As the world gets ready to celebrate International Women's Day Saturday, tens of thousands of Indian women are struggling just to be born. Experts say around one million female fetuses are being aborted in this country every year.
"Nearly one million female fetus are being aborted every year in India, which means around 2,500 girl children are dying every day even before seeing the daylight," said Punit Bedi, a renowned doctor and activist for the cause of women.
"From abortion of female fetus to high maternal deaths, from anemia to domestic abuse, the list of sufferings by Indian women is quite long. I think authorities, the civil society and even families are not bothered about women," Bedi told IANS.
According to the Economic Survey 2007-08, India's maternal mortality rate per 100,000 live births remains a high 450 as against 45 in China, 58 in Sri Lanka and 320 in Pakistan.
"I think we are competing with some African nations to do worse in all possible areas of women's health and their survival," said Sabu George, another renowned activist.
"Female feticide is a thriving business of medical practitioners in India. In terms of revenue the market size is at least Rs.10 billion. We must say our doctors are involved in mass medical crime," he argued.
George said the leading medical institute of the country, the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), started sex determination and published a research report in 1975 about this medical miracle.
"The best medical college of India paved the way for the genocide of women. The situation is really sad and I am sure the dropping sex ratio will increase violence against women.
"Some areas of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh are bringing women from other parts of the country for their boys. Women are facing so much trouble with one husband, what will happen when they have more than one man to take care of," warned the activist, who has been working for women for the last 22 years.
According to the 2001 census, India's sex ratio is 927 women for 1,000 men. The situation is worse in states like Punjab, Haryana and Delhi.
"The sex ratio is dropping noticeably in Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir and Assam as well. We are heading for a tough time," he said.
On March 8, the world celebrates International Women's Day (IWD). In just three years, 2011, the world will see IWD's Centenary - 100 years of women's united action for global equality and change.
Expressing concern over the sad state of women in India, Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury earlier this week has asked men to show courage and save their better halves.
She and a group of other women took an oath that men and women should go around the sacred fire one more time during weddings. The bride and the groom usually go round the fire seven times as part of the wedding rituals.
"Take an eighth round and promise that you will not abet female feticide," she said in a programme in the capital.
Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss had earlier said that he faced a daunting challenge to tackle female feticide and child mortality on one hand and obesity and lifestyle diseases on the other.
"Maternal mortality, infant mortality and female feticide are some of the major issues the government and civil society need to tackle with urgency," Ramadoss had told IANS on the sideline of a function recently.
Experts said that over 50 percent of Indian women are delivering babies at home without any medical guidance. Lacks of proper nutrition and blood loss are leading to anemia among women.
"At one hand we are talking about health tourism and at the other hand we are not even giving iron tablets to our rural women. They don't have access to hospitals or even trained midwives to attend to them during childbirth," Bedi said.
"We are slowly becoming a prostitute economy. We can treat foreign patients but deny basic healthcare to our own people," Bedi alleged.