India PM Modi's appeal to parents to post #SelfieWithDaughter goes viral

 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the gathering during the launch of "Digital India Week" in New Delhi, India, July 1, 2015.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the gathering during the launch of "Digital India Week" in New Delhi, India, July 1, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal to parents to post snapshots on social media with their daughters to tackle India's skewed sex ratio has gone viral, with sporting stars and business leaders among those taking up the initiative.

#SelfieWithDaughter was trending in India after the Internet-savvy prime minister launched the campaign on Sunday during his monthly radio address to promote gender equality in the deeply patriarchal country.

"I urge all of you, share a #SelfieWithDaughter," Mr Modi posted on Twitter after the show, giving credit to the head of a village in Haryana, the state with the lowest ratio of female to male births, for the idea.

Government ministers, business leaders including industrialist Naveen Jindal have posted pictures, along with sporting stars such as cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar smiling with his daughter Sara.

Since storming to power at last year's general election, Mr Modi has sought to position himself as a champion of women's rights, emphasising education for girls and an end to female foeticide in a country where boys are more desirable than girls.

Mr Modi, with 13 million followers on Twitter, often uses social media to promote his initiatives, while he sought to win over voters during the election with his #SelfieWithModi campaign.

But some women's activists have branded the online campaign a gimmick, saying Mr Modi's government in fact slashed funding on "everything that deals with women" in its last Budget.

"A campaign can't be restricted to social media, you need to take women out, have them reclaim public space, have them disrupt comfort spaces of patriarchy," Ms Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association, told AFP.

"Otherwise it's all rubbish."

Sexual violence continues to be a major problem in India more than two years after the fatal gang rape of a student in New Delhi that unleashed public outrage about treatment of women.

Last year, the United Nations warned that India's declining sex ratio had reached emergency proportions.

Pre-natal sex determination is illegal in India and carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Nevertheless, a 2011 study in the British medical journal The Lancet found that up to 12 million Indian girls had been aborted in the previous three decades in India.