I was trawling the web when I accidentally came across this article on the girl child in India by Neena Malik which appeared in the Tribune some years ago, http://www.tribuneindia.com/2002/20020310/herworld.htm -- which is unavailable now. So I pulled a cached version which I reproduce here :

Haryanavi way to deal with girls
Neena Malik

Don’t you think it is entirely foolish and hare-brained to spend on kerosene oil and match boxes for bride burning or using up muscle power of the poor dear husbands and mas’-in-law to strangulate their daughters-in-law when all we need to meet our "immediate national requirement" to get rid of all the females in the country in one stroke is to resort to our good old Father of the nation-Gandhiji’s-respect for the common salt and start storing a little extra in every household! ..

Yes, it is so simple and easy that you might be fascinated enough to try your hand at it again and again. .. Just take a small lump of common kitchen salt and put it in the throat of the new born baby girl. Lo and behold! Before you can say "Halleluja", the infant will have choked to death without a whimper. And yes, what is more important, without even leaving a scar on her body or on your conscience. After all you did not use pistols or knives or pesticides to kill her. She just fades away as easily as the salt. After that, imagine the innumerable advantages you gain. There will be no hassle for women’s reservation in schools, colleges and Parliament, no hassle of dowries, no further need for kerosene oil and match boxes. Already 26 per cent youth in Haryana cannot find brides for themselves as the female ratio is the lowest in the country. They are now resorting to buying brides from Bangladesh. Curiously, the Haryanavis are averse to baby girls but look forward to brides and bride burning! ! Though they are feeling the dearth of brides for their sons, the average Haryanavi families want to do away with the girl child at all stages. "Panch sau Lagao, Panch Lakh Bacchao" -such tempting ads displayed on big hoardings outside medical clinics all over Haryana certainly seem more within reach of the common man than the popular television lure of " Kaun Banega Crorepathi"!

All that the pregnant women has to do is to step in for an ultra sound test costing Rs. 500 to determine the sex of her unborn baby. And if it is a baby girl threatening to add to her woes she can quickly get the unwanted baby aborted. The arithmetic of it all is not only simple but realistic in the eyes of the parents. After all they will be saving at least Rs. Five lakh straight-in the far flung future— a minimum amount spent on the dowry of a girl in these hard times. As in many other areas-good and bad-Haryana has achieved the dubious distinction of topping the list of the fast declining female ratio of 861 per 1000 males. It is the worst in the country as compared to 933 females for 1000 males for the country. The sex ratio in Haryana was 865 in 1991. It is surprising that the sex ratio in all the districts is below the national average of 933. Another alarming fact is that the sex ratio in Haryana has declined continuously since 1981 and is at its lowest since independence. According to Sunil Gulati, Director Census Operations, the preference for a male child is always there and when it is coupled with technology assisted choice such as ultra-sound, the decision to get rid of the baby girl in the first stage becomes easier .Ironically, this happens in the urban area. where one expects the awareness levels to be high and less prejudice.

Not shocking, nor stats for just one state. I remember reading another news report that the salem district in TamilNadu matches these stats for the girl child but cant find it online. Most news reports which talk of the imbalance in sex ratios across India fail to touch the root cause and for the most part, these cases have been discovered by reporters who spoke about it publicly. What of those which dont get this public a platform??

It also takes on a whole new meaning when you look at the abortion laws in our country. While the case of a couple who approached the courts is a rare one indeed, it brought to the forefront issues we usually ignore. Abortion is a highly personal issue which we rarely comment upon since it might infringe individual liberty. Sadly she had a miscarriage.

Have we as a society have evolved ethically, socially and personally (will touch on this later). While an abortion _is_ a personal decision and way better than bringing an unwanted child into the world and making it suffer knowing it was not wanted by its parent(s) (a big burden and negative karma to carry for a lifetime), it would be unfair to use the "women can only decide to abort" since unlike the west, here it is not uncommon for the family to pressure women to undergo abortions, whether married or unmarried. That family/society pressure can be a very crushing for a lot of women.

Now, let us assume the judged had changed the abortion laws in India. Then, what stops people from misusing it to kill the girl child using the "defective" approach? Most times the girl child is killed long before the 20th week especially if the family (in India its not the woman who decided this alone) wants a male heir then mere laws are not going to stop them. Most times its another woman (read mother-in-law or aunt or female relative) who increases the pressure with comments like "oh, their family has just female kids, no male heirs". Challenging them that as a woman they should be the last person to make such disparaging comments usually shuts them up but how many daughters-in-law would dare to do that?

Nupur Basu has made an interesting documentary “No Country for Young Girls? ” for the BBC. Besides the foetal killing, the girl child could be killed after she was born (with salt like the above reproduced article). Women's rights is not that simple in India. Ironically, the country that venerates the Supreme Godess, who among her various forms and names is ironically called Shakti (power), has a high imbalance in sex-ratios spanning across the great Indian middle class.

Somewhere in all this the MOOT question remains : Are we trying to create a society that wants "designer" babies? Are we as a society misusing technology to create that "perfect, smart, healthy" baby and anything less than perfection does not deserve to exist !?? To me those questions have ethical, social and personal meaning. Having seen how the disabled are treated in India (forget the laws, as a society we dont even treat anyone who is not perfect, beautiful/handsome, rich-famous-successful, as worthy of a second glance). Now it seems that technology is slowly being used as a crutch to aid and abet the politically incorrect societal and personal reflections that get buried due to legal pressure. Any society that clamors for perfection in humans is going to be very difficult to live in and when materialism is added, expect hell.

Instead why cant we ask the government to enact laws which will give more power to the disabled instead of stopping them from being born? Many developed nations have strict laws (which are implemented) but its only here that we tolerate corruption and ignore our citizens rights. Shashi Tharoor has a nice comparison over differences in American political life and the Indian one. Sigh. no easy answers here :(