Baby girl’s death shows preference for sons in India


A three-month-old baby girl who police say was battered by her father who wanted a son died on Wednesday, highlighting the plight of millions of India’s “unwanted girls”.
Neha Afreen died from cardiac arrest at a state-run hospital in India’s tech hub of Bangalore after battling for life for three days.
“We tried our best to revive Afreen but could not succeed and she succumbed to her injuries,” hospital executive Gangadhar Belawadi told AFP.
Afreen was brought to the hospital with head injuries, abrasions and bite marks all over her body, causing national outrage that led to the arrest of her father on Monday.
“My husband was enraged with me for delivering a girl,” Afreen’s mother Reshma Banu told reporters. “He hated her. He wanted me to get rid of the child or abandon her as he wanted a son.”
Afreen’s case is the latest in a string of incidents across India where baby girls have been abandoned, tortured or even killed because they were unwanted.
“The cruelty against girls is crossing all limits,” Ranjana Kumari, director of the non-profit Centre for Social Research, told AFP.
“We need to do a lot more to sensitise the society towards the worth of girls and severely punish people guilty of such crimes.”
In March, an abandoned two-year-old girl died at a New Delhi hospital after suffering horrific injuries, including broken arms and a smashed skull.
The girl, named baby Falak or “Sky” by the media, was hailed as a miracle child after showing signs of improvement following five gruelling operations but she then died of a massive heart attack.
Last week, a newborn baby girl in the western city of Jodhpur was abandoned as her parents fought for the custody of a baby boy handed to them by mistake.
The parents insisted the baby was not their child and only accepted her after 11 days when the results of a DNA test were shown to them.
On Wednesday, micro-blogging website Twitter exploded with hundreds of messages of anger and dismay over Afreen’s death.
“Baby Afreen. Baby Falak. And God knows how many more that didn’t make the headlines. Or through life. Sad and shameful,” tweeted Bollywood director Meghna Gulzar.
Successive governments have launched an array of schemes to change the social bias against girls. But they have had little impact with the practice of aborting female foetuses rampant.
The preference for male children has led to a huge and alarming gender imbalance, with 2011 census data showing just 914 girls per 1,000 boys across India – much behind the global benchmark of 952.