(RNS) Religious leaders in India will gather this weekend in NewDelhi to protest the country's rising numbers of female infanticide andfeticide.

The interfaith conference is organized by the National Commission ofWomen, UNICEF and the Indian Medical Association.

"People from all faiths and across the society need to be made awareof the ill effects of this practice," said Vibha Parthasarathy, chairmanof India's National Commission of Women. "The role of religious leadersis critical to tackle this issue."

Each year India witnesses the death of as many as 5 million femalefetuses, according to a January report in the Indian MedicalAssociation's "Family Medicine India." Those are due in part to medicaladvances such as those that can discern the sex of a fetus, some expertscontend.

The country's boy-girl ratio has steadily dropped within the pastcentury. In 1901, the country's overall boy-girl ratio was 972 femalesfor every 1,000 males. But 2001 census figures showed that ratio hasdipped to 933 females per 1,000 males. The past decade alone saw thenumber of girls younger than 6 drop from 945 to 927 for every 1,000boys.

"This is not only about mourning the loss of the aborted girls butalso about ensuring the right of life for the unborn," Parthasarathytold Reuters.