Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD: Andhra Pradesh has a high malnutrition rate of 53 per cent among boys and 35.6 per cent among girls, a dropout rate of 25 per cent among girls, 55.4 per cent girls married before they turn 18 and about 20,000 of women and children trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation annually.

In a refreshing change, the government itself has come out with these disturbing facts at a function here on Wednesday where Chief Minister K. Rosaiah launched a new pro-active initiative, AP State Society for Protection and Empowerment of Women and Children, to address such concerns. A government note circulated at the meeting revealed more startling data reflecting the status of women and children. Every year 10,000 cases of dowry harassment are booked. AP has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS infected children in the country. The State is bracketed with Bihar, Maharashtra and Rajasthan and they jointly account for 70 per cent of rape cases reported in the country. Referring to some of these concerns, the Chief Minister said problems like gender discrimination and atrocities against women could not be checked with laws alone.