The Global Persecution of Women
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:(a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.
For Joan Holmes' "Keynote Address" to the Conference on The Girl Child: The Future Depends on Her," held in New York, 6 Nov. 2004, see here.
“China expands aid to rural couples with 1 child but not easing 1-child policy,” Toronto Globe and Mail 9 June 2005.
Rural Chinese families depend on their offspring to support them in old age, and have traditionally valued sons over daughters for their earning power.
Jim Yardley, “Fearing Future, China Starts to Give Girls Their Due,” New York Times, 31 Jan. 2005.
NXI, China - For farming families in the lush mountains of coastal Fujian Province, the famous crop is oolong tea and the favorite source of labor is sons. The leafy bushes of tea fill the hillsides the same way young boys fill the village streets.
There is such a glut of boys here - roughly 134 are born for every 100 girls - that the imbalance has forced an unlikely response from the Chinese government. To persuade more families to have girls, it has decided in some cases to pay families that already have daughters.
The Communist Party is often vilified for its so-called one-child policy. The government credits the policy for sharply slowing China's population growth, but critics say it is a major reason many families now use prenatal scans and selective abortions to make certain that their child is a boy.
Today, China has one of the world's worst cases of "missing" girls. Until recent years, the government largely ignored or denied the problem. Last March, President Hu Jintao declared it must be solved by 2010. Government officials now have declared that selective sex abortions will become a criminal offense. Such abortions were already banned, but doctors often accepted bribes from parents who wanted to guarantee a boy.
Government officials are hardly backing away from population control. But the government is examining various possible changes. Last year, the State Council, China's cabinet, appointed a research group of 250 demographers and other experts to examine issues like imbalance between the sexes, dropping fertility rates and ways to prepare for China's rapidly aging population. It may also address whether and when China should move to a nationwide two-child policy to prevent a looming baby bust.
"In the future, I think we have to consider this issue," said Hao Linna, spokeswoman for the National Population and Family Planning Commission. "As for what time, when and how we need to research these issues. We need to study how to shift, in what form and what method.
" Yet government officials agree that reversing the birth imbalance between boys and girls cannot be postponed. Experts debate to what extent China's population policy should be blamed for the problem, noting that the problem predates the one-child policy. Other Asian countries like India and South Korea without such policies also have lopsided birth rates. But statistics show that China's imbalance has widened since population controls began in the late 1970's.
In early January, the government announced that the nationwide ratio had reached 119 boys for every 100 girls. Studies show that the average rate for the rest of the world is about 105 boys for every 100 girls. Demographers predict that in a few decades China could have up to 40 million bachelors unable to find mates.
On a recent afternoon here in southeastern China, hundreds of students in the dirt courtyard of Lanxi Middle School held a parade rehearsal. The school goes through 12th grade, and about 60 percent of students in the higher grades are male. The marchers, mostly boys, waved flags and kicked dust in the air beside a billboard promoting the latest propaganda campaign: Respect Girls.
Local officials brought a visiting reporter here because Lanxi Middle School is participating in a Care for Girls pilot program. Female students from poor families are getting free tuition, as are students from families with two girls. The principal, Hu Hongbin, happily shows off an exhibition room where posters show girls in the program.
Mr. Hu said the exhibition room was supposed to build the self-esteem of girls, though it also seemed intended to impress visiting officials. Still, he said that young women were now eligible for college scholarships and that the number of recent female graduates attending college jumped to 271 in 2004 from 149 in 2003.
Lin Lingling, 18, a plucky senior who has hopes for college, is one of the stars of the program. "They say boys are good at logical things, so when they enter into high school, they say some of them are a lot better," said Ms. Lin, a top student. "But we are the same.”
Still, most Chinese parents, particularly in rural areas, prefer sons. Li Shengming, an official with the Anxi Family Planning Commission, said this preference dated back centuries and was largely rooted in practical concerns. Farm families want sons for their labor, while all parents, worried about their old age, know that Chinese tradition holds that a son must care for his parents. A daughter, on the other hand, marries into her husband's family.
In the countryside, where there is no real social safety net, a son is considered the equivalent of a pension. "It used to be that if you only had girls, you were looked down upon," Mr. Li said.
In response, the government has introduced a test program under which about 300,000 rural elderly people are receiving annual pensions of $180, a good amount in the countryside, if they had only one child or if they had daughters.
Mr. Li said these fiscal incentives were intended to give monetary value to girls, and by doing so, reduce the incentive to abort them. Even so, the limited scope of the program has reduced its impact. Ms. Hao, the Beijing official, said Anxi was one of only 24 cities where girls were getting financial aid, and the budget is not expected to increase greatly.
China's population policy long ago ceased to be a true one-child rule. In broad terms, urban families, with exceptions, are usually limited to one child while rural families are allowed a second child if the first is a girl. Minority families, meanwhile, are sometimes allowed three or more children to keep their populations from declining.
In the rural Fujian Mountains, the pressure on families to have a boy as a second child is enormous. On what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, the birth of her second child, Liao Yanqing said she instead contemplated suicide because the baby was another girl.
"I felt I couldn't hold up my head walking in the village," she recalled. Her family is now one of a handful that has gotten government grants for having two girls, money the Liaos have used to buy a new house and a small restaurant. Both girls now go to school for free. "It has been quite a dramatic change," she said.
Even so, attitudes will be hard to change in male-dominated China. Officials used the recent birth of the country's 1.3 billionth citizen as a propaganda vehicle to laud government efforts to slow population growth to a more sustainable level. Without the policy, officials say, China would have 300 million more people.
The eight-pound baby, born in early January and still unnamed, turned out to be a boy. His first bath was nationally televised. Asked about the honor of his son's having such an auspicious birth, Zhang Tong, the father, could have been describing the different parental attitudes toward sons and daughters.
"I am the happiest guy in the world," Mr. Zhang told the state news media, "and my boy will be blessed all his life."
Ching-Ching Ni, “China Confronts Its Daunting Gender Gap,” LA TIMES, 21 January 2005.
Officials seek corrective measures as a one-child policy and a preference for male offspring mean men now significantly outnumber women.
BEIJING When China celebrated the birth of its 1.3 billionth person early this month, officials hailed the draconian family planning policies that have succeeded in slowing down the birthrate in the world's most populous nation.
Much to no one's surprise, China's new arrival was male. For nearly three decades, the government has limited couples to one child, a move that has resulted in 300 million fewer people and one daunting gender gap.
Selective abortions and female infanticide have thrown the natural order out of whack. The latest official figures indicate that in China, about 119 boys are born for every 100 girls, and in some rural areas, the difference is 133 to 100. Under normal circumstances, the ratio would be 106 boys to 100 girls.
In response, the central government is expected to criminalize selective abortion, including the use of gender detection for the purpose of aborting an otherwise healthy girl. No details have been given. The government's goal is to help normalize the country's gender ratio by 2010.
"The government takes it as an urgent task to correct the gender imbalance of newborns," Zhang Weiqing, minister in charge of the State Population and Family Planning Commission, told state media recently.
Family planning laws already forbid the termination of a pregnancy because of gender.
Doctors performing ultrasound examinations are not allowed to tell expectant parents whether the fetus is male or female. But in a country where boys are prized for carrying on the family name and providing for their aging parents, people have ways of finding out.
"All it takes is a glance of the eye or a gesture of the hand from the doctor," said Xu Anqi, a sociologist at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
"It's impossible to stop them from revealing the sex of the fetus."
Abortions have been relatively easy to obtain. Violating the one-child policy has meant heavy fines and the loss of jobs and benefits, so doctors rarely question an unwanted pregnancy.
"You can say, 'It's my second pregnancy,' 'I'm too busy with work' or 'I don't have enough money to raise a child.' Most hospitals will just take your word for it," Xu said.
Some critics worry that outlawing gender detection and selective abortion will drive those who perform them further underground, making the procedures more expensive and risky.
The critics also believe that as long as the one-child policy exists, women, especially those in rural areas, will be under pressure to have boys. If selective abortion is illegal, more women might resort to killing their infant daughters. Female infanticide is already widespread in rural areas that lack access to ultrasound technology.
The Bush administration has withheld funding from the United Nations Population Fund to protest the agency's support of China's one-child policy.
Balancing the gender gap is considered crucial to the country's social stability.
With an estimated 40 million more men than women in the population, China risks becoming a nation of bachelors. Already, trafficking of women and children is on the rise because men fear growing old without a mate.
Critics say it's difficult to end the gender ratio imbalance without addressing the root cause of the gender preference.
"Criminalizing selective abortion may work as a short-term deterrent, but in the long term we need to improve the living conditions of women, increase their education and economic opportunities and provide more social security coverage for the elderly," said Lu Jiehua, a population studies expert at Peking University.
Already, a more developed urban China is experiencing plummeting birthrates, just like other industrialized countries. The government has responded by allowing city dwellers who are themselves an only child to have two children.
People living in the countryside are allowed to have a second child if the first-born is a girl. Instead of punishments such as destroying the homes of those with too many children, some provinces offer financial incentives for rural residents to have smaller families.
But the desire to have a baby boy remains strong.
The main reason the Chinese prefer sons is the lack of a social safety net.
The vast majority of Chinese live in the countryside, and they have no health insurance or pensions. Daughters marry and move away, whereas sons traditionally stay home and support their aging parents.
The nation's elderly population is expected to quadruple by 2050 to nearly 400 million. Supporting this ballooning group poses a serious challenge to a shrinking youth population and the country's limited social security system.
China's population explosion began in the 1960s: The number of people rose from 600 million during the nation's first census in 1953 to 700 million about a decade later. The first man to warn Beijing of an impending demographic crisis was purged.
The population grew unchecked until 1970, when it reached about 800 million.
By the late 1970s, the family planning policy had begun to kick into gear.
The Chinese birthrate dropped from 5.8 per woman in 1970 to less than 2 in 2000, according to state figures.
“China to outlaw sex-selective abortions,” China Daily, 7 Jan. 2005.
Chinese traditionally prefer sons because they are seen as more able to provide for the family, to support elderly parents and to carry on the family line. Daughters become members of their husband's family when they marry.
Chinese given perks to have girls,” BBC News, 12 Aug. 2004.
A pilot programme in rural China is offering cash and other incentives to families who have daughters.
Families with girls get free schooling and better housing, the official China Daily reported, as part of an effort to tackle the country's gender imbalance.
About 117 boys are born for every 100 girls, according to official figures. …
The National Population and Family Planning Commission has called for a nationwide effort to "create a favourable environment" for females, the China Daily reported.
The commission wants its Care for Girls pilot programme to bring the gender balance down to a level of between 103 and 107 boys born per 100 girls.
The gender disparity is beginning to cause alarm in many parts of China. In southern provinces such as Hainan and Guangdong, the ratio is now up to 130 boys per 100 girls, officials told Reuters news agency.
By 2020, it has been estimated that China could have more than 30 million bachelors, and there has recently been an increase in the number of women being sold into prostitution or as wives.
But moves are afoot to redress the imbalance.
In Fujian province, the authorities have provided 200 million yuan ($24million) insurance for 490,000 households with daughters, the China Daily said.
Nearly 100,000 girls in the province are also exempt from paying school fees, the newspaper said.
Daughters-only families in other provinces have also been given privileges in housing, employment, education and welfare support, the China Daily said.
Zhang Weiqing, head of the National Population and Planning Commission, said correcting the gender imbalance was only a short-term goal.
In the longer term, the aim is to promote gender equality in opportunities.
Stephanie Hoo, “Official: China Aims to Balance Gender,” Associate dPress, 15 July 2004.
BEIJING - China hopes to achieve a normal balance of newborn boys and girls within six years by banning the use of abortions to select an infant's sex and by making welfare payments to couples without sons, a family planning official said Thursday.
Government figures show 117 boys are born in China for every 100 girls - a gap blamed largely on a policy limiting most couples to one child. In a society that values sons, many parents abort baby girls, hoping to try again for a boy.
The gap has led to warnings that millions of men won't find wives in coming years, fueling social tensions and a black market in baby girls and abducted women.
"Illegal sex determination and sex-selective abortion must be strictly banned," said Zhao Baige, vice minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission. "China has set the goal of lowering the sex ratio to a normal level by 2010."
Zhao defended China's "one child" limit, and said other Asian societies have similar imbalances.
"It's not just China," Zhao said at a news conference. She said South Korea had 114 boys for every 100 girls in 1988.
"And South Korea does not have this family planning policy," she said.
The "one child" limit allows rural families to have two children if the first is a girl, because Chinese peasants traditionally rely on sons to support them in old age.
Abuses are rife. Researchers say China has millions fewer girls than it normally should, suggesting that many were aborted or killed after birth.
"The criminal acts of trafficking, maltreatment and abandonment of female infants must be punished with severity," Zhao said.
China plans to do more to teach rural families to value daughters as much as sons, and to expand welfare programs so that poor couples don't feel they have to produce a son, she added.
A plan called the Girl Care Project will teach "equality between men and women and promote the value of having fewer and healthier children," she said.
Another program gives money to couples in poor areas who only have one child or two daughters and no sons, or whose children are deceased or disabled, she said.
Couples get $145 per couple a year after they turn 60 as "as compensation to families that practice family planning," Zhao said.
Louisa Lim, “China fears bachelor future,” BBC News, 5 April 2004.
China is facing a demographic crisis. It is heading towards becoming a nation of bachelors, with official statistics predicting as many as 40m single men by 2020.
The shortage of women is due to a traditional preference for sons, combined with the effects of China's strict birth control policies.
On Hainan Island, which has the worst gender imbalance in the country, A Jun dangles her baby girl on her hip as she waddles towards the village well. At 22, she is heavily pregnant with her second baby, and there is pressure on her to have a boy this time.
"My husband wants a boy," she said. "If the second child's a girl, I'll have another. I want to have a boy too."
So great is her desire for a boy, she is willing to risk a fine and the wrath of the government to have a forbidden third child. She lives in Pingling village, deep in the tropical hillside of Hainan island.
It is a poverty-stricken collection of stone houses which depends on a few small plots of land to scratch out a living. With social security systems non-existent in places like this, families count on sons to look after them in their old age.
"In this sort of village, they treasure boys and don't care about girls," A Jun's friend, Hua, explained.
"People think sons will look after them when they get old. But once girls get married, they belong to someone else. They're not part of your family any more."
Starting in 1980, the Chinese government limited each family to one child to try to avert a population explosion. But popular discontent in rural areas led to a policy change in 1984, according to population expert Zhai Zhenwu from People's University in Beijing.
"In most of the countryside in China we have what we call one-and-a-half-child policy. That means if a young couple's first child is a male, they must stop child-bearing. If the child is a female they may have a second child," he said.
That - and premature female infant deaths - has led to a glut of baby boys. And Hainan island has the highest boy-to-girl ratio in the whole country, with 135 boys born for every 100 girls.
According to Zhai Zhenwu, people in Hainan still have a very traditional outlook as development there has lagged behind the mainland.
"Social and economic development in Hainan is lower than other provinces on the mainland. The government didn't want to develop Hainan because it is in the frontline of Taiwan, so the government didn't invest much there."
He said the startling gender imbalance did not emerge until the late 1980s when ultrasound machines became common and expectant parents could find out the gender of their child.
"People always want to know whether they're having a girl or a boy," said ultrasound technician Chen De, who works in the maternity hospital in the small town of Wenchang.
"They often offer me money to tell them."
He is forbidden to do so by law. But he said some people were willing to break the law.
"Until a few years ago, private clinics had ultrasound machines and would tell you the gender of your child. Now they're strictly controlled as the government has clamped down. But many of the ultrasound machines are now in illegal clinics, so people still have ultrasounds done in secret."
Baby girls are often aborted to give parents another chance at having a boy. It is illegal, but that does not make any difference.
"I wanted a boy, and it was the only way," one man said, admitting he had encouraged his wife to abort a baby girl. And mortality rates for female infants are much higher in Hainan. One paediatrician, who did not want to be named, gave a chilling insight into why.
"If a baby boy gets sick," she said, "Its parents will sell everything they own to save their son's life. If it's a girl, very often the parents don't have such a positive attitude. Sometimes they just stop the treatment and take the baby home."
She estimates that 70% of the newborns in her hospital are male. And statistics indicate that as many as two million extra boys are born every year nationwide. These are men who will not find wives, and Chinese officials have warned that this gender imbalance could lead to an increase in prostitution, sex crimes and wife-buying.
As the first generation of children born under the one-child policy is only just reaching marriage age, the problem of surplus men is not yet a major one nationally.
But in some places it is starting to emerge.
And Pingling is, in this sad way, ahead of its time. Many men in the village cannot find wives. It is not because of the gender imbalance but because a huge flood washed away the villages' fertile soil, so it is poorer than its neighbours.
But in a country where marriage is the norm, Pingling's status as a bachelor village is a source of great shame.
"I don't have a girlfriend, I can't find one," said 25-year-old Xiao Ming, blushing furiously, as he concentrates on chopping bamboo. "It's because I can't speak properly and I don't understand romance."
One old man in the village, Qiao Liangguo, has four sons - three of them cannot find wives. As he recounts his misfortune, his eyes water and he rubs a weary hand over his wrinkled forehead.
"Now in our village, we have no water, no rice and no money. Wives aren't easy to find. My fate is bad. No one wants to marry my sons."
As dusk falls, the young men of Pingling play volleyball. The happy sounds mask the absence of women and the villages' faltering future.
An environmental disaster has damaged this village - but the social cost of China's gender imbalance will be man-made.
"China’s ‘gendercide’ crisis,” WorldNet.Daily.com, 17 Feb. 2004.
Chinese adults desperate for children have fueled a major criminal industry in child kidnappings. One recent government operation cracked a gang suspected of being behind a wave of abductions and reunited 63 children with their parents after weeks or months of separation.
The children – all boys who are much in demand among childless couples in China – were sold as far away as the southeastern province of Fujian 750 miles from Kunming in Yunnan province, according to published reports.
The children, who ranged in age from five months to 13 years, changed hands several times – rising in value with each transaction. One boy was sold 13 times, with the price tag going up from initially $241 to eventually $2,400.
Earlier, police in Guizhou province, also in southwest China, arrested 45 people engaged in kidnapping and selling children. Recently, three men were sentenced to death for kidnapping 32 young women, also in Guizhou. In November, two leaders of a gang accused of trafficking 118 babies received death sentences in the southern Chinese city of Yulin.
But still the kidnappings continue. …
As countries modernize and women become more educated, they often choose to have fewer children. But in Asia, many women still want to have at least one boy.
"Some people think sons can earn more money," says Minja Kim Choe, a demographer at the University of Hawaii.
Cindy Sui, "Twenty years after China's 'one-child policy' began, abuses run rampant," Hong Kong AFP, 3 Jan. 2001.
Preference for boys is the key reason behind couples breaking the law and the main cause of the killing of female babies, selective abortion by gender and abandoned newborn girls.
Human Rights in China, Report on Implementation of CEDAW in the People's Republic of China. December 1998.
P. 83. The traditional preference for boys combined with the requirements of the single child policy have exacerbated the discrimination against the girl child, reinforcing the secondary status of daughters and exacerbating pressures on mothers to give birth to sons. This discrimination may entail violent practices which the government has failed to prevent, as laws and regulations are not enforced.
P. 84. The sex ratio becomes more skewed at the third and fourth order births, an indication that, as parents' hopes of having a boy decrease, girls' risks of "disappearing" increase.
”India Survey Says Male Children Preferred,” New York Times, 21 Feb. 2007.
NEW DELHI (AP) -- Indian women continue to face pressure to produce a male child, according to a government survey released Wednesday. zzzOf female respondents who identified themselves as married with two living children, nearly 90 percent say they don't want more children if they have at least one son, but that number falls to about 62 percent if the women have two girls, according to the National Family Health Survey.
In some states, such as underdeveloped Bihar, 80 percent of women with two daughters and no sons said they wanted to have another child, the survey said.
Women face great social pressure to produce a male child in this nation where the cultural preference for boys is rooted in the custom of dowry, with families often going into debt to provide gifts for the groom's family.
''We still have much to do to reduce the discrimination against girls and in tackling this son preference,'' said A.K. Shiv Kumar, a development economist and an adviser to UNICEF.
India's latest census data show that the preference for boys has skewed the gender ratio in the population of more than 1.1 billion people. Experts say that sex-selective abortions are responsible for the number of girls per 1,000 boys slipping from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001.
The survey covered about 230,000 people between the ages of 15 and 54, more than half of them women.
The data revealed that India's social indicators are dragging -- mostly due to poor access to health care and information -- even as the country shows strong economic growth. India's economy is likely to expand by 9.2 percent in the fiscal year that ends in March.
In an indication that women lack adequate legal protection, nearly 45 percent of married women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before India's legal age of 18, the survey showed. Families still arrange most Indian marriages, especially when the couple marries young.
Also, 16 percent of women surveyed between the ages of 15 and 19 said they were pregnant at the time of the survey. The data shows that rural women get pregnant much younger than those in urban areas.
Kumar added that the numbers highlighted the low priority health care had in policy planning. India allocates just 2 percent of its federal government spending to health related costs, compared with 16 percent in a developed nation such as France, according to UNICEF data.
The first set of data was released earlier this month and showed that almost half of India's children suffered from malnutrition, putting the country in the same league as Burkina Faso and Cambodia.
Wednesday's additional data showed that nearly 80 percent of Indian children between 6 months and 35 months suffered from anemia.
The survey -- the third conducted since 1992-93 -- was conducted through face-to-face interviews across India between December 2005 and August 2006.
Randeep Ramesh, ”India to open orphanages to take thousands of unwanted girls who would otherwise be killed,” Guardian, 19 Feb. 2007.
• 400 pieces of bones found believed to be female
• 7,000 fewer girls born a day than natural rate
The Indian government announced a nationwide series of orphanages for girls yesterday, alarmed by the inability to stem the widespread practice of female foeticide.
The news came on the day that police arrested two people near the city of Bhopal, in central India, after officers recovered almost 400 pieces of bones believed to be of newly born female babies or foetuses.
The orphanage scheme is a reponse to the deepening crisis over the country's "missing girls". Renuka Chowdhury, the minister of state for women and child development, estimates the number of either female foetuses aborted or newborn girls killed to be 10 million over the past two decades.
"What we are saying to the people is have your children, don't kill them. And if you don't want a girl, leave her to us," Ms Chowdhury told wire agencies, adding that the plan envisaged each regional centre would get an orphanage. "We will bring up the children. But don't kill them because there really is a crisis situation," she said.
There were some concerns that the new scheme would encourage parents to abandon female infants. However, Ms Chowdhury said that "it doesn't matter. It is better than killing them."
A Unicef report last December said 7,000 fewer girls are born in India every day than the global average would suggest.
The findings revealed a grisly underside to the economic boom in India. The imbalance in gender ratio has become sharpest in India's richest districts, where couples can afford the ultrasound examination.
Although sex determination tests of unborn babies are illegal, states display neither the political will nor the resources to enforce the law.
"While the [orphanages] are a good short-term measure, the longer-term, bigger problem is lack of law enforcement. The doctors and hospitals that kill girls have to be prosecuted and closed down," said Swami Agnivesh, head priest of the Arya Samaj, a religious body which campaigns against female foeticide.
There are too many loopholes that allow those who provide tests to remain free, say campaigners. Only one doctor has been convicted of illegally aborting female foetuses. In Bhopal police were investigating whether the hospital carried out illegal abortions and illegally disposed of bodies.
The swami added it was time for "all sections of society" to wake up and realise that its value system was elevating boys over girls. "We are killing children."
There is a strong cultural bias towards boys in Indian society, across all faiths. Many couples believe their family needs a son to carry on the family name and earn enough to look after them in old age. The dowry system, under which the bride's family pay cash to the groom, despite such payments being deemed illegal, also favours male children.
Some states have resorted to financial incentives to correct the skewed sex ratios. On offer in various regions are free immunisations, no school fees and free books, no marriage expenses and in one state after daughters have left, there is an age allowance to take care of parents.
”Drop in Female Births Prompts Alarm in India,” Associated Press, 19 December 2006.
NEW DELHI, Dec. 18 -- Lawmakers and women's rights activists expressed alarm Monday over new evidence indicating that about 7,000 fewer girls than expected are born each day in India, where women routinely suffer discrimination and parents often abort female fetuses.
The spread of ultrasound technology that allows parents to find out the sex of their unborn children has resulted in a large-scale "disappearance" of girls. One study released this year estimated that 10 million fewer girls were born here than expected in the past 20 years.
The government must "rise in revolt against the male-child mania," lawmaker Gurudas Dasgupta said during a parliamentary debate Monday.
The debate was spurred in part by a report last week from UNICEF that estimated that 7,000 girls go unborn each day in India, where a ban on targeting female fetuses for abortion is widely flouted.
The result is a skewed sex ratio -- many districts in the country of more than 1 billion people routinely report a ratio of 800 females born for every 1,000 males.
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.
"India," DOS Report 2005.
Parents often gave priority in health care and nutrition to male infants. Women’s rights groups pointed out that the burden of providing girls with an adequate dowry was one factor that made daughters less desirable. The states of Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, parts of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Karnataka reported particularly low male/female ratios, with Punjab reporting the lowest statewide totals in the country: 793 females to 1000 males. [2c] (Section 4)
Women in India How Free? How Equal? Report commissioned by the United Nations, 2001, pp. 12-3.
Given the enormous progress India has made in health care and nutrition for its women and children one would expect a steady increase in the number of women in the population. It is shocking that the reverse has happened. The female to male ratio has become worse, not better, in the last 100 years. The adverse male to female ratio can be explained only by the fact that women in India are still second class citizens. It is proof that, at every stage in their lives beginning from before birth, women are deprived of their rights and entitlements, and discriminated against in a variety of ways.
”Baby Girl Epitomize[s] Woman's Lot In India,” Associated Press, 15 May 2003.
Last Sunday night, a baby girl lay sleeping in a hospital's intensive care unit some 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) to the south, with the nation's eyes on her as word spread that her mother had allegedly abandoned her to take home another woman's baby boy.
On the same day in two cities across this sprawling nation, the bride and the baby were tied together by a bitter social truth: for most Indian women, life is one long curse, starting at birth. …
… in the southern metropolis of Hyderabad, the baby girl was paying for … ancient customs.
When she was 4 days old, nurses took her to Latha Reddy and said she was the 19-year-old woman's daughter. Reddy knew she wasn't; she had already seen her own child, a son, moments after birth.
Reddy refused to accept the baby girl and began a sit-in protest. The baby girl's real mother did not come forward and "Baby India " - as some media christened her - remained unclaimed.
DNA tests proved Reddy right. A three-week hunt for the baby's parents ended Tuesday when police arrested three hospital workers and the girl's father, accused of swapping his daughter for Reddy's son.
Police allege that Nazeer Ahmed and his wife Mehmooda Begum conspired with nurses at Nayapul Government Maternity Hospital to swap their daughter for a boy. Begum's arrest was delayed as she must nurse her baby girl; she says she is innocent.
"I do not know why we are being harassed like this," she told The Associated Press on Tuesday, calling the swap a tragic trick of fate.
"I fed that baby (boy) for three weeks. I am happy that I have got back my daughter, but I will miss the boy for a long time," she said.
The law will decide if Ahmed and Begum were acting out of Indians' general preference for boys. Theirs is one of the few nations where a woman's life expectancy is lower than a man's, and the abortion of female fetuses is so common that the law bans doctors from revealing the gender of unborn babies.
Parents favor sons as they will ensure getting - and not giving - dowries, and because boys are seen as more useful and productive.
Indian women have made great achievements in recent years, ending the male monopoly in politics, running leading corporations and gaining top ranks in the military.
But in many Indian homes, girls are asked to eat after the family's men and encouraged to learn to cook instead of studying - especially for a higher degree since that might mean paying a greater dowry for an equally educated groom.
The Global Persecution of Women