Church Challenges Female Feticide

Participants in sex-selective abortions should be charged with murder, said Holy Spirit Missionary Sister Helen Saldanha, secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India Office for Women. Her opinion comes as momentum builds to end female feticide in India, a practice that finds families terminating a pregnancy because the child they are expecting is a girl. Filing criminal charges for killing a child in the womb because of its sex would “change the killer attitude” toward girls in Indian society, Sister Helen said.

Although the practice of sex-selective abortions is illegal under Indian law, there is no provision for criminal prosecution. Recent census statistics indicate that the practice appears to be widespread. The census data show that the national ratio of girls to boys younger than 6 years old has dropped from 927 for every 1,000 boys in 2001 to 914 for every 1,000 boys in 2011.

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The call for mandatory murder charges was endorsed in July at a convention of more than 300 leaders from village councils in northern Indian states where there are now about 800 girls for every 1,000 boys. A similar call came a week later from officials in Maharashtra state when they urged the national government to amend the Indian Penal Code to require the filing of murder charges against parents as well as physicians involved in female feticide.

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