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Part of the reason Indians favor sons is the enormous expense of marrying off girls. Families often go into debt arranging marriages and paying for elaborate dowries. A boy, on the other hand, will one day bring home a bride and dowry. Hindu custom also dictates that only sons can light their parents’ funeral pyres.

“Nakusa is a very negative name as far as female discrimination is concerned,” said Satara district health officer Dr. Bhagwan Pawar, who came up with the idea for the renaming ceremony.

Other incentives, announced by federal or state governments every few years, include free meals and free education to encourage people to take care of their girls, and even cash bonuses for families with girls who graduate from high school.

Activists say the name “unwanted,” which is widely given to girls across India, gives them the feeling they are worthless and a burden.

“When the child thinks about it, you know, ‘My mom, my dad, and all my relatives and society call me unwanted,’ she will feel very bad and depressed,” said Sudha Kankaria of the organization Save the Girl Child. But giving these girls new names is only the beginning, she said.

“We have to take care of the girls, their education and even financial and social security, or again the cycle is going to repeat.”

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