A new report by the British charity ActionAid indicates that unborn baby girls are being disproportionately aborted in some areas of India, while significant numbers who live until birth are being deliberately neglected and left to die. In one area in the state of Punjab, there are only 300 girls for every 1,000 boys among high cast families, the report claims.
ActionAid joined Canada's International Development Research Center (IDRC) to produce the Disappearing Daughters report, the BBC says. After interviewing more than 6,000 households in sites across five states in northwestern India, researchers found that the proportion of girls to boys was noticeably below the natural rate of 950 girls to every 1,000 boys.
In three of the five study sites, the ratio of girls to boys was under 800 per 1,000.
Researchers found the ratios of girls to boys were declining fastest in relatively prosperous urban areas, leading ActionAid to suggest that the increased use of ultrasound exams may be a factor.
Though a 1994 law banned selective abortion based on the sex of the unborn child, many families still use ultrasound scans to detect and abort female children.
ActionAid says other outlawed practices, such as allowing newborn girls’ umbilical cords to become infected, have also contributed to the sex imbalance.
"The real horror of the situation is that, for women, avoiding having daughters is a rational choice. But for wider society it's creating an appalling and desperate state of affairs," said Laura Turquet, women's rights policy official at ActionAid, according to the BBC.
According to the British medical journal The Lancet, about 10 million unborn baby girls have been aborted in the past 20 years.