Indian village suffers for lack of women

Wed Oct 12, 2011 10:00am EDT
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By Vivek Prakash

SIYANI, India (Reuters) - Nearly two dozen men building a temple in this remote farming village lay down their tools at midday and walk through the dusty streets to a shed where they are joined by another group of men -- and start eating a meal cooked by a man.

They live, eat and sleep together, sharing mattresses on the bare floor of an empty room the way a married couple usually would. All but a handful are unmarried -- a living example of India's rapidly worsening gender imbalance.

Census data released earlier this year revealed there are 914 girls for every 1,000 boys born - a sharp fall since 2001 when the ratio was 933 girls for every 1000 boys.

"I have been looking to marry since I was 15," said Vinodbhai Mehtaliya, a 23-year-old Siyani farmer.

A decades-old Indian preference for male children, who are seen as breadwinners, has led to the skewed ratio, aided by cheap ultrasound tests that assist in sex-selective abortions and female infanticide.

Siyani, in the western state of Gujarat, shows the decline. Here, some 350 men over the age of 35 are simply unable to get married -- out of a total population of roughly 8,000.

"I'm lucky I got married 20 years ago" said 42-year-old Laljibhai Makwana, who works as a diamond polisher in one of the village's small workshops. "If I was young here today I would never get married."

The absence of women is obvious in the village's bumpy, tiny lanes, where cows wander freely, especially in the evenings.   Continued...

<p>Unmarried men stand in a group as they watch women dance during the Dussehra festival in the remote village of Siyani, where they also live and work in, about 140km (86 miles) west of Gujarat's capital Ahmedabad, October 4, 2011. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash</p>