Global Gold Price Determines Girls’ Survival Rates In India: Study

“We find that parents are consistently ‘eliminating’ girls early in life, but the pattern is that this is done soon after birth before 1985, and while the girl is in the womb after 1985.”

It’s 2018 and the cultural burden on the parents of a girl to provide extravagant dowry to the groom’s family in many South Asian countries continue to exist and determine the well-being of women in their matrimonial homes.

It’s just unfortunate how the dowry culture, a pernicious social evil in various countries, continues to tag daughters as a liability on their parents who are in most cases forced to abide by the culturally sanctioned norm.

However, a latest study conducted in the University of Essex England highlighted the intensity of the situation.

The researchers have found out a bizarre link between the fluctuation in global gold prices and survival rates among girls in India.

As it turns out, apart from causing numerous domestic issues, the culture of dowry also significantly contributed to India’s skewed gender ratio.

It was revealed in the months when the gold prices went up, the girls born in the country were more likely to be aborted, suffer from stunted growth or die in the first month of their life.

According to the research, the parents were responding to the rising cost of gold by reducing the chances for their baby girl to survive.

A representative sample of more than 100,000 births was analyzed to conclude inflated gold prices were strongly co-related with improved survival chance for boys relative to girls.

In fact, the study suggested between 1972 and 1985, a mere 1 percent increase in the gold price led to an additional 13,000 neo-natal deaths among girls each year.

However, that’s not it.

Parents who didn’t choose to abort their baby girls ended up neglecting their health, as the study found out women born at times of inflated gold prices had been deprived of key nutrients early in life.

According to a professor of economics at the University of Essex, Sonia Bhalotra, the behavior pattern began to change after 1985, when ultrasound scans became widely available.

“We find that parents are consistently ‘eliminating’ girls early in life, but the pattern is that this is done soon after birth before 1985, and while the girl is in the womb after 1985,” said Bhalotra.

An extra 33,000 “missing” female birthswere reported in 1985, after the global price of gold increased by a percent.

Though the sex determination is illegal in India, it is common for families to pay doctors for this service.

“There’s always an underground abortion clinic that will do it for you,” added Bhalotra.

However, apart from the sex-selective abortion, the social ill also inevitably gives rise to many other issues where the women have to go through tortures like divorce threats, physical harassment, violence, mental torture and even murder if her parents fail to meet her in-laws’ elaborate demands.

In fact, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, 7,634 women in India died in 2015 – 20 every day – in incidents related to dowry. This estimate included women who were either killed or felt compelled to take their own lives.

Though the payment of dowry is banned in the country since 1961, the practice continues to persist, despite government-sponsored programs incentivizing families to have daughters and promoting girls’ schooling.

The women’s status in the South Asian countries can only be improved if the system which literally puts a price tag on them, is discontinued. This way parents of daughters, instead of worrying about filling the pockets of in-laws, will invest in the girl’s education and health.

Banner Image Credits: NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images

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