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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003, 17:52 GMT 18:52 UK
India confronts foetal sex checks
Indian schoolgirls
Educating girls could make rural parents realise their value
The Indian authorities have been ordered to enforce laws designed to stop the abortion of female foetuses.

The Supreme Court ruled that clinics must be punished for using womb scans to determine the sex of a foetus.

The ruling came in case brought by a children's charity which said many Indians have abortions after ultrasound scans tell them to expect a baby girl.

Latest figures show India's sex ratio gap widening, with only 933 females to every 1,000 males.

Attitude change needed

While male offspring are typically regarded as a blessing in parts of rural India, girls are often less welcome.

Parents expect boys to become breadwinners and look after them in old age. Girls, on the other hand, are felt to be of little use to the family after marriage.

The Indian Government is also trying to eradicate the outlawed practice of dowry - an expensive gift paid by a bride's parents to the bridegroom's family.

Fear of this crippling expense will often fill impoverished fathers with foreboding when a baby girl is born, observers say.

Ultrasound misused

The government banned clinics from conducting sex-determination tests on unborn babies nearly 10 years ago.

But recent studies have shown the ban is widely flouted.

The widening reach of ultrasound technology has led to more and more parents paying clinics to find out the sex of their foetus - and to abort it if necessary.

The Supreme Court's latest ruling orders federal and state governments to enforce the ban, and punish those who breach it.

In an earlier ruling, the court ordered the state governments to closely monitor the use of ultrasound machines by clinics.

The authorities were directed to seize any such machines that were suspected of having been used to find out the sex of a foetus.

Observers say the Supreme Court's ruling shows it wants to clamp down on the abortion of female foetuses - but what India really needs is a co-ordinated campaign to change the way baby girls are regarded.

Abandoned baby boy reverses trend
19 Mar 03  |  South Asia
India targets female foeticide
15 Feb 03  |  South Asia
India's lost girls
04 Feb 03  |  South Asia
India's unwanted girls
11 Jul 00  |  South Asia

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