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Indian state offers incentives to discourage sex-selection abortion

August 01, 2011

Responding to a drastic decline in the ratio of girls born in India—the result of widespread sex-selection abortion—the eastern state of Jharkhand has announced a program to provide financial support for the parents of female children.

Arjun Munda, chief minister of Jharkhand, announced on July 29 that the state government will deposit Rs 5000 ($ 115) in the name of every newborn female child born in poor families, and add similar donations each year until the girl reaches the age of 5. While the girl continues receives a free education until reaching the age of 16, the deposits, invested in government securities, will grow to Rs 160,000 ($3,600), helping parents to finance her higher education or her marriage.

A 2011 national census revealed that India was “missing” more than 7 million girls under the age of 7, as a result of rampant sex-selection abortion. The preference for boys child is deeply rooted in Hindu cultural bias, reflecting the belief that one cannot attain moksha (liberation) unless a son performs his last rites as mandated by Hindu scriptures. This religious sanction, combined with heavy pressure for small families, has rendered the girl children unwanted. A complicating factor is the expectation that a young woman’s parents will offer a heavy dowry when she is married: a factor that adds to the financial pressure on strapped families.


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