They point to a painful reality revealed in India's most recent census: Despite a booming economy and big cities full of luxury cars and glittering malls, the country is failing its girls.
Early results show India has 914 girls under age 6 for every 1,000 boys. A decade ago, many were horrified when the ratio was 927 to 1,000.
The discrimination happens through abortions of female fetuses and sheer neglect of young girls, despite years of high-profile campaigns to address the issue. So serious is the problem that it's illegal for medical personnel to reveal the gender of an unborn fetus, although evidence suggests the ban is widely circumvented.
"If a woman has a boy, for a month she will be looked after. If she has a girl, she'll be back in the fields in three days," says Sudha Misra, a local social worker.
An exhausted mother who faces neglect, poor nutrition and blame for producing a daughter is likely to pass on that neglect, social workers say. For an infant, that can mean the difference between life and death.
"A malnourished child will get sick and the chances of death are very high," Bandil says.
Males get first priority. "First the husband is seated and fed, then the brothers and then whatever is left is fed to the girls," says Bandil. "If there are two mangoes in the house, first the boy will get to eat."
For the very poor, the pressures to bear sons result in mistreatment of both the baby girl and mother. And rich women are not immune to this mistreatment if they fail to bear male children.