Wed Aug 1, 2007 

Hundreds Protest Female Feticide in Eastern India

BHUBANESWAR, India (Reuters) - Hundreds of women marched through the streets of the eastern Indian city of Bhubaneswar to protest at a growing number of cases involving female feticide, officials and witnesses said on Wednesday.

Waving placards that read "hang the murderers" and "spare the girls" the demonstrators called on authorities to crack down harder on private clinics accused of being involved in illegal sex determination and abortion of female fetuses.

At least 14 fetuses were seized from a private clinic in central Bhubaneswar, the state capital of Orissa, on Tuesday evening, officials said.

"We have sealed the clinic and we are exploring all legal options at the moment," Amitabh Thakur, a senior police officer said on Wednesday.

Last week, police in Orissa found 40 skulls belonging to female fetuses and newly born babies in an abandoned well, causing a huge public outcry.

Despite laws banning sex determination tests, one study published in the British medical journal, the Lancet, said about 10 million female fetuses may have been aborted in India over the last 20 years.

It is normal for more male babies to be born than females, but India's sex ratio is one of the world's most skewed, with an average of 933 females recorded for every 1,000 males in a 2001 census.

Boys are traditionally preferred by parents as breadwinners and because families often have to pay large dowries to marry off daughters.

In June, a doctor was arrested on suspicion of illegally aborting 260 female fetuses after police recovered bones from the septic tank in the basement of his maternity clinic in the outskirts of New Delhi.



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