Mumbai (AsiaNews) - India's central government has identified about a hundred doctors who will be sanctioned for carrying out selective abortions and female foeticides in the country.
The Health Ministry sent the Medical Council of India a list of doctors who violated the 1994 Pre-conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, which bans prenatal sex determination tests and imposes sentences of six months to five years on violators, plus the suspension or cancellation of their medical license.
This is a positive step, Dr Pascoal Carvalho told AsiaNews, because "using strong deterrence measures can help prevent similar forms of discrimination and punish the guilty."
According to the Children in India 2012: A Statistical Appraisal, a study released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, at least three million girls were missing in 2011 as a result of selective abortions and female foeticide.
"This loss will have serious moral, social and economic consequences," said Dr Carvalho, who is a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. "Choosing the sex [of newborns] is an expression of the lack of respect for women, and one of the causes of rising crimes against them."
Sadly, "in India, boys are preferred to girls for cultural reasons and this is connected to economic factors," he explained.
Traditionally, girls are educated and raised to become wives, but they can get married only if they bring a dowry (money, jewels and various material goods). Even when they get married, women have to give birth to a boy to earn respect.
In addition, in some regions of India, the practice of sati still occurs, whereby widows are expected to throw themselves on their husbands' funeral pyre. Hindu tradition requires women to show devotion to their dead husbands through voluntary self-immolation, a practice that allows families to rid themselves of women who have become an economic burden.
A widespread 'culture of death' underlies "selective abortions and female foeticides," Dr Carvalho noted. "The Catholic Church instead promotes a culture of life through its educational and health ministries. This way, it protects the life and dignity of girls as well as defends, values and encourage young women and opposes all forms of discrimination and violation of their rights."
What is more and contrary to widespread belief, selective abortion and female foeticide are also commonplace among middle and upper class Indians. "A study titled Skewed Sex Rations in India: Physician, Heal Thyself found that there are more boys than girls in the families of medical doctors," Dr Carvalho noted.