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
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
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."