The Missing Girls of India

by Susan Loewenstein




Grade : 9 th Grade

Subjects : World Studies

Author : Susan Loewenstein, Alexander Hamilton High, Milwaukee , WI

Estimated time for the activity : 80 minutes

Essential Understanding

Gender inequality affects all citizens of the world. This specific example in India demonstrates the true disparities between males and females and highlights the fatal outcomes that result.

Overview :

Students will study current news articles for the continuing practice of female infanticide in India . The devaluation of females has many reasons that students will explore through reading and discussion. After awareness of the problem, students will brainstorm solutions to this complicated problem and evaluate and reflect upon each solution to its effectiveness.

Background information for Teachers:

Female infanticide is the intentional killing of baby girls due to the preference for male babies and from the low value associated with the birth of females.

Several websites are helpful for gathering more information and current statistics. - The bias against females in India is related to the fact that "Sons are called upon to provide the income; they are the ones who do most of the work in the fields. In this way sons are looked to as a type of insurance. With this perspective, it becomes clearer that the high value given to males decreases the value given to females." (Marina Porras, "Female Infanticide and Foeticide".) The problem is also intimately tied to the institution of dowry, in which the family of a prospective bride must pay enormous sums of money to the family in which the woman will live after marriage. Though formally outlawed, the institution is still pervasive. "The combination of dowry and wedding expenses usually add up to more than a million rupees ([US] $35,000). In India the average civil servant earns about 100,000 rupees ($3,500) a year. Given these figures combined with the low status of women, it seems not so illogical that the poorer Indian families would want only male children." - According to a recent report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) up to 50 million girls and women are missing from India ' s population as a result of systematic gender discrimination in India . In most countries in the world, there are approximately 105 female births for every 100 males. In India , there are less than 93 women for every 100 men in the population. The accepted reason for such a disparity is the practice of female infanticide in India , prompted by the existence of a dowry system which requires the family to pay out a great deal of money when a female child is married. For a poor family, the birth of a girl child can signal the beginning of financial ruin and extreme hardship.

Diagnostic teams with ultrasound scanners which detect the sex of a child advertise with catchlines such as spend 600 rupees now and save 50,000 rupees later. These methods are becoming increasing available in rural areas of India , fuelling fears that the trend towards the abortion of female fetuses is on the increase


  • The students will be able to explain the social, economic and cultural reasons for female infanticide in India .
  • The students will design a short presentation on one reason for infanticide and present it to a small group.
  • The students will be able to evaluate what methods would be successful for the halt of female infanticide.

Resources/Materials :

-classroom board/overhead



-article: “Tomorrow, spare a thought for the girl child,” Times of India. Handout or on-line at,curpg-3.cms

-article: “Voices of Concern: Geeta Rao Gupta,” NOVA. Handout or on-line at

-article: “Social dynamics of missing girl child,” OneWorld South Asia. Handout or on-line at

-article: “For India ’s daughters, a dark birth day,” Christian Science Monitor. Handout or on-line at

-article: “ India rapped over birth bias,” BBC News. Handout or on-line at

-article: “ India ’s Unwanted Girls,” BBC News. Handout or on-line at

-article: “Fight for the Girl,” The Hindu. Handout or on-line at

-article: “Case Study: Female Infanticide , India ,” Gendercide Watch. Handout or on-line at



  1. Warm-up/Do-Now: Students respond to the following prompt, written on the overhead or board prior to class: “How are boys and girls treated differently in the United States from the moment they are born? How are boys and girls treated differently when they are teenagers?

    Make a prediction: How are men and women treated differently in the work place?”

    Have the students record their responses in their notebook. Students should share their answers for class discussion and further questioning.

    Extension questions could be: “Why do you think difference exist? Are these differences born or nurtured in the family? Do these gender roles change with time?” Discuss how women are viewed differently in other cultures throughout the world. Can they suggest the differences that they see in the media or experience personally in their own unique culture?

  2. Using a jigsaw format, each group of students will have one topic and supporting articles on reasons for female infanticide. Each group will read and discuss their topic to become familiar with it. The students should also take notes on important points of discussion and become “experts” on their topic. Each student should also fill out the handout chart to organize ideas from their article. Give students time to prepare a presentation that they will present in small-groups to their classmates.

  3. These “expert” groups should be divided so that each member is put into a new group. Ask each student to present her or his segment to the group using the chart as a format for discussion. Encourage others in the group to ask questions for clarification and take notes to gather information to add to their chart.
  1. After listening to the multiple reasons for female infanticide, each student will individually write a one/two page reflective essay on this practice. What solutions to female infanticide do you think would work best in India ? What solutions do you think will not work? Who should implement these strategies?


Assessment Activities

  • Students will read and fill in the chart to record their knowledge of female infanticide.
  • Students will peer assess the group work and presentation according to the rubric.

  • Students will create a well-written thoughtful one/two page reflective essay on female infanticide in India . (See rubric)

Assessment Activities

  • Students will read and fill in the chart to record their knowledge of female infanticide.
  • Students will peer assess the group work and presentation according to the rubric.

  • Students will create a well-written thoughtful one/two page reflective essay on female infanticide in India . (See rubric)

Content Standards

While studying world history, students in grades 5-12 will learn about:

  1. global encounters, industrialization, urbanization, and imperialism, 1850-1914 AD
  2. post-industrialism, global interdependence, and fragmentation in the contemporary world, 1945-present

Performance Standards

B.12.5 Gather various types of historical evidence, including visual and quantitative data, to analyze issues of freedom and equality, liberty and order, region and nation, individual and community, law and conscience, diversity and civic duty; form a reasoned conclusion in the light of other possible conclusions; and develop a coherent argument in the light of other possible arguments

B.12.9 Select significant changes caused by technology, industrialization, urbanization, and population growth, and analyze the effects of these changes in the United States and the world

B.12.15 Identify a historical or contemporary event in which a person was forced to take an ethical position, such as a decision to go to war, the impeachment of a president, or a presidential pardon, and explain the issues involved

B.12.17 Identify historical and current instances when national interests and global interests have seemed to be opposed and analyze the issues involved

B.12.18 Explain the history of slavery, racial and ethnic discrimination, and efforts to eliminate discrimination in the United States and elsewhere in the world

C.12.8 Locate, organize, analyze, and use information from various sources to understand an issue of public concern, take a position, and communicate the position

C.12.9 Identify and evaluate the means through which advocates influence public policy

C.12.10 Identify ways people may participate effectively in community affairs and the political process

C.12.11 Evaluate the ways in which public opinion can be used to influence and shape public policy

C.12.14 Explain and analyze how different political and social movements have sought to mobilize public opinion and obtain governmental support in order to achieve their goals

C.12.16 Describe the evolution of movements to assert rights by people with disabilities, ethnic and racial groups, minorities, and women

Extension Activities/Discussions:

  1. Read and report on similar situations throughout the world. Using this article in the New York Times, “Desire for Sons Drives Use of Prenatal Scans in China ,” compare and contrast the differences between India and China in terms of why boys are more valued than girls, what roles the government plays in this phenomenon, and what is being done to curb this practice.
  2. Visit “Voice of Youth” page of the United Nations (UNICEF), read the comments on female infanticide.

What do many of the comments blame for female infanticide? What are some of the solution listed? Sign up for a member ship and join the discussion with some of the information you have recently acquired.

Watch the movie, Matroobhoomi (A country without women ). A recently released Indian movie, Mathroobhoomi paints a futuristic scenario of a nation without women. It tells the story of several brothers and their widowed father, whose desperate attempts to find brides for his sons lead to tragedy and bloodshed. When they manage to find one woman, all of them decide to get married to her, and their violent relationships. This video is for mature audience and would be best viewed with parental supervision. Evaluate the movie by profiling each character in an essay format. Check your local library, video rental store or the internet for availability.
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