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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April, 2003, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
Life for India baby girl killers
By Sampath Kumar
BBC correspondent in Madras

Indian women
In India women are often seen as a burden
A court in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has sentenced three people to life imprisonment for killing a new-born baby girl.

This is the first time in the state that life terms have been handed down for female infanticide.

The crime came to light when neighbours became suspicious after the burial of the baby and alerted police.

Despite a number of awareness campaigns, the practice of female infanticide is still common in parts of Tamil Nadu.

Non-governmental organisations working in these areas say abject poverty prompts villagers to kill new-born girls.

They say the birth of a daughter is unwelcome to a poor family as they can ill afford the traditional dowry and other marriage expenses which follow when the girl grows up.


The killing of the baby girl took place in the remote village of Perumipatti in Salem district nearly two years ago.

Prosecutors said a farmer and his wife had given an extract of a poisonous plant to their new-born daughter, resulting in her death.

A post-mortem carried out after the body was exhumed confirmed the girl had been poisoned.

The farmer, Murugesan, his wife, Kalaichelvi, and his mother were all given life terms.

'Cradle scheme'

The state government has offered to adopt abandoned babies as an incentive to stop the killings.

Under the "cradle scheme" launched in 1992 a mother can secretly leave her child in a cradle kept outside the Social Welfare Department.

The government then helps raise the child. So far more than 600 babies have been received in this manner.

Efforts are also underway by the government and social organisations to educate people against female infanticide.

But social workers say the practice continues despite the awareness campaigns.

They say stringent punishments, like the life terms given to the farmer and his family, are more likely to have an impact.

Abandoned baby boy reverses trend
19 Mar 03  |  South Asia
India's lost girls
04 Feb 03  |  South Asia
India targets female foeticide
15 Feb 03  |  South Asia

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