Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Economic crisis and socio-political instability are encouraging illegal selective abortions among Nepali families. In recent days, Christian and Hindu religious leaders, doctors and pro-life activists have appealed to the government to end a practice that is banned and punishable under the law. Although official data do not exist, local sources are saying that foreign social workers and organisations are taking advantage of the country's political chaos to encourage selective abortions among the poorest families.
Abortion is legal in Nepal since 2002 in cases in which the life of the woman or the child are in danger, in case of rape or if the woman is not in full possession of her faculties. Selective or forced abortion is illegal.
In rural areas, many foreign NGOs have encouraged a culture of contraception and voluntary sterilisation to fight poverty.
Since 2006, at least one woman in ten has had an abortion or used abortive or contraceptive pills. Between 2001 and 2006, Nepal's fertility rate dropped from 4.1 to 3.3.
Catholics and Protestants have tried to counter the use of sex-based abortion and selective foeticide.
For Achala Baidhaya, a Christian physician, "abortion is a threat to Nepali society." However, in many parts of the country, Hindus believe that without boys, parents will not go to heaven," she explained.
Economic difficulties compound the situation, pushing families to go through a selective abortion.
Suni Achrya, also a medical doctor, said that husbands often force their wives to have a abortion.
Such a medical practices is often performed in facilities that are not properly equipped, with harmful effects on women's health, both physical and psychological.
According to Rev K.B. Rokaya, a Protestant clergyman and human rights activist, "abortion is a criminal practice that must be condemned. A child is a gift of God and has a right to be born. The government must enforce the law and introduce policies that help families."