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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

12/3/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Critics don't like the scheme, but few ready alternatives are available.

A response to widespread infanticide in India is gaining acceptance as an alternative to the socially-accepted murder of baby girls.

Babies in an orphanage in India. It's a better alternative to murder, but still not the best.

Babies in an orphanage in India. It's a better alternative to murder, but still not the best.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

12/3/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: Infanticide, India, female, children, orphanages, adoption


NEW DELHI, INDIA (Catholic Online) - In many cultures, girls are traditionally valued less than boys. Boys can perform more labor in agrarian societies and more profit. Girls however, are often viewed as a liability. This is particularly true in rural parts of India where poverty and a lack of education combine with traditional practices to create an epidemic of female infanticide.

Girls are much less favored than boys because girls marry with a dowry paid by the parents. Often poor, families in the countryside cannot afford to pay these dowries, so they often see girls as a liability. Although they often keep firstborn girls, subsequent female children are much more likely to be killed.

Common forms of infanticide include exposure in garbage pits and poisoning as well as other cruel forms, such as where parents simply denied treatment for basic illnesses to their young, growing girls. And although it is illegal or parents to get ultrasounds and sex-selective abortions, the practice remains widespread for those who can afford it.

Enter the humanitarians, who since the early 1990s have operated an increasing number of orphanages dedicated to unwanted female babies. Known as "cradle babies" parents are turning to a new practice in place of murder.

At social centers and hospitals across the Southern India, where infanticide is most common, empty cradles are made available. Unhappy parents can simply place their babies in the cradle, a form of safe surrender.

These girls are then sent to orphanages where they are later adopted out. Children with disabilities are often sent to state-run homes for long-term care.

Many infertile couples turn to the orphanages to find children.

However, the practice of infanticide continuities in rural communities. Local communities support the practice which has a long tradition, so it is rarely prosecuted. Many baby girls simply go missing.

The problem is so significant that there are 916 girls per 1,000 boys in India. This number is an improvement from an all-time low of 849 just 20 years ago, before the cradle babies scheme was launched.

Now, the government is looking at providing extra financial support to poor families that have girls.

Critics of the cradle baby scheme say it shifts responsibility of the children to the state and that it does nothing to reverse the practice of abandonment. They are right, however without better education, support, and legal enforcement of the law, it may be the only option many baby girls have versus death.

A birth foretold: click here to learn more!

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