Wife-sharing: the consequences of sex-selection abortions in India

Map of India
Map of India

From Reuters India, disturbing news.


When Munni arrived in this fertile, sugarcane-growing region of north India as a young bride years ago, little did she imagine she would be forced into having sex and bearing children with her husband’s two brothers who had failed to find wives.

“My husband and his parents said I had to share myself with his brothers,” said the woman in her mid-40s, dressed in a yellow sari, sitting in a village community centre in Baghpat district in Uttar Pradesh.

“They took me whenever they wanted — day or night. When I resisted, they beat me with anything at hand,” said Munni, who had managed to leave her home after three months only on the pretext of visiting a doctor.

“Sometimes they threw me out and made me sleep outside or they poured kerosene over me and burned me.”

[…]Social workers say decades of aborting female babies in a deeply patriarchal culture has led to a decline in the population of women in some parts of India, like Baghpat, and in turn has resulted in rising incidents of rape, human trafficking and the emergence of “wife-sharing” amongst brothers.

Aid workers say the practice of female foeticide has flourished among several communities across the country because of a traditional preference for sons, who are seen as old-age security.

“We are already seeing the terrible impacts of falling numbers of females in some communities,” says Bhagyashri Dengle, executive director of children’s charity Plan India.

“We have to take this as a warning sign and we have to do something about it or we’ll have a situation where women will constantly be at risk of kidnap, rape and much, much worse.”

[…]According to India’s 2011 census, there are only 858 women to every 1,000 men in Baghpat district, compared to the national sex ratio of 940.

Child sex ratios in Baghpat are even more skewed and on the decline with 837 girls in 2011 compared to 850 in 2001 — a trend mirrored across districts in states such as Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

“In every village, there are at least five or six bachelors who can’t find a wife. In some, there are up to three or four unmarried men in one family. It’s a serious problem,” says Shri Chand, 75, a retired police constable.

The majority of the East Indians I know support abortion, which implies support for sex-selection abortions.

But there’s more to the problem than just abortion… I think there’s a problem of missing romantic love. In the Western, we are more influenced by the Judeo-Christian values. In the Judeo-Christian ethic, there is a strong tradition of men falling in love and then taking the lead to woo a women and then providing for her. Obviously, a man would be stupid to marry a woman who didn’t want to work hard or help him, but I don’t think there is anything in the tradition about dowries and such.

Take a look at the clip below from King Lear, where the King disowns his virtuous daughter Cordelia for refusing to flatter him in front of his guests. She is being courted by the King of France and the Duke of Burgundy, and now she has no dowry. What are France and Burgundy going to do? Let’s see.


  • King of France. Is it but this- a tardiness in nature
    Which often leaves the history unspoke
    That it intends to do? My Lord of Burgundy,
    What say you to the lady? Love’s not love
    When it is mingled with regards that stands
    Aloof from th’ entire point. Will you have her?
    She is herself a dowry.
  • Duke of Burgundy. Royal Lear,
    Give but that portion which yourself propos’d,
    And here I take Cordelia by the hand,
    Duchess of Burgundy.
  • Lear. Nothing! I have sworn; I am firm.
  • Duke of Burgundy. I am sorry then you have so lost a father
    That you must lose a husband.
  • Cordelia. Peace be with Burgundy!
    Since that respects of fortune are his love,
    I shall not be his wife.
  • King of France. Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor;
    Most choice, forsaken; and most lov’d, despis’d!
    Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon.
    Be it lawful I take up what’s cast away.
    Gods, gods! ’tis strange that from their cold’st neglect
    My love should kindle to inflam’d respect.
    Thy dow’rless daughter, King, thrown to my chance,
    Is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France.
    Not all the dukes in wat’rish Burgundy
    Can buy this unpriz’d precious maid of me.
    Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind.
    Thou losest here, a better where to find.

And the whole story shows the consequences of the King’s stupidity. So Shakespeare is telling us that Lear is a fool, and France has wisdom.

In the West, we believe in love and romance. That doesn’t mean we don’t believe in prudence, chastity, self-control and wisdom when courting, because crazy love is frowned upon in Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet), Dickens (Great Expectations), and Austen (Sense and Sensibility). Not to mention Samson and Delilah in the Bible. It just means that we think that women have value even if all they have is goodness and wisdom. I could go on about what Western literature says about how men and women should get along, but it’s nothing like what goes on in India. Now, if you can marry a rich version of Cordelia, then I do recommend doing that. Especially if it’s a self-made fortune.

One thought on “Wife-sharing: the consequences of sex-selection abortions in India”

  1. Misogyny and infanticide are both a shame to any people. As long as it reigns, there is little hope for a nation.

    Shakespeare was a wit and wisdom treasure from the Elizabethan era.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s