India’s preference for male children has spurred the practice of aborting female fetuses, aided and abetted by the widening availability of ultrasound technology. But tests are still expensive, and surveys show that female feticide is much more prevalent in richer areas, an observation born out by skewed gender ratios. In New Delhi, for instance, the ratio is 821 females to 1,000 males, far below the national ratio of 933 to 1,000, which in turn is far below that found internationally.
Newer research indicates that the trend is worsening drastically, though it remains illegal for doctors to reveal the gender of an unborn child or abort based on sex. In some high caste areas of Punjab, ratios as low as 300 females to 1,000 males were found. “Everyone wants boys,” a doctor tells the Christian Science Monitor. “But it is the rich who can easily afford to access the technology.” Though the practice grows from the notion that girls are more expensive than boys, particularly in marriage, the dearth of females has ironically given women the higher hand when it comes to nuptial negotiations.