A father in India has been accused of cutting open his wife’s abdomen with a harvesting sickle out of fear that she was pregnant with another baby girl, and in doing so, caused the stillbirth of his preborn baby boy.
Anita Devi, 35, was seven months pregnant with her sixth child, according to UK Right to Life. She and her husband, Pannalal, were parents to five girls when she became pregnant again. Devi’s family alleges that her husband attacked her because he wanted to find out if the baby she was carrying was a boy. Devi’s sister told BBC Hindi that the couple often fought over having a son.
“My brother-in-law often used to beat my sister for giving birth to five daughters,” Devi’s brother told The Times of India. “Our parents had intervened on several occasions. But no one imagined that he would take such a cruel step. When I reached there, I saw blood everywhere. Anita’s stomach was slit, and she told me that her husband did this.”
A neighbor told the BBC Hindi that the baby had been “predicted” to be another girl. “Fearing this, Pannalal asked the wife to get an abortion,” said the neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous. The couple then fought. After she was injured, she was taken to a hospital in critical condition. She is now reportedly stable; however, her preborn son died.
It is well known that in India, sons are valued over daughters, and though sex-selective abortion and prenatal sex detection were outlawed in 1994, sex-selective abortion and infanticide against female newborns still occur. An estimated 63 million women are said to be missing from India’s population because of gendercide, and research suggests that another five million baby girls will be killed over the next decade.
India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, has pushed for an end to the gendercide of preborn and newborn girls calling it a “national shame.” In 2015, he created a campaign to save baby girls called Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, which means Save Daughter, Educate Daughter.
It is gender bias that leads to sex-selective abortions, and sex-selective abortions lead to a significant gender imbalance. According to the World Health Organization, a healthy and normal sex ratio at birth is about 105 boys to every 100 girls. However, in India, that ratio is just over 108 boys to every 100 girls, which means that per 1,000 males there are only 924 females — even less in some areas of the nation.
But birth ratio is not the only thing affected by gender bias and sex-selective abortion. Violence against pregnant women, including forced abortion, is prevalent in societies in which a gender bias exists. Both physical and emotional abuse are common. The same is true for girls living in a society in which they are not valued.
A young British woman of Indian origin reported that as a teen, her father had her watch her sister while he took their mother for a sex-selective abortion. He did not want another daughter, and the young woman was traumatized because she knew she was also not wanted by her father.
But beyond knowing that they could have been aborted because of their gender, there are physical abuses girls suffer just for being girls.
In 2012, a two-year-old girl in India was found to have been bitten, burned, and severely abused, with broken arms and legs and a fractured skull. She required at least four brain surgeries but died two months later from a heart attack in the hospital. She suffered and died for having been born a girl.
“In a country that still practises female foeticide and infanticide, her story opened up the shocking dimensions that the growing gender imbalance has led to,” wrote Kishwar Desai for The Guardian in 2012. “After all, if a country continues to kill its baby girls, there can never be any real respect or security for its women, at any age.”
An investigation into the death of Devi’s baby boy is ongoing, but Pannalal denies having intentionally hurt his wife and child. “I have five daughters, one of my sons is dead. I know that children are a gift of God, whatever will happen will be seen,” he said. “My wife always fights with me. Even on Saturday, there was a fight and anger. I threw the sickle towards her. I had no idea that it would injure her so severely.”
Pannalal has been arrested and charged with attempted murder.
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