Dec 14, 2006 , By Palash Kumar
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – 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.
Hindu priests pressed on abortions
AFP,Friday, December 15, 2006
NEW DELHI: India's Hindu priests came under criticism Friday for blessings about sons, seen as leading to the number of abortions of girls and skewed sex ratios across the country.
It is common for priests to bless young women by saying, "May you be the mother of a hundred sons", and many Hindus believe the soul will not find release unless a son performs his parents' last rites.
"The problem is very serious and is part of the deep mindset in India," Renuka Chowdhury, minister for women and child development, said.
"They have to stop giving blessings about sons," Chowdhury said. "They should bless couples with healthy children."
The remarks came the same week that the United Nations children's agency UNICEF said India was losing almost 7,000 girls a day, mostly due to sex-selective abortion.
Under Indian law, tests to find out the gender of an unborn baby are illegal if not done for medical reasons, but the practice continues in what activists say is a flourishing multi-million-dollar business.
Feticide means 7,000 fewer girls a day in India
Out of 71,000 children born every day in India, just 31,000 are girls — giving a sex ratio of 882 girls to 1,000 boys
December 12, 2006
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Seven thousand fewer girls are born in India each day than the global average would suggest, largely because female fetuses are aborted after sex determination tests, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday.
The problem of female feticide has significantly worsened since 1991, UNICEF said at the India launch of its "State of the World's Children 2007" report.
Out of 71,000 children born every day in India, just 31,000 are girls — giving a sex ratio of 882 girls to 1,000 boys.
But the global sex ratio — which is 954 girls to 1,000 boys — suggests that 38,000 girls should be born in India every day.
Despite laws banning sex determination tests, female feticide is common in much of India, where families view boys as being a better asset than girls.
"Modern diagnostic techniques for monitoring the health of a fetus, such as amniocentesis and ultrasound, have made it possible to ascertain sex in the earliest phase of gestation," the report stated.
"In countries where there is a strong preference for sons, these newer, sophisticated technologies can be misused, facilitating female feticide."
Social activists say local authorities have been slow to implement legislation that has been in force since 1996. There has been only one conviction from hundreds of cases lodged under the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PNDT).
UNICEF says India is one of the few countries worldwide with an adverse child sex ratio in favor of boys.
In 80 percent of India's districts, U.N. officials say the situation is getting worse. For example in 14 districts across the northern states of Haryana and Punjab, there are even fewer than 800 girls per 1,000 boys.
After birth, discrimination continues against girls in India, UNICEF said, limiting their access to nutrition, healthcare, education and maternal care.
Only 67.7 percent of females between the ages of 15 to 24 are literate in India, compared to 84.2 percent of males, and against 98.5 percent of women of the same age group in China.
Around 45 percent of Indian women are still being forced into marriage before the age of 18 in violation of the law.
That in turn contributes to high rates of maternal mortality, with one woman dying every seven minutes in India from a pregnancy related cause.
"Premature pregnancy and motherhood are an inevitable consequence of child marriage," the report said. "Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than women in their twenties."
7,000 Unborn Girls Die From Sex-Selection Abortion Daily in India
NEW DELHI, India, December 14, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com ) – Sex-selective abortion continues to kill almost 7,000 of India’s unborn baby girls every day, an annual United Nations report on children said.
“Nationwide, 7000 fewer girls than expected are born each day, largely due to sex determination,” said the report State of the World’s Children 2007.
“Since 1991, statistics reveal drastic declines in the number of girl children in the most prosperous states and districts–as much as 50-100 fewer girls per 1,000 boys than elsewhere.”
The national average, at 927, is well below the normal worldwide average of 1,050 girls to every 1,000 boys.
In the northern districts of the country, including the Punjab and Haryana states, fewer than 800 girls are born to every 1000 boys. Northern Punjab is one of the worst, with just 798 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of six, the AFP reported.
Although the Indian government has made it illegal to perform ultrasounds and abortions for the purpose of sex-selection, the practice is widespread and shows no signs of slowing. Wealthier populations are the worst offenders, since they can afford the cost of testing for gender identification.
The cultural preference for boys leads to further neglect of girls who do survive to birth, the UN report said.
“After birth, son-preference continues to persist, leading to the neglect of girls and their lack of access to nutrition, health and maternal care in the critical early years,"
A report from 2005 found a worldwide gender imbalance of at least 200 million more males than females, caused by the abortion of female babies.
In China, the one-child policy has led to the selective murder of millions of Chinese girls in order to satisfy the cultural preference for male children. Official census data for the year 2000 showed a male-female gender gap of almost 17 percent, in some provinces rising as high as 30 percent.
Number of missing girls rising in India: Unicef
IANS, DECEMBER 13, 2006
NEW DELHI: India finds itself among countries with skewed sex ratios in favour of boys. Some 7,000 fewer girls are born in India daily, mainly due to female foeticide, a Unicef State of the World's Children report says.
Compared to 1991 when only two districts – Salem (Tamil Nadu) and Bhind (Madhya Pradesh) – had adverse female sex ratio, as many as 51 districts in India now have more male babies born compared to female child, Unicef says in the report released here Tuesday.
As against the global sex ratio of 954 girls to 1,000 boys, there are only 882 girls per 1,000 boys in India.
"In 80 per cent of districts in India, the situation is getting worse," says the report, which marks the 60th anniversary of the UN body.
In 14 districts of Haryana and Punjab there are fewer than 800 girls per 1,000 boys.
Surprisingly, these are some of the most affluent areas in India, with a higher access to advanced prenatal diagnostic techniques, leading to the widespread termination of female foetus, according to the report.
Unicef notes that while the pre-natal diagnostic testing legislation has been passed in India in 1994, the enforcement is lagging with only one conviction to date.
A doctor in Haryana was this year sentenced to two years in jail and fined Rs 5,000 for foetal sex determination tests under the Prenatal Diagnostic (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act 1994.
The discrimination does not end with the selective abortion of female foetus. In most cases it carries on past the birth: the child mortality data indicates that a larger number of female children do not cross five years of age.
India and China are among the countries where boys far outnumber girls at five years of age, the report points out.
The report highlights that despite the progress made due to government-run programmes in India, the girl child continues to lack adequate nutrition, healthcare, education and maternal care.
Unicef has warned that "the alarming decline in the child sex ratio is likely to result in more girls being married at a younger age, more girls dropping out of education, increased mortality as a result of early child bearing and an associated increase in acts of violence against girls and women such as rape, abduction, trafficking and forced polyandry."
It says that around 45 per cent of Indian women were still being married off before the legal age of 18.
In states like Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the average age a woman gives birth for the first time is before she reaches 19.
In 2000, India alone accounted for one-fourth of maternal deaths worldwide. Today one woman dies every seven minutes from pregnancy related causes, which is an improvement over the status five years back.
Polio spurt’s likely answer: UNICEF says 42% of kids didn’t get drops
Toufiq Rashid, Indian Express ,December 13, 2006
NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 12: The sudden surge of polio cases in the country compared to last year’s 68 might find an explanation in the State of the World’s Children 2007 Report, released by Unicef today.
Routine immunization, the report reveals, registered a major drop in India — while 70% children were vaccinated against polio 2004, only 58% got drops after their birth this year, meaning 420 out of every 1,000 children born are exposed to polio.
The slide has occurred despite the two-point better ranking India has got for infant and under-5 mortality rate. The country is ranked 54th in 2005.
But the actual numbers are still high with 74 out of every 1,000 children born dying before reaching 5, and 56 per 1,000 dying before 1 year.
Unicef has estimated that around 19.2 lakh children die in the country annually, the highest in the world. The ranking has India at par with countries like Nepal and Papua New Guinea, and below Bangladesh’s 57th.
The report says 80% of districts recorded a decline in child sex ratio between 1991-2001 — Haryana and Punjab had worst figures with 14 districts having only 800 girls per 1,000 boys.