Baby found buried alive highlights India's battle to protect girls

NEW DELHI: A baby girl found buried alive in India was a suspected case of female infanticide, police said on Monday, the latest to highlight the preference for sons in a country where the number of girls has been declining.

A couple, who went to bury their newborn at a grave after she died in hospital, discovered the youngster inside an earthen pot buried several feet deep, said a police officer in Bareilly city in northern Uttar Pradesh state.

"Their spade hit the pot and they heard a baby's cries coming from it," the officer told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

"They immediately called the cemetery guard, who said that he saw the parents there earlier. It seems to be a case of female infanticide," he said, adding that the baby was about five days old.

The baby was rushed to a nearby hospital, where she is recovering, he said. Police are looking for the parents.

India has seen a dwindling number of girls, according to a government survey released in July, suggesting that illegal abortions of female fetuses continue despite a ban and government efforts to save girl children.

It showed that India's gender ratio, or the number of females per 1,000 males, was 896 in the period of 2015-17, down from 898 in 2014-16 and 900 in 2013-15. The number was 943 in the last census of 2011.

Indian laws ban doctors and health workers from sharing an unborn child's sex with the parents, or carrying out tests to determine the child's gender. Only registered medical practitioners are allowed to perform abortions.

Yet female feticide is common in parts of India. Daughters are often seen as a burden, with families having to pay dowries when they marry, while sons are prized as breadwinners who can inherit property and continue the family name.

In 2017, police found nearly 20 aborted fetuses dumped in plastic bags in the western state of Maharashtra.