India India's first female president was sworn in Wednesday, vowing to eliminate the practice of aborting female fetuses and to empower women, who are often treated as second-class citizens.
Despite being touted as an important step for gender equality, Pratibha Patil's election to the largely ceremonial post has elicited only a lukewarm response from many women who say it has given them little more than a symbol - not a leader who represents them.
"Empowerment of women is particularly important to me as I believe this leads to the empowerment of the nation," Patil, 72, told lawmakers, calling for universal education in India.
She promised to fight for the vast mass of underprivileged in this country of about 1.1 billion people as it strives to transform itself into a modern economic giant.
"We must banish malnutrition, social evils, infant mortality and female feticide," Patil said.
Last year, an international team of researchers estimated up to 10 million female fetuses had been aborted in the past 10 years in India. The result is a gender ratio increasingly skewed in favor of men.