12/14/2007, 00.00
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New Delhi proposes sanctions to stop female feticide

by Nirmala Carvalho
Stiffer fines and longer jail sentences (up to seven years) for those involved in the practice. In 20 years an estimated ten million girls were aborted with the result that India’s population has more males than females. Cardinal Gracias says the Church is committed to providing health care and opposed to violence against women.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The Indian government on Wednesday decided to toughen sanctions under the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act to counter the widespread practice of female feticide and punish those involved in sex selection. For Cardinal Gracias this is welcome news, but for him what needs to be done is to fight the mindset that approves killing baby girls.

Under the new provisions of the law fines could reach up to 5,000 rupees (ten times what they are now) and sentences of up to seven years behind bars. Anyone informing the authorities about specific cases will receive an award. Hospitals performing abortion will also come under greater scrutiny.

A recent report by United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF said almost 7,000 female feticides are performed every day in India. Recent statistics show that the population of India is heavily weighted towards males with only 927 females for every 1,000 males.

British medical journal, The Lancet estimated that the number of girls killed by abortion in India at 10 million over the last 20 years.

There exists a link between female feticide and factors like wealth, education, success of family planning, and medical progress,” Dr Pascoal Carvalho, a member of the diocesan Human Life Committee, told AsiaNews.

Dr Carvalho is also highly critical of foreign funding agencies which “demand statistics on birth control and insist on family planning criteria, [and] only then do they release funds to India.”

“There is an urgent need to stop this grave act of violence against women,” Card Oswald Gracias told AsiaNews. “It is indeed ironic that one abuses the advances in medicine and technology to determine the sex of babies [. . .] Sadly, female feticide and abortions in many cases are practiced by the healing professionals. [. . .]. The Indian Church, which has been fighting against all forms of abortion and gender discrimination, has welcomed the [government’s] initiative.”

But the real fight is against the widespread belief that parents can abort female foetuses because they wanted a boy.

The Church in India through our medical ministry has been consistent in promoting respect for the human person at all stages of life. Even in the most rural and remotest areas of India, the Church commissions trained medical health care personnel.”

What is more, in “Christian medical institutions of learning, medical and health care professionals are indoctrinated about the inalienable right to life of the unborn child,” he said.

“The church in India has over 5,000 dispensaries most of which are maternity homes, providing a much needed medical treatment to the most marginalised and poorest people of India. We make accessible orphanages, day care centres where infants can be taken care or brought up with tender loving care.”

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