WASHINGTON — A recent hearing before members of the U.S. House of Representatives examined the gender imbalance in India and its connection to human trafficking and mistreatment of women in the country.
“Sex-selective abortion and female infanticide have led to lopsided sex ratios,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. “In parts of India, for example, 126 boys are born for every 100 girls.”
“This in turn leads to a shortage of women, which then leads to trafficking in persons, bride selling and prostitution,” he said.
Smith leads the House congressional panel that oversees global health and human rights. He chaired a Sept. 10 hearing on the sex-ratio disparity in India, the first of its kind in Congress.
The congressman explained that by “shining a light on what is happening in India with its missing girls, we hope to move toward a world where every woman is valued and respected because of her intrinsic dignity and where every child is welcomed regardless of his or her sex.”
Panelists at the hearing described the gender imbalance in India as a multifaceted phenomenon, stemming from societal discrimination against women, influenced by international population-control programs and accomplished though sex-selective abortion, infanticide and child neglect.
Matthew Connelly, a history professor at Columbia University, stated that “there can be no more important question than why boys increasingly outnumber girls and what kind of world they will inherit if women have become a minority.”
Connelly explained that international family-planning policies have played a part in contributing to making women “a persecuted minority,” particularly in areas with an existing “prejudice against girls.”
“It is not enough merely to insist on choice,” he said. “Choices can be conditioned by default or design in ways that lead to new kinds of oppression.”
Researcher Sabu George, a member of India’s Campaign Against Sex Selection, also said that “rampant sex selection has resulted in genocide” within India.
George warned that this “extreme form of violence against women” could lead to further problems, such as “several men sharing one wife” and an increased “threat of violence inside and outside homes.”
He also explained that, while there are laws prohibiting the use of ultrasounds to reveal the sex of an unborn child, these laws are not enforced.
Human-rights lawyer Jill McElya, who works with the Invisible Girl Project, echoed George’s statements, saying that sex trafficking, sexual assault and violence against women are an intense problem in the country, and “the root is gendercide.”
The United Nations estimates that 50 million women “are missing from India’s population,” she said, explaining that millions of Indian men “will not marry because their potential wives have been murdered, due to female feticide, female infanticide and deadly forms of neglect.”
This sex disparity leads to the use and abuse of girls, McElya said, pointing to a high-profile gang rape that resulted in the death of a young woman in New Delhi last winter, as well as the rape, abandonment and death of a 5-year-old girl in April.
“These two crimes are examples of the evil frequently inflicted upon women and girls in India,” she said.
To help stem the continuation of sex selection, infanticide and child neglect, McElya asked that the United States require India and other countries with sex imbalances in the population “to report what they’re doing to save their daughters” as a condition for receiving U.S. funding.