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Baby's death in India blamed on father's anger she was born a girl

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Wed April 11, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 3-month-old Afreen Farooq died of cardiac arrest after convulsions, a doctor says
  • Her father, already in custody, will be charged with murder, police say
  • Police say the father has confessed to beating the little girl because he wanted a son
  • The case highlights the preference among many Indians for sons over daughters

New Delhi (CNN) -- A 3-month-old baby, whose father has been arrested on allegations he beat her for being born a girl, died Wednesday at a hospital in South India, a doctor said.

The baby, named Afreen, was hospitalized in Bangalore on Sunday with burn marks on her head and a dislocated neck, injuries that police said were caused by her father, Umar Farooq.

Farooq, a 22-year-old car painter, was arrested Sunday and is in custody facing trial on charges of attempted murder, said N.H. Siddappa, a police investigator. Following Afreen's death, Farooq will now be charged with murder, Siddappa said.

The baby died of cardiac arrest after multiple convulsions Wednesday, said R. Premalatha, a pediatrician at Bangalore's Vani Vilas Hospital.

Siddappa said that Farooq had confessed to battering the baby because he wanted a son. According to the police, Afreen was the first child of Farooq and his 19-year-old wife.

The case highlights the preference among many Indians for sons over daughters, a situation that has already created a worrisome gender imbalance in the world's second most populous nation after China.

A 2011 census report recorded an alarming drop in the percentage of girls among the country's preschoolers.

For every 1,000 boys aged 6 or younger, the findings counted 914 girls, down from 927 a decade ago -- the lowest ratio since India gained independence in 1947, according to the report.

Sex-selective abortions, although illegal in India, are believed to be rampant, often aided by unauthorized clinics.

"The reasons for high number of incidence of female feticide in India include a deep-rooted traditional son preference, continued practice of dowry, and concern for safety of the girl child and exploitation and abuse of women and girl children," Krishna Tirath, India's minister for women and child development, said last year.

Afreen's death follows that of a 2-year-old abandoned girl last month. The 2-year-old, named Falak, had been hospitalized in New Delhi with severe head injuries, fractured arms and human bite marks covering her tiny body.

Once the police began investigating Falak's back story, they unearthed suspicions of a human trafficking ring. The details sparked outrage among authorities and the public alike, who say the case raises a host of questions about child abandonment, exploitation and the poor treatment of girls and women in India.

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