Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday launched a campaign against female foeticide as the numbers of female children in the country dwindles.
“It is as if we are from the 18th century – when the girl child was killed immediately after birth. We are worse now as we don’t even allow them to be born and kill our girls in the womb,” Modi said in the northern state of Haryana, which has the country’s worst gender ratio.
According to the 2011 census, the child sex ratio was 914 girls for every 1,000 boys, the worst since India’s independence in 1947. The global discrepancy at birth is about 950 girls for every 1,000 boys.
Despite laws against foetal sex determination, female foeticide is widespread in India. Many cases of female infanticide are also reported from various parts of the country every year.
“The country’s prime minister is standing in front of you as a beggar. I have come here to beg you for the life of the girl child,” Modi said.
The programme – Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save the Daughter, Teach Her) – is being launched in 100 gender-critical districts in the country. It seeks to improve the child sex ratio and gender equality through access to education.
“For every 1,000 boys born, 1,000 girls should also be born,” Modi said. “If we do not become aware and compassionate about this problem we will be setting a dangerous precedent for future generations”.
Government data shows that the female sex ratio in the 0 to 6 age group has been showing a continuous decline over the past decades.
A study published in 2006 in the British medical journal Lancet about Indian birth rates over the past 20 years determined that the country had 10 million “missing” females. Prenatal sex determination and selective abortion accounted for 500,000 missing girls annually.