Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Girls under one year of age are the most vulnerable social group in Gujarat's cities, this according to the Indian state's demographic statistics. In the last three years, urban areas have registered the death of 12,325 girls under the age of one against 8,076 boys. In rural Gujarat, 2,739 boys died before their first birthday compared to 2,246 girls.
Gujarat is one of India's richest and most advanced states. According to the latest national census (2011), its urban population is around 20.7 million people, whilst more than 30 million people live in the countryside.
According to some analysts, these figures show that there is no practical reasons-poor health facilities, poverty, illiteracy-that can justify a greater number of deaths of baby girls in urban areas than in rural areas. The problem is cultural-women are discriminated.
"Gujarat is a deeply patriarchal society," said Fr Cedric Prakash. Speaking to AsiaNews, the clergyman, who heads Prashant, a Jesuit centre for human rights, justice and peace, said that "this situation is reflected in the prevailing social ethics. Girls are not wanted and women's inferiority is taken for granted. Throughout Gujarat, women are condemned to a life of hard work and only a very small percentage become professionals or reach important positions." The same is true in politics, where "only two women are ministers."
This has an impact on families, where boys are still preferred to girls even if it means relying on sex-selective abortions and female infanticide.
"A case in point," the priest noted, "is that of Amisha Yagnik, Ahmedabad. Her husband and his family forced her to undergo sex determination tests (which are illegal in India) every time she was pregnant and abort when the foetus was a baby girl. After several years, she managed to escape to her mother's home to give birth to her first and only daughter, Kamya, who is now 9 years old."
If the state government really wants to tackle the problem, it should "close down several of the illegal abortion clinics that have sprouted in the urban areas of Gujarat," he said. "Only when there is a joint and focused effort from every section of society, will we really stop killing our girls."