In male-dominated societies typical of many developing countries, discrimination against females is characterized by: a mortality rate for female infants which is generally higher than that for females; a literacy level that is lower for girls and women; lower female life expectancy; a health and nutritional status which is worse than that for males; a death rate which is higher partly due to very high maternal mortality rates; an adverse population sex ratio; lower food intake by females; lower access to health care; lower employment opportunities and income levels; genital mutilation. In many ways, both subtle and direct, girls are taught that they are less valuable than boys. As a result, women accept abuse and deprivation as a matter of course.
Dudhapiti, the coating of a mother's nipple with opium, was a centuries-old process by which Indian families disposed of their baby girls. Such an offering was believed to evoke the blessing of a goddess, who would in turn deliver a baby boy. Although this form of female infanticide has been banned in India for over a century, abortions of female foetuses are now used as a controlling device.
One quarter of the 12 million girls born in India each year die before they reach 16 years of age. Although 1990 was UNICEF's Year of the Girl Child, a study from the same year estimated one sixth of these deaths were results of gender discrimination. When a son is born in India he is consider a saviour, as he brings with him a promise of economic security and regeneration of the family name. A daughter in India, however, brings with her the burden of dowry and expense. When a girl is born in the state of Rajasthan, the women hide behind their veils and sob. Statistics from maternity wards in India indicate a great disparity between the treatment of newborn boys and girls, as boys are given greater attention and breast-fed more than girls. Although male infants are typically born with higher mortality rates, the 1990 study shows approximately 300,000 more girls die annually. Some advertisements for sex-determination tests in India implicitly urge families to spend money on their services before they are forced to spend money on a potential daughter's dowry. A 1988 survey ascertained that 7,999 out 8,000 abortions performed in Bombay were those of unborn baby girls. An estimated 600 women are burned each year in New Deli for the sake of retaining dowry and the opportunity to collect more with the attainment of a new wife. According to the 1990 study, less than one quarter of India's female population is literate, while at least half its male population can read and write.
Gender discrimination can lead to society condoning acts of violence it would otherwise condemn. In one instance in an African country, boys at a secondary school rioted, raping 71 girls and causing the deaths of 19 others in the rush to escape the assault. The school's headmaster reportedly said that the boys meant no harm.