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Indian women in short supply

From CNN's Satinder Bindra

A tradional image of an ethnic Indian couple.  Men in India are vastly outnumbering women.
A tradional image of an ethnic Indian couple. Men in India are vastly outnumbering women.

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Abortions of female fetuses in the 1980's has led to a shortage of potential wives in parts of India.
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MEHNDI KA DURANA, India (CNN) -- For decades, north India's villages have been a model of picture-perfect development, supplying the rest of India with food and grain.

Now the region has acquired another more dubious distinction.

There's fewer girls here than anywhere else in India. And that has led to a lot of frustrated bachelors who are complaining they can't find any brides

So, where have all the girls gone?

Social scientists blame sex selection abortions.

In the 1980s, India was flooded with cheap ultrasound technology, enabling millions to determine the sex of their unborn child.

Such a procedure in India can cost less than $10.

Females were then selectively aborted because, social scientists say, Indian society puts more emphasis on boys. An abortion is also cheap, costing as little as $18.

"Boys carry on the family's name. Girls just get married and go to their husband's home," says homemaker Saroj Rani.

Rani says marrying girls also means paying huge dowries. So 12 years ago, Rani too sought help in terminating her pregnancy.

Buffeted by political winds in those days that demanded more effective population control, few in India gave much thought to such abortions.

But in 1994 and facing a demographic imbalance which showed there were more boys than girls, sex selective abortions in India were outlawed.

Activists say the rate of female fetal mortality in India is 700 times higher than Europe.
Activists say the rate of female fetal mortality in India is 700 times higher than Europe.

To illustrate the disproportion, in the capital New Delhi, the ratio dropped from 945 females per 1000 males in 1991 to 865 in 2001.

Social scientists complain the move may have come too late for some 40 million Indian women, who they say are "missing."

In the 1980s several women in the northern Indian village of Mehndi Ka Durana aborted unborn females.

Now the village's young men are facing their own crisis and complain they cannot find brides. One small lane in the village is home to over 20 frustrated bachelors.

In years gone by, Pradeep Kumar, a landowner and self-described bride hunter, would have been the model eligible bachelor.

Now he's 29, still unmarried and increasingly fed up.

"The shortage of girls started because of the ultrasound machines and all the abortions. No one ever gave thought to the shortage we are facing today," Kumar says.

He spends a lot of time praying for a bride and promises if he does ever get married he'll never let his wife have a sex determination test.


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