India to Monitor Pregnancies to Check Girl Foeticide: Report

by VR Sreeraman on  July 15, 2007 at 1:23 PM Indian Health News   - G J E 4
India plans a national mandatory registry of pregnancies and abortions to stem selective abortions of girl fetuses, a minister said, according to a report.
India to Monitor Pregnancies to Check Girl Foeticide: Report
India to Monitor Pregnancies to Check Girl Foeticide: Report

India has only 927 females for every 1,000 males -- far lower than the worldwide average of 1,050 females -- mainly due to selective abortion in the country where many people prefer to have male children.

"This will check both foeticide and infant mortality," the minister for women and child development Renuka Chowdhury told the Hindustan Times daily.

Officials said the data would permit the government to focus efforts on areas with a large gap between the number of pregnancies recorded and births, the report said.

Chowdhury also told the paper abortions should only be permitted in cases with a "valid and acceptable reason," without elaborating.

There was no immediate official comment from the government on the report.

India already encourages pregnant women to voluntarily register with community health workers so they can get health and nutrition advice and benefits, one official told AFP.

"These things are not mandatory in a democracy," said a government child development official. "We have to educate people rather than forcing them."

Chowdhury's remarks came after several centres were discovered recently to be conducting outlawed sex-determination tests and aborting female foetuses.

In a gruesome discovery last month, dozens of tiny bones were found in the septic tank of a clinic belonging to a man posing as a doctor in wealthy Gurgaon, a suburb of the Indian capital.

The suburb is part of a state with one of the country's worst gender ratios -- just 820 females for every 1,000 males -- showing the preference for sons persists despite high incomes and education.

Sons are typically seen as breadwinners. They are also needed to light their parents' funeral pyres according to Hindu rites. Girls are often viewed as a burden because of the matrimonial dowry demanded by a groom's family.

But making it mandatory for women to report their pregnancies is too invasive and may do little to address the problems that create the preference in the first place, critics say.

"Whether such a thing will be possible in a democracy, I doubt," women's rights activist Ranjana Kumari told the Indian daily.

A study last year by the British medical journal The Lancet said India may have lost 10 million unborn girls in the past 20 years, but Indian experts have challenged the number, saying it likely closer to five million.

Source: AFP

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