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India nets few convictions under law against sex-selection abortion

Catholic World News - April 20, 2011

Although sex-selection abortion is illegal in India, the ratio of baby boys to girls continues to rise, in part because convictions are rare under the law that prohibits doctors from performing sex-determination tests.

The latest statistics show only 914 girls in India under the age of 6 for every 1,000 boys-- down from 927 despite the new law banning sex-selection abortions. Officials estimate that there are 5 million girls "missing" in the last decade.

Now a federal health department report notes that while 805 doctors have been charged with violations of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, only 55 have been convicted. As officials have stepped up enforcement, with random checks to determine whether doctors are conducting sex-determination tests, doctors have responded by using portable ultrasound machines that can be used outside the clinics, avoiding the inspections.

The prejudice for male children is deeply rooted in Hindu culture, because of the belief that one cannot attain moksha (liberation) unless a son performs his last rites, as mandated by Hindu scriptures. This religious sanction, combined with pressure for small families, has made girls unwanted. The problem is exacerbated by a dowry system that exacts high costs from the parents of a bride, making a girl a financial liability for her parents.

Because abortion is legal in India, the government has been unable to stop parents from obtaining an abortion when they learn that the unborn child is female.

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