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The attack left the mother critically injured and caused her to miscarry the fetus, police and relatives told Reuters. She was in stable condition on Monday, BBC News reports.
The woman was between four and seven months pregnant, according to local media.
The suspect attacked the woman with a sickle on Saturday, authorities said. He has been identified as Pannalal in Indian media.
The couple had five daughters together and the husband wanted to know the sex of his soon-to-be sixth child, according to Golu Singh, the victim’s brother.
“He attacked her with a sickle and ripped her stomach saying that he wanted to check the gender of the unborn child,” Singh told Reuters.
The victim’s sister says the couple had frequently argued about their children, with the husband eager to have a son.
The husband was convinced by a village priest that his wife was carrying a sixth daughter, police told the Times of India. The child would have been a boy.
The suspect told local media that he did not intentionally hurt his wife. He says he threw the sickle at her but did not expect it to injure her so severely, according to BBC News.
“I have five daughters. One of my sons is dead,” he said. “I know that children are the gift of God. Now whatever is to happen, will happen.”
Many parents in India prefer to have sons over daughters, and the country as a whole is dramatically skewed in terms of its ratio. Government data shows just over 900 females born for every 1,000 males since 2005.
Sons are generally seen as future earners and inheritors of the family’s wealth, while daughters are treated as a liability and a future dowry expense, despite a push from international human rights groups to change that perspective.
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Approximately 46 million girls are thought to have disappeared in India over the past 50 years, according to a report from the United Nations Population Fund. That estimate is second only to China’s 72 million missing girls.
India has banned abortions for female fetuses in recent years to fight sex selection. The country also prohibits healthcare workers from checking for or sharing details of a child’s sex before birth.
The suspect was arrested on attempted murder charges. The investigation is ongoing.
— With files from Reuters
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