India Government Will Pay for Girl Babies to Stop Sex-Selection Abortions

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 15, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 15
, 2007

New Delhi, India (LifeNews.com) — The government is India is unveiling yet another proposal to try to stem the tide of sex-selection abortions and female infanticides there. The Asian nation, where cultural values place more emphasis on boys, has had a hard time stopping the practices and the skewed male-female gender ratios they produce.

Legislators announced the new effort in the Lok Sabha, the lower chamber of the Indian Parliament. It would involve giving state-funded insurance coverage for female children, including medial help and education assistance.

Minister of state for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury told AsiaNews, “The proposal is under consideration under the 11th plan and is meant to ensure the girl child’s survival and overall development."

She said the payments would be "based on fulfillment of four important conditions viz. birth and registration of the girl child, immunization, her retention in school and delaying her age of marriage beyond 18 years."

Female children are seen in many tribal areas as a hindrance and many girl babies are simply taken to remote areas and left to die.

Jarpula Peerya Nayak, a 27 year old father said “My wife gave birth to a female baby for the third time, a daughter is a burden and we decided not to feed her. So she died."

“It is very difficult to bring up girls and marry them off," he said, according to local press reports from Hyderabad. He’s reportedly killed another female baby as well.

Last month, his cousin J. Ravi and wife Sujatha let their newborn baby starve to death.

“My daughter died two days after birth since we did not feed her,” Ravi told AsiaNews. “We already have two girl children and can’t afford to have one more."

Local officials say villagers don’t report the deaths until well after the child has been killed and claim the baby was born stillborn or prematurely. Without advanced medical technology there’s little way to prove the death was intentional.

The new proposal comes just one month after the government launched a new "cradle campaign" outside every government district headquarters to encourage parents to not abort their baby girls and to give them up to the sate instead.

It coincides with the opening of centers were parents can leave their unwanted children rather than killing them via abortion or infanticide.

The new program has the strong support of the Catholic Church in India and the archbishop of Mumbai called it a “continuation of the work of the Church for life."

Archbishop Oswald Gracias of Mumbai said the government plan was a continuation of the “good work being done by the Church."

He told Asia News he appreciated the initiative of cradles to protect little girls “because in our social context, strong gender discrimination persists.”

“The Indian Church has been working on this front for decades: the sisters of Mother Teresa and other religious congregations accept unwanted babies, keeping a cradle outside the door of their institutions," Archbishop Gracias added.

Last December, a new report by UNICEF indicated 7,000 fewer female babies are born every day because parents can determine the sex of their unborn baby and kill her before birth. In 80 percent of India’s districts, a higher percentage of boys are born now than a decade ago.

The report cites the increased availability of cheap ultrasound technology as playing a role despite attempts by the India government to crack down on its use.

UNICEF says the resulting gender imbalance from sex selection abortions is particularly prevalent in the wealthier regions of the nation where access to the ultrasound technology easier.

UNICEF based the findings on Indian census data and they follow a report in early 2006 from the British medical journal Lancet, which estimated that 10 million baby girls have probably been aborted in the last 20 years.

The results show that a 1994 law prohibiting the use of ultrasounds to determine the sex of a baby for non-medical reasons is not working, even though the Indian government has announced several recent arrests in a renew effort to enforce the law.

Some Indian states such as Punjab and Haryana face male-female ratios as low as 799 girls born for every 1,000 boys.