U.N: Perilous for some girls in India (2012)
03:48 - Source: CNN

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Story highlights

Indian man is accused of killing 3-month-old baby girl because he wanted a son

The United Nations says India is the most dangerous place to be a girl

It's common to abort female babies because boys are seen as 'better investments'

For every 1,000 boys 6 years and under, there are 914 girls -- the lowest ratio since 1947

Bangalore, India CNN  — 

Nineteen-year-old Reshma Banu sits on the stairs outside her parents’ home, staring at the tiny screen on her cell phone.

The video on the screen has her mesmerized: a very short home video of her baby girl, Afreen.

The moments captured are precious because they show Banu’s only child alive and well.

Afreen died in the hospital. She was three months old.

Authorities say the baby was admitted to the hospital with bite marks, cigarette burns and a dislocated neck. Police say she was killed by her father.

“After my delivery my husband had come to see me and the baby. He said, ‘It is a girl, why did you give birth to a girl?’”

He wanted a boy, an heir. Girls were too expensive, he said. A couple of days after giving birth, Banu says her husband gave an ultimatum.

“For her wedding we will require a hundred thousand rupees (about US$1,800 dollars) for all the expense. If you can get that amount from your mother, then keep her, but if you can’t, then kill her,” Banu recalled her husband as saying.

She didn’t believe he meant it and was sure he would change his mind once he held his soft, bright-eyed baby girl.

Three months later, her baby is dead, and her husband is under arrest, accused of beating the baby to death. Police say he confessed to the killing.

This is by no means the first case of its kind in India. Attitudes, traditions, and economics have come together to make being a girl a dangerous prospect in the country, doctors say. Most of the time girls are disposed of long before they are born.

How? Sex-selective abortions.

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India has a growing gender gap: The 2011 census showed that for every 1,000 boys six years or younger there were only 914 girls. It is the lowest child sex ratio since India’s independence in 1947.

The United Nations has said India is the most dangerous place to be a girl. Dr. Anand Krishnan at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), who has studied the gender gap for years, agrees.

“Yes, largely this is from the point of view of mortality statistics for girls versus boys,” Krishnan told CNN.

Sex-selective abortions are against the law in India but are still happening at an alarming rate, he said.

His study shows a surprising trend: Sex selective abortions among the educated and well-off seem to be more prevalent than among the desperately poor and uneducated. Despite greater prosperity, their mindsets have not changed and they have the money to pay for ultrasounds and abortions.