One woman was brutally beaten and mutilated by her estranged husband, and another was doused with gasoline and almost lit on fire simply because they were pregnant with girls.
The abuses endured by women and girls in India are nothing short of horrifying. Researchers estimate that 12 million girls are missing in India just because of abortion. Many who make it outside of the womb are subjected to neglect, abuse and even infanticide and other forms of murder.
Al Jazeera recently profiled one Indian mother who suffered years of physical abuse, harassment and intimidation from her husband, in part, because she kept bearing baby girls. Two of her unborn daughters also were aborted forcibly by her husband.
Like many girls in India, Parveen Khan’s parents treated her like a burden. When she was 12, her parents gave her in marriage to a much older man who beat her, according to the report.
Several years later, Khan said she fell in love with a man named Hameed who was just a few years older than she. She left her first husband and later married him, but Hameed would abuse Khan and her daughters even more brutally than her first husband did.
Here’s more from the report:
Three years into her marriage, Khan got pregnant with her first child. Hameed was not very excited about it and expressed his wish for a son.
“Nine months passed and I gave birth to a baby girl. Hameed stormed out of the hospital when he looked at our daughter,” Khan recalled.
When she was expecting for the second time, Hameed insisted the baby should be aborted if it was a girl.
“Three months into my pregnancy, Hameed took me to the hospital to find out the gender of my baby. I screamed and cried, but he pulled me from my hair and dragged me to the hospital to find out,” Khan said.
“Without asking me, he forced me inside the hospital to get the baby girl aborted.”
Her husband forced her to abort for the third time after finding out that it was a baby girl.
“I was shattered, heartbroken and could not recover from the trauma of two innocent babies being murdered just because of their gender.”
Khan said she miscarried another baby about a year later. Her three unborn babies’ deaths broke her heart. When she became pregnant again in 2006, Khan said she was determined to keep her baby safe. For as long as she could, she said she hid her pregnancy from Hameed; but he found out when she was about six months along.
“We were arguing about something and he got angry at me, locked me in a room and started hitting me with a hockey stick,” Khan told Al Jazeera. “I fell on the ground and started bleeding and that is when my husband found out that I was pregnant. My baby girl survived somehow and I gave birth to another beautiful girl.”
Several years later, Hameed attacked her again while she was taking a nap. In an act of total brutality, she said he bit her face and tried to chew off her nose. Khan said she screamed for help, but no one came. She said cutting off someone’s nose in “our society is a punishment for giving him a bad reputation.”
Khan’s face now is permanently mutilated. She received numerous stitches and spent time in the hospital. However, Hameed never was prosecuted, according to the report.
Her story is far from rare. Last year, LifeNews reported about another gruesome case where an India woman’s in-laws allegedly poured gas on her and tried to set her on fire because they believed she was pregnant with a girl. In March, another woman died along with her unborn baby girl after a forced, sex-selection abortion in India.
The discrimination and abuses against women have led to a huge population crisis in the Asian country. The 2011 India census data showed there were 914 girls for every 1,000 boys under age 7, according to the BBC. In some parts of the country, the population imbalance was even worse. For example, in the Indian state of Tiruvannamalai, men outnumbered women at a ratio of 1,000 to 878.
Al Jazeera reports a recent report from the Indian Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation predicted an even greater gender imbalance in the next two decades, dropping from 1,000 boys to 904 girls by 2021 to 898 by 2031.
Indian government leaders have been trying to crack down on the discriminatory practices in different ways. Sex-selection abortions and tests to determine the baby’s sex are illegal in India. In 2015, some of the nation’s leaders also put together creative social campaigns to promote the value of girls and discourage gender discrimination.
Khan said she hopes her story will help end the discrimination, too.
“I want to tell everyone that daughters are not a burden, they are a blessing,” she said.
Interestingly, sex-selection abortions are not illegal in most of the United States. Abortion activists have been fighting against legislation that would make the discriminatory practice illegal.