Church steps in to challenge Indian acceptance of female feticide
Published: August 7, 2012
NEW DELHI (CNS) -- An official in the Indian Catholic Church has endorsed the idea that participants in sex-selective abortions should be charged with murder. The backing by Holy Spirit Missionary Sister Helen Saldanha, secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India Office for Women, comes as momentum builds to end female feticide, a practice that finds families terminating a pregnancy because the child they are expecting is a girl. Filing criminal charges for killing a child in the womb because of its sex would "change the killer attitude" toward girls in Indian society, Sister Helen told Catholic News Service. Although the practice of sex-selective abortions is illegal under Indian law, there is no provision for criminal prosecution. Recent census statistics indicate that the practice appears to be widespread. The census data show that the national ratio of girls to boys younger than 6 years old has dropped from 927 for every 1,000 boys in 2001 to 914 for every 1,000 boys in 2011. In some states, the ratio dropped to 800 girls for every 1,000 boys, according to the census. "Son preference is a major syndrome that is leading to a decline in the ratio of girl children. Sadly, the advances in medical technology are being used to prevent the birth of millions of unwanted girl children," Sister Helen said. The call for mandatory murder charges for female feticide has gained momentum in recent weeks. The plan was endorsed in July at a convention of more than 300 leaders from village councils in northern Indian states where there are now about 800 girls for every 1,000 boys. A similar call came a week later from officials in Maharashtra state when they urged the national government to amend the Indian Penal Code to require the filing of murder charges against parents as well as physicians involved in female feticide.
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