UN agency deplores infanticide of girls in India; praises government for study

28 October 2003
Thoraya Obaid

The ratio of girls to boys in India has shown a shocking decline in the last decade due to the elimination of girls by sex-selective abortion and infanticide, practices that must end, the head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said.

UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid also applauded the courage of the Indian Government in addressing the grave violations of national laws prohibiting sex selection. The data showed that the girl-to-boy ratio had dropped to fewer than 800 per 1,000 in some parts of the country.

"These findings reveal an alarming trend, which must be addressed," Ms. Obaid said yesterday. "Discrimination against girls anywhere in the world is a social ill and human rights violation, which must be stopped. Girls, like boys, deserve equal love, equal opportunity and equal rights."

The data were released in a booklet, Missing: Mapping the Adverse Child Sex Ratio in India. They were compiled by India's Registrar-General and Census Commissioner, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and UNFPA. The booklet was launched in India by Health Minister Sushma Swaraj.

According to the booklet, "one of the significant contributors to the adverse child sex ratio in India is the practice of elimination of female foetuses." It also notes, however, the killing of newborn girls.

"The girl child is killed by putting a sand bag on her face, or by throttling her," a mother is quoted as saying. "It is not a rare phenomenon; it happens without any hindrance."

The publication notes a national decline from 945 to 927 in the number of girls per 1,000 boys aged 0-6 between 1991 and 2001 and a "grave" situation in states like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, where the ratio has "drastically declined" to fewer than 800 girls for every 1,000 boys.

The ratio is also low in certain districts, including the South West District of Delhi, which are "amongst the most prosperous in the country," the booklet said.

Commending the Government's investigation, Ms. Obaid said: "It takes courage to move beyond denial and actively confront gender discrimination. Leadership is critical to progress for girls' and women's rights."


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