What is female infanticide?
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.  It can also described as gender-selective killing or “gendercide”.  The practice and normalisation of female infanticide over the decades has caused a sex-ratio imbalance in many countries especially in Central Asia, East Asia, and South Asia, with India and China being the most high profile cases.
Female infanticide may be committed using the following methods:
- Sex-selective abortion . In nations where sex selection is banned and there is a strong preference for sons, “reproductive tourism” arises whereby people travel to Thailand, the US, Mexico and other countries where it is legal to undergo Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) and Pre-Implantation Genetic Screening (PGS) for sex selection purposes. 
- Killing the female infant upon birth using methods such as feeding the infant poisoned milk , smothering/asphyxiation , and drowning. 
In a joint statement issued in 2011 by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women and the World Health Organisation, “sex selection in favour of boys is a symptom of pervasive social, cultural, political and economic injustices against women, and a manifest violation of women’s human rights.” 
The root causes of female infanticide in cultures that practice it include:
- A strong cultural preference for sons: Female infanticide usually takes place in cultures and societies where “there is a strong tradition of patrilineal inheritance” 
- Gendered earning power: Males are regarded as having higher earning power and able to provide for the family, therefore baby boys are less at risk of infanticide. 
- Parental retirement insurance: In certain cultures and societies, children are expected to undertake elder care. However, daughters are considered a drain on family resources because they will eventually marry and join their husband’s family whereas sons are expected to support their parents in their old age. Therefore parents with sons are regarded as having more resources. 
- Dowry economics: In India where it is tradition for the bride’s family to give the groom’s family a dowry as part of the wedding traditions, daughters are seen as a financial burden on families who are unable to afford a generous dowry. 
- Government policy: In China where the one-child policy was in place for decades with draconian enforcement, the Chinese preference for sons led to the killing of female infants upon birth so the couple may try again for a son. 
Some hard facts about female infanticide, according to the global study on female infanticide published in 2018 by the Asian Centre for Human Rights :
- 117 million girls demographically go “missing” due to sex-selective abortions.
- Liechtenstein recorded the most skewed sex ratio at 120 males to 100 females.
- Due to the rampant elimination of female babies, China’s sex ratio stands at 115.9 boys for every 100 girls.
- In Delhi, a state in India, 89 hospitals and nursing homes reported child sex ratio at birth of 800 girls for every 1000 boys.
- A household survey conducted by Centre for Research on Environment, Health and Population Activities (CREHPA) in 2007 found that a whopping 98.8% of Nepalese women surveyed stated that it was necessary to have a son in a family.
- In 2010 alone, as many as 2000 abortions are performed specifically to terminate female foetuses in Armenia.
The Consequences of Female Infanticide
- Violence against married women: Women in cultures and societies that prioritise sons have to bear the consequences of giving birth to an unwanted girl child. These consequences can include violence, abandonment, divorce or even death. 
- Severely skewed gender ratio imbalance and its negative effects: In countries with a skewed sex ratio with far more males than females suffer from a range of negative outcomes including a rise in crime driven by young male aggression, increased human trafficking in the form of bride purchasing/kidnapping, and the disruption of the social hierarchy when there are too many unmarried men in cultures where social status and acceptance depend of being married and able to produce a child. 
Footnotes and Further Reading
- “Ending Violence Against Women: Programming Essentials”, UN Women
- “Ethics Guide: Female Infanticide”, BBC
- “Preventing Gender-biased Sex Selection: An Interagency Statement”, OHCHR, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women, and WHO
- “Female Infanticide Worldwide: The case for action by the UN Human Rights Council”, Asian Center for Human Rights
- “Female Infanticide: Old Reasons, New Techniques”, The Hindu
- “Female Infanticide in China: An Examination of Cultural and Legal Norms”, UCLA, Pacific Basic Law Journal
- ” ‘Son Preference’ perpetuates Discrimination and Violation of Women’s Rights – It Can and Must Go”, OHCHR, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women, and WHO
- “In India, When Gold Price Goes Up, Fewer Baby Girls Survive”, The Independent
- “How China’s One-Child Policy Led To Forced Abortions, 30 Million Bachelors”, NPR.org
- “Abnormal Sex Ratios in Human Populations: Causes and Consequences”, Therese Hesketh and Zhu Wei Xing.