings. They returned with reinforcements and surrounded the Narayane household where they threatened to disfigure, rape, and murder her. What came next will shock you, yet it is proof of the immense power of education. This story leaves the reader without any doubt of how great an impact an education can have on the lives of women in the developing world. An education had provided Usha with the ability to think critically. It was the one tool which Akku Yadev could never take away from her, and she used it to bring justice to her community.

Kristof, Nicholas. “D. Nicholas D. Kristof: in India, One Woman’s Stand Says ‘Enough”‘. New York Times. (accessed July 6, 2008).

Asia’s Male Tilt

Asia’s long-standing preference for men, along with new advances in prenatal methods, has yielded an imbalance in the ratio between men and women. Beginning in the mid-80’s, mothers used ultrasound to determine a fetuses’ sex , which in turn determined whether or not she was to carry the child to birth. Now, as the young men begin reaching marriage age, the demographic trend will carry international implications which could include massive migration or kidnapping of women.

“Asia’s Male Tilt.” Christian Science Monitor. (accessed July 6, 2008).