- The Washington Times - Friday, September 17, 2004

BOMBAY — Stockbroker Amandeep Singh had a booming business in Bombay and seemed a happy man when he learned that his wife, Seema, had finally become pregnant 10 years after they married.

The childless north Indian couple went to a temple and prayed to the Hindu god Ganesh to bless them with a healthy son.

But then, a secret ultrasound test showed the baby growing in Mrs. Singh’s womb was a girl.

“We want to have a small family with only one child, and we don’t want it to be a girl,” Mrs. Singh told a family friend. “There’s pressure from my in-laws — we have to have a son.”

So Mrs. Singh, 32, went with her mother-in-law to a suburban clinic and had the fetus aborted.

Afterward, she told the friend that she and her husband were now focused on trying to have a son who could be the “perfect heir” for the family and also for the business. If necessary, they would seek the help of a modern fertility clinic to help them choose the sex of their child.

The story is repeated countless times in Bombay and other Indian cities, where affluent parents are killing tens of thousands of fetal girls per year, hoping for a boy instead. A recent United Nations Population Fund report said the practice is widespread in India.

An anti-girl bias and the killing of girl babies has been common among India’s poor and working class for decades, but new figures show that in the heart of New Delhi — where India’s richest and the best-educated live — the ratio of girls to boys showed the sharpest fall.

The new report by India’s health ministry said that over the past decade, fewer than 900 girls were born in the capital, New Delhi, and in Bombay, for every 1,000 boys. New Delhi’s rich southwest region had the lowest ratio — 845 girls per 1,000 boys in the newborn-to-6-year-old group.

In Bombay, the ratio was 898 girls per 1,000 boys in that age group. In Ahmedabad, Gujarat — one of the most industrialized states — there were 814 girls per 1,000 boys ages up to 6.

According to a 2001 census, the overall birthrate for India was 927 girls per 1,000 boys, a steady decline from 945 girls per 1,000 boys in 1991 and 962 in 1981.

These statistics mean that, as a result of abortions or killing girls in infancy, up to 5 million baby girls “disappear” from India every year.

To counter the growing trend, the government is displaying large posters featuring images of little girls with messages like: “I am yours. Do not kill me.”

But the fact is that, in most cases, the decision to abort a female fetus or to kill a baby girl is made by the husband or his parents.

The 2001 census report, which was reanalyzed in a new light last week, reveals that in rural India, 946 girls were born for every 1,000 boys, while in urban areas where people are richer and more educated, there were only 900 girls per 1,000 boys.

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