Monthly Archives: February 2012

When it’s Dangerous to be Born a Girl

Today’s U.K. paper The Telegraph declared a very troubling headline:

India ‘most dangerous place in world to be born a girl.’

Girls are widely regarded as a burden to Indian families who fear the high costs of their weddings. Photo: REUTERS

Females are almost twice as likely as males to die before reaching the age of five, The Telegraph quotes UN figures.

Disturbing and scary don’t even begin to describe such statistics. It’s heartbreaking enough that in many places in India, as well as other parts of the world, poverty and disease and lack of education and warfare or violence have impacted children’s lives so severely.

But to live in a place where it’s twice as dangerous to be born, simply because of your gender, is even more horrifying and unacceptable.

The Telegraph goes on to report:

From 2000 to 2010 there were 56 deaths of boys aged one to five for every 100 female deaths.

Indian campaigners for the rights of girls said the figures reflected widespread discrimination against girls, ranging from neglect to abuse and killing of unwanted female infants.

The figures, compiled by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, emerged as India was plunged into introspection over the case of a two year old girl fighting for her life in hospital after being abandoned by her family and trafficked between several adults before being beaten, bitten and branded by a 14 year old girl. The girl, known as Falak, is suffering from severe chest injuries and brain damage and according to her doctors is unlikely to survive the next 48 hours.

Photo from the UN

Girls are widely regarded as a burden to Indian families who fear the high costs of their weddings and resent spending money on their education only for them later to leave the home to marry.

Many women abort pregnancies when they believe they will deliver a girl, often under pressure from their husbands or in-laws who favour boys.

Campaigners believe there may have been as many as eight million cases of ‘female foeticide’ in India over the last decade.

This discrimination has driven India’s sex ratio progressively lower.

Census statistics show it fell from 976 girls per 1000 boys in 1961 to 914 in 2011.

But according to campaigners the figures hide the cruelty and neglect suffered by girls kept by their families, in particular from malnutrition and denial of medical treatment.

Ranjana Kumari of the Council for Social Research said Indian mothers breast feed girls for a far shorter period than they do their sons and feed them less well because they fear good nourishment will speed the advent of puberty and the need for a costly wedding. While boys are taken immediately to hospital, sick girls are kept waiting because their families do not have the same interest in their survival.

“They think they need to feed the boy, but there is less desire for the girl to survive, it is common in rural India. Boys are immediately taken to the doctor, but not the girl. She is the last to get the medicine,” she said.

Female infanticide was also a factor in the UN figures, she added. “It has been a practice in central India for a long time, where mothers were made to feed the child with salt to kill the girl child.”

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