Groups launch 'celebrating girls' campaign to combat sex selective abortion in India

Indian Catholic devotees offer the way of the cross prayers after an Ash Wednesday service at Saint Mary's Basilica in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad, on March 5, 2014. | AFP via Getty Images/Noah Seelam

Alliance Defending Freedom International and a coalition of human rights groups have launched a campaign aimed at combatting the problem of sex-selective abortions in India.  

Known as the “celebrating girls for LIFE,” the campaign was announced Tuesday by ADF International, which was founded in 1994 and based in Vienna, Austria.

The campaign will include a short film contest and webinars leading up to Oct. 11, which is widely observed as the International Day of the Girl Child.

The acronym “LIFE” stands for Love, Inheritance, Freedom, Equality, with each point centered on combatting culturally-ingrained gender bias against girls.

Tehmina Arora, director of ADF India, said in a statement released Tuesday that they “hope to tell the stories of girls and women in India and celebrate every girl’s right to life.”

“India has lost 12 million girls to sex-selective abortion in the last three decades. It is time to address this issue, especially as International Day of the Girl Child approaches,” said Arora.

“We hope this campaign will help bring this grave violation of rights to light and increase the correct implementation of Indian law, which prohibits sex-selective abortion.”

Other organizations involved in the campaign include the Evangelical Fellowship of India, Girls Count, the National Council of Churches in India, Vanishing Girls, VIVAT International, Red Rope, and Women of Worth.

The practice of sex-selective abortion has been widely denounced, with prominent public figures including former President Jimmy Carter among those spreading awareness about the issue.

In an interview with David Letterman in 2014, the former president said, "160 million girls are now missing from the face of the earth because they were murdered at birth by their parents or either selectively aborted when their parents find out that the fetus is a girl." 

"Well, it's the worst human rights abuse on earth and it's basically unaddressed … So that many people are missing and they're all girls who are missing."

In August, PLOS ONE published a paper that concluded that India will have approximately 6.8 million fewer female births between 2017 and 2030 because of sex-selective abortion.

According to the paper, the sex birth ratio (SBR) of India has been imbalanced since the 1970s, with researchers attributing this to the intensity of son preference” in Indian culture and “fertility squeeze,” or a pressure to have a smaller family household.

“The masculinized SBR for India is a direct result of the practice of sex-selective abortions at the national level,” explained the researchers.

“Some states, such as Punjab, have experienced an early and rapid rise in birth masculinity since the 1980s, whereas in North Indian states, the masculinized SBR started to increase later.”

The paper proposed “better identification, monitoring, and education in the worst affected regions” of India to help respond to the issue of missing female births.

“Our study highlights the need to strengthen policies that advocate for gender equity and the introduction of support measures to counteract existing gender biases that adequately target each regional context,” concluded the researchers.

“Future work may include additional sources of heterogeneity, such as education, religion, and ethnicity, for projecting the SBR in India and extending the SBR predictions for longer-term projections.”   

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