An investigation into suspected sex-selective abortions has been launched by magistrates in a district of northern India after government data showed none of the 216 children born across 132 villages over three months were girls.
India outlawed the selective abortion of female foetuses in 1994 but the practice remains commonplace in the country, where parents often see boys as breadwinners and girls as costly liabilities.
The last population census, conducted in 2011, found there were only 943 females per 1,000 males in India.
Ashish Chauhan, Uttarkashi’s district magistrate, said the area’s recent female birth rate – collected by the local health department – was “suspicious and has highlighted female foeticide”.
The 132 villages where no girls were born over three months have all been marked as part of a “red zone”, which means local data will be scrutinised more closely and health workers have been asked to be vigilant.
Any parents found to have carried out female foeticide will face legal action, Mr Chauhan said, in comments reported by the TNN news agency.
Legislative assembly member Gopal Rawat said: “It is shocking to have a zero girl child birth rate in 132 village of the district, as we have rarely heard of seen any incident of female foeticide in the hills.
“I have directed the health department to find out the real cause of such alarming figures and to take serious action to resolve it.”
He added authorities would also launch “a massive awareness campaign” in the hope of reversing the trend.
Last year an Indian government report found about 63 million women were statistically "missing" from the country's population due to a preference for male children.
"Issues relating to son preference are a matter for Indian society as a whole to reflect upon," the report said.
In India's patriarchal society, male children are seen as future breadwinners and caregivers who have an obligation to look after their parents when they age.
Daughters are seen as costly because parents are often pressured to pay dowries when they marry, despite the custom being banned in 1961.
Last year police found 19 aborted female foetuses near a hospital in the state of Maharashtra. They were discovered by officers investigating the death of a woman who had undergone an illegal abortion.
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