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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 March 2008, 06:30 GMT
India announces girl child award
A girl in India who sells flowers for a living
There is a cultural preference for male children
The Indian government has announced it will pay poor families nearly $3000 to bring up their girl children.

The scheme is hoped to discourage the widespread practice of aborting female foetuses, which has led to a gender imbalance in parts of the country.

India outlawed gender selection and selective abortion in 1994, but the practice still continues.

British medical journal Lancet says 10 million female foetuses have been aborted in India in the past 20 years.

Under the new scheme, poor families in seven Indian states will be paid cash at the birth of a daughter and again at different stages throughout her childhood up to the age of 18 years.

'Not poor alone'

India's Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Choudhury said she hoped the scheme would encourage families to look upon girls as an asset rather than a liability.

One women's rights activist welcomed the scheme, but said it was not just the poor who should be targeted.

Female infanticide occurs in 80% of states
Worst-affected states include wealthiest areas
927 girls born for every 1,000 boys
Infant mortality rate: 60/1,000
Source: Unicef

"The problem of sex selective abortion is mostly with those who are above the poverty line," said Vijayalaxmi Nanda.

"I think it is the urban, the middle class, the prosperous who are doing so.

"The pressures are myriad ... a kind of cultural preference, like dowry, like female right to inheritance, to land, to property and to other things. These are the basic areas that need to be looked at," Ms Nanda said.

Female foeticide is a particular problem in the wealthy northern state of Punjab - where just 793 girls are born for every 1000 boys.

Activists have called on the government to promote grassroots schemes to tackle ingrained attitudes towards women - and to elevate their status so they can also benefit from India's rapid development.

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11 Jan 06 |  South Asia
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12 Nov 05 |  South Asia
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04 Feb 03 |  South Asia


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