A 5-day-old girl found buried alive in a graveyard in India is suspected to be a case of female infanticide, an epidemic that has long gripped the country, according to local authorities.
The infant was discovered buried in an earthen pot in Bareilly, a city located in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, on Oct. 10 by a couple digging a grave for their own baby daughter, who had died in the hospital shortly after she had been born, an anonymous law enforcement official told Reuters.
"Their spade hit the pot and they heard a baby's cries coming from it," the officer said. "They immediately called the cemetery guard, who said that he saw the parents there earlier."
The baby, who weighed just 3.3 pounds when she was discovered, was rushed to a nearby hospital, where she is receiving treatment for various infections and respiratory issues, CNN reports.
Authorities are currently searching for the infant's parents, who could be charged with attempted murder and child abandonment if they are located.
In Indian culture, daughters can be viewed as a financial burden, with families having to pay dowries when they marry, while sons are considered breadwinners who can inherit property and continue the family name, Reuters reports.
Female feticide and infanticide, or the deliberate attempt to kill fetal or newborn females, are both shockingly common in certain parts of India, despite policies passed to stop the centuries-old practices.
Although a law enacted in 1994 banned healthcare workers in India from sharing an unborn child’s sex with expectant parents, families have been known to use illegal methods to uncover the gender of their fetus and terminate unborn girls.
It is estimated that 700,000 girls are aborted every year because of their gender in India, according to the Invisible Girl Project, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization. The group also claims that little girls in India are 75 percent more likely to die than little boys once they are born.