(RNS) Religious leaders in India will gather this weekend in New Delhi to protest the country's rising numbers of female infanticide and feticide.

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

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

Each year India witnesses the death of as many as 5 million female fetuses, according to a January report in the Indian Medical Association's "Family Medicine India." Those are due in part to medical advances such as those that can discern the sex of a fetus, some experts contend.

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

"This is not only about mourning the loss of the aborted girls but also about ensuring the right of life for the unborn," Parthasarathy told Reuters.

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