India’s caste system “is very basic to violence against women,” she says. It is based on Hinduism, which teaches one’s behavior in this life determines which caste one will be born into for the next life. Individuals are expected to marry within their caste.
Thus, the shortage of girls is a “huge problem” to men in Haryana and Punjab who wish to observe caste practices.
“In Haryana, 36 percent of the men between 15-45 are unmarried,” she says. “In one district, it’s 40 percent. Men who do not get married get more vicious.”
Richer men will be able to get themselves wives; what’s troubling to Ms. Chowdhry are the poorer men who are importing brides from India’s poor eastern regions.
“These women are extensively sexually exploited,” she says. “They do all the housework, manual and field work. Some of these women, once they are used by a man, they are passed on to another.”
Pregnant women wishing to avoid having daughters who might suffer such a fate are desperate to find doctors who will tell them the sex of their children.
“Mobile vans have advertisements on them that a doctor is available,” Ms. Chowdhry says. “They are innocuous, but everyone knows what’s inside.”
The city of Yamunanagar, population 300,000 located 130 miles north of New Delhi, is encircled by wheat and sugar cane fields, bisected by the Yamuna River and dotted with herds of black water buffalo.
The area north of New Delhi has the country’s most severe shortages of girls. In Yamunanagar alone, there are 30 doctors who will illegally abort a female child at the request of the parents, says Dr. Tajinder P. Singh, 45, a local radiologist.
He refuses to tell pregnant women the sex of their offspring after their ultrasound tests in his office in a Yamunanagar strip mall. And he reports the names of those doctors who do to the government.
In response, doctors refuse to refer their patients to him, his family has been physically threatened, and he was thrown out of the local branch of the Indian Medical Association.
Asked how he copes, he says: “My family is small, my house is small, my daughters don’t ask for much money.”
In New Delhi, one of the city’s top obstetricians, Dr. Puneet Bedi, has likewise been blackballed by his associates for his stance against “female feticide.”