India subsidizes girls' education to offset gender imbalance

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Friday, September 23, 2005

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In a move aimed at curbing both population growth and preference for male children, the government of India has announced free and reduced cost education for girls.

The new program will offer free education at high school level to all girls of single child families. Those with two girls and no other children may receive discounts of up to 50%. As a continuation of India's policy of promoting education, the program includes provisions for fellowships of US$ 45 per month for those undertaking post-graduate studies.

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India faces problems with the balance of the sexes in the country; some areas have a ratio of 80 girls to every 100 boys due to selective abortions. Boys are more highly prized in Indian society and as a result, many couples will have additional children after a girl in an effort to produce a boy. In cases where the family already has one or two female children the likelihood of a female foetus being aborted is significantly higher.

Indian law already prohibits tests to determine the sex of an unborn child for this very reason; however, it is routine during medical examinations of the mother for the doctor to disclose the sex of the child.

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