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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Girls in India are being Murdered by Parents

Aired July 8, 2003 - 19:33   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You've probably heard about the practice of killing baby girls in China for economic reasons. But the laws of economics don't recognize national boundaries. There's a quiet killing spree in India as well. Every week, little girls are murdered by their parents. It is a crime motivated by a potent combination of poverty and tradition. But now, there is a new effort to stop the killings.
Saunder Bindra has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAUNDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This woman says she has to live the rest of her life with the pain and guilt of knowing she murdered her own newborn baby girl.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I wanted to keep the baby, but people around me said, you have three daughters.

Why do you want to have yet another one?

How can I kill her, I asked?

They suggested giving the baby something that would kill her. So I got some tobacco leaves, mixed it with water, and gave it to the baby. She died.

BINDRA: In the southern Indian district of Salem, much murders are fairly common. In this region, over the past one year, officials say approximately 100 female children have been murdered by their own parents. Some were affixed. Others poisoned or starved. And many others left to die in sewers and garbage dumps.

Sociologists blame it on a gender bias. Compared to boys, girls are believed to be an economic drain because it's still customary to pay expensive dowries at the time of their marriage. To control female infanticide, officials here have launched a program called the cradle baby scheme, to convince parents not to kill, but surrender unwanted baby girls to the state. So far, more than 420 baby girls have been handed over to state officials, who claim every baby surrendered is a life saved. Parents like this Kamla Palanisami agreed. Six months ago, when she gave birth to her sixth child, a baby girl, Palanisami, decided to give her to the state.

KAMLA PALANISAMI, MOTHER (through translator): I felt one daughter was enough. Five children were enough. This child should get a better life. So I gave her up.

BINDRA: This woman, who killed her baby, also says it's poverty that drives parents to murder.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): If I could have clothed, fed and given the baby a decent life, I wouldn't have done what I did.

BINDRA: Officials are now trying to educate more women and find them higher paying jobs so they're better able to save their children, and this region, from so much suffering.

Saunder Bindra, CNN, Salem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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