10/10/2012, 00.00
INDIA
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Three million girls "missing" as a result of selective abortions and infanticide

by Nirmala Carvalho
The 2011 figures are from a study released by India's Central Statistical Organisation. Tomorrow, the world marks International Day of the Girl. "Government, civil society and families should work closely together" against patriarchal gender bias, says doctor member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Maharashtra wants selective abortion to be treated as murder.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Some three million Indian girls were "missing" in 2011 compared to two million boys, this according to Children in India 2012: A Statistical Appraisal released yesterday by the Central Statistical Organisation. For Dr Pascoal Carvalho, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the figures show "that India lost three million girls due to female infanticide." He spoke on the eve of the International Day of the Girl.

"Strong patriarchal influence, sanctioned by India's religion, culture and traditions, reinforces the deep-rooted bias against girls in India," Dr Carvalho explained. "Female foeticide refers to the aborting of a foetus, purely because she is female. Although, sex determination in India is illegal, the practice is rampant. "

For Dr Carvalho, selective abortions and female infanticide are largely due to a "culture of death" that is widespread in Indian society.

By contrast, "Not only has the Catholic Church always proclaimed a culture of life but it has stressed the right to life, education, health and development for girls and women," he said. For this reason, the Church has set aside 8 September as a day for girls.

In addition to short term consequences, such as three million missing girls, the aforementioned practices have long term repercussions. In fact, "Demographers warn that in 20 years there will not be enough brides," Dr Carvalho noted. "Fertility levels are also expected to drop. In view if this, government, civil society and families should work closely together to stop this social malaise."

In 1994, India passed the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technologies Act, which bans sex-determination tests. Under the law, doctors must give the authorities the names of patients who undergo such a test on medical grounds, the only ones allowed. Anyone in breach of the Act could get three years in prison and a fine of up to 10,000 rupees (about US$ 190).

In spite of the law, female foeticide and infanticide have not stopped. This had led Maharashtra state authorities to call on the central government to change the law to treat selective abortion as murder, a crime punishable by life in prison or death under Article 302 of the Indian Penal Code.

In their application, state officials describe their request as the only way "to stop this type of crime against humanity".

In Haryana State, the Health Department announced that all the pregnant women undergoing an ultrasound test would have to submit a photocopy of their identification card at the ultrasound centre. It would be the responsibility of the radiologist to ask for the photocopy of the document from them.

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