Sex-Selective Abortions in India: Parental Choice or Sexist Discrimination?

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1990


Arts and Humanities | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | South and Southeast Asian Languages and Societies


This article focuses on a controversy over the use of amniocentesis and other methods for sex determination. It describes the campaign that was organized against these tests and also examines the arguments offered in support of these tests as well as against them. Information for the paper was gathered in interviews with activists in the campaign against sex selection, and from newspaper and journal reports. There is consensus among Indian feminist activists that many practices of Indian culture devalue the contribution of women. While modernization and industrialization have produced major changes in the country's economy, social values regarding the roles of men and women have been slow to change. In the last four decades, more and more women have sought employment and can be found in most professions, but their popular image is set as economic dependents. In contrast, men are perceived as the sole breadwinners and are highly valued. Indian parents pamper their sons with attention, because they expect the sons to take care of them in their old age. In spite of the educational and economic gains made by Indian women, they continue to be seen as financial burdens. This is particularly felt in families that uphold the tradition of the dowry, gifts to the bridegroom and his family as part of the marriage contract between the two families.


DOI: 10.1007/BF02685629