Catholic World News News Feature
Indian woman killed for refusing sex-selection abortion August 27, 2008
The widespread practice of sex-selection abortion has led to another tragedy in India. Police are pressing murder charges against the husband and in-laws of a woman who was strangled by relatives, reportedly because she refused to abort a female child.
Police in the Muzaffarnagar district of the northern Uttar Pradesh state probed the death of the woman, identified as Neelam, after her brother, Sushil Kumar, reported that his pregnant sister had been under tremendous pressure to abort her unborn child. The young woman was killed on August 24, authorities say; her body was hurriedly cremated that same night.
According to her brother's testimony, Neelam had learned that her unborn child was a girl. Her husband and her parents, in line with ancient Hindu traditions, wanted a male child.
According to Hindu tradition, a father cannot attain "moksha" (salvation) unless he has a son to perform his last rites. This religious sanction has combined with heavy pressure in favor of small families to render female babies unwanted. The situation is aggravated by a social system that demands high dowry payments for brides, putting extra economic pressure on a girl's parents.
India has banned sex-determination tests during pregnancy in an effort to curb a widespread trend toward sex-selection abortions. But many private hospitals and clinics perform the illegal tests quietly, allowing women to procure an abortion if they learn that the baby is a girl. Abortion is unrestricted in India.
India's federal government has acknowledged that more than 10 million girls are "missing" from birth statistics over the past two decades because of sex-selection abortions.