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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 February 2007, 11:56 GMT
Cradles plan for unwanted girls
Foetus in womb
India banned gender selection and selective abortion in 1994
The Indian government is planning to set up a network of cradles around the country where parents can leave unwanted baby girls.

The minister for women and child development, Renuka Chowdhury, told BBC News the cradles would be "everywhere".

It is the latest initiative to try to wipe out the practice of female foeticide and female infanticide.

A girl child is often viewed as inferior to a boy. A bride's dowry can also cripple a family financially.

Research for the year 2001 showed that for every 1,000 male babies born in India, there were just 933 girls.

Research published last year estimating that the number of female abortions was as high as 500,000 a year was disputed by the Indian Medical Association.


"We will have cradles strategically placed all over the place so that people who don't want their babies can leave them there," Ms Chowdhury told the BBC News website.

Indian women
The sex ratio is so skewed in some states, men cannot find brides

The cradles could be in places as diverse as the local tax collector's office, or where local councils meet.

Ms Chowdhury said parents would be able to leave their babies secretly. The important thing was to save their lives.

She said she assumed that most of the babies left under the "cradle scheme" would be girls.

"They will be collected and put into homes," she said. "There are plenty of existing homes and we will be adding some more also."


In 1994, India banned the use of technology to determine the sex of unborn children and the termination of pregnancies on the basis of gender.

However, campaigners say many clinics still offer a seemingly legitimate facade for a multi-billion pound racket and that gender determination is a highly profitable business.

Experts say female foeticide is mostly linked to socio-economic factors.

It is an idea that many say carries over from the time India was a predominantly agrarian society where boys were considered an extra pair of hands on the farm.

In a separate development, police in the central state of Madhya Pradesh say they have recovered some 390 bones of babies or foetuses from the grounds of a Christian missionary hospital in the town of Ratlam after a tip off.

"The question of female foeticide and infanticide is part of our investigation, as is illegal abortions," Superintendent of Police Satish Saxena said, Reuters news agency reports.

Alarm bell

Last November a Japanese hospital announced plans to set up a "baby hatch" allowing mothers to anonymously drop off their newborns so they could be put up for adoption.

The drop-off at Jikei Hospital in southern Japan will consist of a small window in an outside wall, which opens on to an incubator bed, officials say.

Once a baby has been placed inside, an alarm bell will alert staff.

India sex selection doctor jailed
29 Mar 06 |  South Asia
India 'lost birth' study disputed
11 Jan 06 |  South Asia
Religions target female foeticide
12 Nov 05 |  South Asia
Indian girls 'more likely to die'
18 Jul 03 |  South Asia
India's lost girls
04 Feb 03 |  South Asia

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