India Has Killed 10 Million Girls in 20 Years


Girls Are Considered a Burden in Sections of Indian
Society
By PALASH KUMAR

http://www.abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=2728976&page=1

Dec. 15, 2006  Ten million girls have been killed by
their parents in India in the past 20 years, either
before they were born or immediately after, a
government minister said on Thursday, describing it as
a "national crisis".

A UNICEF report released this week said 7,000 fewer
girls are born in the country every day than the
global average would suggest, largely because female
foetuses are aborted after sex determination tests but
also through murder of new borns.

"It's shocking figures and we are in a national crisis
if you ask me," Minister for Women and Child
Development Renuka Chowdhury told Reuters.

Girls are seen as liabilities by many Indians,
especially because of the banned but rampant practice
of dowry, where the bride's parents pay cash and goods
to the groom's family.

Men are also seen as bread-winners while social
prejudices deny women opportunities for education and
jobs.

"Today, we have the odd distinction of having lost 10
million girl children in the past 20 years," Chowdhury
told a seminar in Delhi University.

"Who has killed these girl children? Their own
parents." In some states, the minister said, newborn
girls have been killed by pouring sand or tobacco
juice into their nostrils.

"The minute the child is born and she opens her mouth
to cry, they put sand into her mouth and her nostrils
so she chokes and dies," Chowdhury said, referring to
cases in the western desert state of Rajasthan.

"They bury infants into pots alive and bury the pots.
They put tobacco into her mouth. They hang them upside
down like a bunch of flowers to dry," she said.

"We have more passion for tigers of this country. We
have people fighting for stray dogs on the road. But
you have a whole society that ruthlessly hunts down
girl children."

According to the 2001 census, the national sex ratio
was 933 girls to 1,000 boys, while in the
worst-affected northern state of Punjab, it was 798
girls to 1,000 boys.

The ratio has fallen since 1991, due to the
availability of ultrasound sex-determination tests.

Although these are illegal they are still widely
available and often lead to abortion of girl foetuses.

Chowdhury said the fall in the number of females had
cost one percent of India's GDP and created shortages
of girls in some states like Haryana, where in one
case four brothers had to marry one woman.

Economic empowerment of women was key to change, she
said. "Even today when you go to a temple, you are
blessed with 'May you have many sons'," she said.

"The minute you empower them to earn more or equal (to
men), social prejudices vanish."

The practice of killing the girl child is more
prevalent among the educated, including in upmarket
districts of New Delhi, making it more challenging for
the government, the minister said.

"How do we tell educated people that you must not do
it? And these are people who would visit all the
female deities and pray for strength but don't
hesitate to kill a girl child," she said. 








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