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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 March, 2003, 14:56 GMT
Abandoned baby boy reverses trend
By Sampath Kumar
BBC correspondent in Madras

A couple in southern India has given up their male child for adoption in an area notorious for female infanticide.

Indian women
In India women are often seen as a burden
The baby was surrendered to an organisation in the state of Tamil Nadu, set up to adopt abandoned female infants.

He was born to 30-year-old Peruma a few days ago. This was the third male child born to the poor couple, who work as labourers earning low daily wages.

They were disappointed that this was a male child as they were keen on having a female baby.

They handed over their baby to the Cradle Centre in Dharmapuri town, some 400 kilometres from the state capital Madras.

The Centre was set up by the government for unwanted female infants abandoned by poor mothers who might otherwise kill them within hours of their birth.

Unique scheme

The Cradle Baby Scheme, which was designed to prevent the practice, has met with mixed success.

Women in urban areas have equal employment opportunities and no longer need to depend on their parents
More than 200 babies were dropped at this centre since it was set up last year by women.

The system does not require the identity of the mothers to be disclosed.

The scheme itself was introduced nearly 10 years ago and so far more than 600 babies have been given up for adoption through recognised non-government organisations.

Some are being brought up in special homes.

Scanning to determine the sex of the foetus is banned in India and there are severe punishments for female infanticide.

Reversal

Despite these campaigns, female infanticide is still prevalent.

Many poor mothers fear they would have to bear the expenses of their daughter's wedding including paying dowry.

In many districts in Tamil Nadu mothers find newer methods of killing their newborn babies without being detected.

The surrender of a male baby has therefore come as a surprise.

Social scientists point out that in urban middle class families, there now seems to be a reversal of the old trend, with a female children being preferred.

Women in urban areas have equal employment opportunities and no longer need to depend on their parents.

Chandra, a middle class housewife, says she would prefer a daughter because she believes they are more affectionate and helpful to the parents than a son in the longer run.

She points out that in urban India, family bonds are no longer strong which is demonstrated by the proliferation of old age homes.

But urban families are exceptions.

As long as there is poverty and illiteracy, sociologists say it will take a very long time for the villagers to start preferring female babies.


SEE ALSO:
Changing views on female infanticide
11 Dec 01 |  South Asia
India's unwanted girls
11 Jul 00 |  South Asia
India rapped over birth bias
11 Jul 00 |  South Asia
Plea to save girl babies
04 May 00 |  South Asia


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