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The findings of a recent poll of G20 countries by the Thomson Reuters Foundation found that India is the worst place for women, a notch below Saudi Arabia – the standard bearer among nations for treating women as less than human.

A 2002-2010 UN Population Fund study found that 57% of Indian male adolescents aged 15 – 19 believed a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances.

A 2007 UN Population Fund study found that 70% of Indian women believed wife beating was justified under certain circumstances, including refusal to provide sex, or preparing dinner late.

Nationwide, 7000 fewer girls than expected are born each day, largely due to sex determination,” said the report State of the World’s Children 2007.

In the northern districts of the country, including the Punjab and Haryana states, fewer than 800 girls are born to every 1000 boys. Northern Punjab is one of the worst, with just 798 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of six, the AFP (Agence France Presse) reported.

Although the Indian government has made it illegal to perform ultrasound and abortions for the purpose of sex-selection, the practice is widespread and shows no signs of slowing. Wealthier populations are the worst offenders, since they can afford the cost of testing for gender identification. According to the country’s national 2001 census, 35 million women are ‘missing’ in India, the victims of discrimination, neglect and violence.

Although there appears to be some improvement in the survival rates for first-born daughters, as family sizes get smaller and parents want fewer children, the survival chances of second and third daughters are plunging. More researchers found that a third daughter born into a family now has only half as much chance of survival as a son.

In 1990, when the census showed that there were 25 million more males than females in India, the government reacted by introducing a law making it illegal to detect the sex of a fetus through ultrasound examination. Yet by 2001, the gender gap had risen to 35 million, and now experts estimate it as high as 50 million.

Assumed to be prevalent among Hindus, because of their custom requiring male progeny to perform cremation rites, female infanticide is in fact found today to be equally rampant among Sikhs, Muslims and Christians.

Unicef reports that under-five mortality rates are 40% higher for girls than boys. And one Indian woman dies through pregnancy or childbirth every five minutes.

Where legislation exists, enforcement is poor and corruption endemic. By 2007, 13 years after its introduction, only one conviction had been secured under the PNDT Act.