Gender-Biased Sex Selection
"What's the problem if there is a shortage of women? People are buying brides from other regions in India, so we are managing." -- Haryana resident
In Haryana, India, there are only 830 girls for every 1000 boys. A normal ratio should be much closer to even.
Where have all the girls gone?
Through illegal misuse of medical technologies, girls are being eliminated even before they are born. The practice of Gender-Biased Sex Selection (GBSS) -- the illegal misuse of various medical technologies to determine the sex of a fetus and ensure a male child -- is is a profound human rights violation as well as a clear and concrete expression of preference for sons and bias against girls.
Gender-biased sex selection literally denies girls a place in society.
What causes and perpetuates the practice of GBSS?
Social factors include:
- norms and customs including inheritance practices, dowry, and the basic attachment of status and honor to males
- small family norms
- so-called "safety" issues: the perceived overwhelming challenges of keeping girls safe
Political factors include:
- coercive population policy (e.g. one- or two-child policy)
- ineffective implementation of laws against GBSS
- lack of political will
Economic factors include:
- costs of child rearing and costs related to marriage, especially dowry
- lack of financial independence for women
- proliferation and marketability of technology, e.g. ultrasound
What is the impact of GBSS?
GBSS and the resulting skewed child sex ratio (CSR) have serious and severe implications for girls -- and for society at large. First of all, the very practice – and cultural acceptance of – GBSS serves to perpetuate the very inequality and discrimination that causes it. It also carries health risks including repeat or unsafe abortion and exposure to various forms of medical quackery, along with emotional trauma. Then the resulting unequal sex ratio has an impact of its own. It is correlated with increases in sexual assault and rape, increased exploitation among sex workers, and trafficking of “marriageable” women to meet demand. A sharp rise in sex crimes in the northern states of India, in fact, has been attributed to the unequal sex ratio.
How does Breakthrough challenge GBSS?
Breakthrough has launched an innovative campaign in four districts in Haryana -- home to some of the lowest numbers of girls in India -- to challenge and prevent the practice of gender-biased sex selection.
Using deeply transformative mass media, leadership training, and community engagement -- including innovative and compelling street theater -- Breakthrough is working with men, women, and youth to challenge and change norms and to create space for daughters. Our Faith in Theater performances -- which present the story of Rani, who has to fight to marry into a household that respects women -- use song, dance, humour, and traditional references to tackle issues of sex selection, dowry and girls' lack of mobility and choices. They have already been seen by thousands and have sparked conversations that promise to ignite change.
“Yeh natak nahin, yeh sacchai hain” -- "This isn’t a play, this is reality" -- said one mother in Haryana, noting how Rani has to quietly nod yes and accept her lot in life. Added a father: “I have two daughters and I have educated them as much as my son. This play should be hosted in every village across Haryana.”
The play's message -- reinforced in our trainings and workshops -- has resonated strongly: educate your daughters, challenge social norms, and bring power back to a girl's family by refusing to marry a daughter into families who do not celebrate the birth of a girl child, who desire a hefty dowry, who do not respect women.
Through partnerships with the Government of Haryana, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Anganwadis (daycare centers), and Panchayat leaders (local government), we are inspiring young men and women to become leaders for girls' and human rights in their own communities.
What can you do to challenge GBSS?
- Make a promise to support organizations – like and including Breakthrough – working to challenge gender-based sex selection.
- Celebrate the birth and contributions of girls in your communities.
- Research the issue and share articles and information about it with your networks.
- Urge reporters to cover the issue.
- Do a school project on the problem and educate your peers about what they can do.
- Continue to visit this site for updates on our work in this area and ways you can support it!
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Breakthrough’s Rights Advocates formed an all girls’ theater troupe in Lucknow, India and used jaw-dropping puppets to train women in the community on HIV/AIDS and women’s rights issues.3 Comments
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The practice of sex-selective abortion has resulted in a dramatic decline in the number of girls in certain parts of the world. It’s a genuine human rights crisis that, in places like the Indian state of Haryana, has led to a gender ratio of 832 girls for every 1,000 boys.