Monday, February 19, 2007

Unwanted Baby Girls In India

New Delhi, Feb 18: The Union government plans to set up a series of orphanages to raise unwanted baby girls in a bid to halt the widespread practice of aborting female foetuses, according to a senior government official.

Dubbed the "cradle scheme," the plan is an attempt to slow the practice that international groups say has killed more than 10 million female foetuses in the last two decades, leading to an alarming imbalance in the ratio between males and females in India, Renuka Chowdhury, the minister of state for women and child development, told the Press Trust of India news agency in an interview published Sunday.

"What we are saying to the people is have your children, don't kill them. And if you don't want a girl child, leave her to us," Chowdhury told the agency, adding that the government planned to set up a centre in each regional district.

"We will bring up the children. But don't kill them because there really is a crisis situation," she said.

On Sunday, police arrested a gynaecologist and janitor at a hospital near Bhopal after the discovery of nearly 400 bones from foetuses and newborns in a pit behind the hospital. It is believed they are the remains of unwanted baby girls.

Many districts in the country routinely report only 800 girls born for every 1,000 boys. According to the latest census figures in India, the number of girls per 1,000 boys declined from 945 to 927 between 1991 and 2001.

Asked if the scheme would not encourage parents to abandon female infants, Chowdhury said: "It doesn't matter. It is better than killing them."

Discrimination against girls stems from the low value attached to females in Indian society. Girls are seen as a burden on the family, requiring a large dowry, which many poor families cannot afford. Females are generally the last to be educated or to get medical treatment.

Tests to determine the gender of a foetus are outlawed and the government says it is clamping down on doctors who break the law.

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