India's Cradle Baby scheme hopes to end female infanticide
By Nita Bhalla
SALEM, India, Dec 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Unwanted infant girls in the sterile, sparsely furnished nursery rooms of the Life Line Trust orphanage in Tamil Nadu state, southern India, are considered the lucky ones.
They are India's "Cradle Babies" - products of a government project that permits parents to give unwanted baby girls anonymously to the state, saving them from possible death in a region where daughters are seen as a burden and where their murder is a common reality.
"Often babies are found in ditches and garbage pits. Some are alive, others are dead," said A. Devaki, a government child protection officer in the Salem district, one of the worst-afflicted areas.
"Just last week, we found a newborn baby girl barely breathing in a dustbin at the local bus stand."
She added that a lack of education, the low status of girls and widespread poverty were the main factors why girl babies were killed or dumped with little chance of survival.
"One girl is okay, but a second or third will likely end up being killed. That's why we introduced the Cradle Baby Scheme."
But while the project has been praised for potentially saving the lives of thousands of Indian girls, human rights activists have criticized it, accusing authorities of encouraging the abandonment of girls and promoting the low status of women in this largely patriarchal society.
CRADLE BABIES Continued...