India minister shares own story to highlight gender crisis

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's education minister revealed on Friday that her mother was urged to kill her at birth, highlighting the deadly preference for boys that has left the nation with a population crisis.

Like many other Indian girls, Ms Smriti Irani said she was seen as a burden when she was born.

"I am sharing it for the first time that when I was born, someone hinted to my mother that 'beti to bojh hoti hai' (a daughter is a burden)," she said in comments reported by the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency. "And therefore, she should kill me."

Male children are traditionally seen as breadwinners in India, while girls are still regarded as a financial burden by many families as they require hefty dowries to be married off.

Sex-selective abortion, infanticide and the death of girls through neglect have left the country with a huge and alarming gender imbalance.

Census data indicates that in 2011 there were just 914 girls aged under six for every 1,000 boys - far behind the global benchmark of 952.

Successive governments have launched an array of schemes to change the social bias against girls, but they have had little impact.

Ms Irani told students in the central Indian city of Bhopal that she was only alive because her mother had not listened to the advice.

"My mother was brave and she did not do that, because of which today I am standing in front of you," she told them.

She added that she was highlighting her own story as India's new government, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, plans renewed efforts to tackle the issue.

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