12/14/2006, 00.00
INDIA
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Catholic Church against gender discrimination in India

In India every seven minutes a woman dies from pregnancy-related complications. Millions of female foeticides are executed every year. Mgr Fernandes urges concrete steps taken against all forms of gender discrimination.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The situation of women is getting worse in India. The country’s Catholic bishops demand action against discrimination as a rising number of abortions of female foetuses is reported.

Mgr Stanislaus Fernandes, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, told AsiaNews that “in rural India girls need special attention because discrimination begins as early as birth and then because tragic.” In this situation, “the Church through her social and welfare ministry has done and continues to raise awareness among people that each child is important to society.”

The Church’s help is concrete; it deals with issues such as health care and the lack of education.

Mgr Fernandes mentioned that “health care assistance reaches pregnant women and mothers even amongst the poorest communities in the remotest areas through dispensaries and mobile clinics. We can help girls attend primary school, provide them access to health clinics and support them through vocational training”.

“The Church has always reflected the concerns of the family. Through women’s groups and various activities, the Church has stressed that the community and society at large share the responsibility for promoting a healthy human growth and development in girls, provide them with their rightful place and give them the importance they are entitled to. Much has been done . . . and there is so much more to do”.

The urgency is even greater given recent findings in the State of the World's Children report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) which was released on Tuesday. The study found that out of 71,000 children born every day in India, just 31,000 are girls—giving a sex ratio of 882 girls to 1,000 boys compared to a global sex ratio of 954 girls to 1,000 boys. This suggests that 38,000 girls should be born in India every day and that the difference of 7,000 is due to widespread foeticide by parents on female foetuses.

Although illegal and punishable by law, female foeticide is widespread because of the greater importance given to boys. An unbalanced ratio is found in 51 districts and the situation has gotten worse since 1991 when it was found only in two districts: Salem (Tamil Nadu) and Bhind (Madhya Pradesh). In 14 districts in the states of Haryana and Punjab there are fewer than 800 girls per 1,000 boys.

Even when they are born, girls suffer discrimination. They receive less care and do not have the same access to health care, education and even food. Only 67.7 per cent of females between the ages of 15 to 24 are literate in India, compared to 84.2 per cent for males, and against 98.5 per cent of women of the same age group in China.

Around 45 per cent of Indian women are still forced into marriage before the age of 18 in violation of the law. This in turn contributes to high rates of maternal mortality, with one woman dying every seven minutes in India from a pregnancy-related cause because girls under 15 are more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than older women. (NC)

 

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