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BBC TwoThis World


Last Updated: Thursday, 18 October 2007, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
India's missing girls

abandoned girls: Lalitha, 6, and her sister Priyanjali, 3
India's Missing Girls
Monday 22 October 2007
1900 BST on BBC Two

This World investigates how every week in India thousands of girls are killed, aborted or abandoned simply because of their gender.

With the introduction of ultrasound technology, the problem is getting worse, with many women opting to abort once they know they are carrying girls.

It is part of India's centuries-old preference for boys, who will carry the family's name and traditionally provide for parents in their old age.

Daughters are frequently seen as an expensive burden who need a large wedding dowry.

Too expensive

Earlier this summer, a farmer in southern India discovered a two-day-old baby girl who had been buried alive. She survived but her grandfather confessed to the girl's attempted murder.

With seven daughters, he claimed he could not afford the burden and expense of looking after yet another girl.

This World goes to a home for abandoned children in Kadapa, a small town in the state of Andhra Pradesh. There are 80 children there and nearly all of them are girls.

The founder of the home, Sandhya, meets a young woman called Ramadevi, who is heavily pregnant but desperately unhappy because she is carrying a girl. She wants to give the girl to Sandhya to look after.

Sandhya tries to convince her that it would better for the baby to be looked after by her birth mother, rather than in a home. After the birth Ramadevi changes her mind, overcome with love for her newborn baby.

Lack of brides

Sex selection is not just restricted to the poor. It is also routine among India's middle classes, though rarely spoken about.

In the prosperous city of Ahmedabad, the capital of the state of Gujarat, This World meets Pooja Salot.

She is married to a multi-millionaire industrialist. She claims he forced her to abort two babies simply because they were girls, and says that such abortions are commonplace among her wealthy friends.

India's "missing girls" are creating another problem.

Despite the economic boom, the country is now short of so many young women that, in some states, men are struggling to find brides.

Producer/Director: Ashok Prasad
Executive Producer: Louise Norman

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