June 21, 2008

Charity: Baby Girl Deaths Rising in India

Increasing numbers of baby girls in India are either being aborted in the womb or fatally neglected, a British charity alleges.

ActionAid said in a report that the number of baby girls in India has reached a record low due to the country's alleged cultural practice of favoring boys over girls, the BBC reported Saturday.

The group's Disappearing Daughters report says in the Indian state of Punjab, there currently are only 300 female children for every 1,000 male children born to high caste families.

The real horror of the situation is that, for women, avoiding having daughters is a rational choice, ActionAid women's rights policy official Laura Turquet said.

Charity officials, working in conjunction with the International Development Research Center in Canada, interviewed members of more than 6,000 Indian households and conducted statistical comparisons of census data as part of their study.

Turquet told the BBC that major cultural changes would have to take place to reverse the disturbing trend.

In the long term, cultural attitudes need to change. India must address economic and social barriers including property rights, marriage dowries and gender roles that condemn girls before they are even born, the charity worker said.