India Government Will Increase Penalties for Sex-Selection Abortions

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 24, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

India Government Will Increase Penalties for Sex-Selection Abortions

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
April 24
, 2008

New Delhi, India (LifeNews.com) — The India government is increasing the penalties again for doctors who do illegal sex-selection abortions in an effort to stamp out the widespread practice. The Asian nation has worked hard to try to end the controversial abortions and infanticides targeting girls but has had only moderate success.

Reports show at least 10 million girl babies have been killed in the abortions and infanticides in the last 20 years — causing a radical shift in the nation’s gender balance and a host of social problems at a result.

Currently, doctors who do illegal sex-selection abortions are suspended and face a fine of $1,250 US and a jail term of three months.

The nation’s health minister wants to ratchet up those penalties to strike the physicians off the medical rolls permanently, institute a fine of $17,500, and put them in jail for as much as three years.

A London Guardian report indicates Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, will issue a new call next week to crack down on those who engage in sex-selection abortions and female infanticides.

Sabu George, a Delhi-based researcher familiar with the problem in India told the Guardian newspaper that the problem is not the amount of fines or length of prison terms but the enforcement of the laws.

"Hundreds of thousands of sex selective abortions happen every year, yet only a few hundred doctors are caught," he said. "Conviction rates are ridiculously low. But the real problem is getting state police to catch these criminal doctors."

Last month, India officials introduced a program to pay poor women to have girl babies and the government said it hoped as many as 100,000 girls will be saved from the deadly practices in the first year alone in the trial program, which begins in seven states.

But the program appears to have flopped and has largely been abandoned in favor of trying to catch offending doctors.

Even in poor communities, some families would rather pay two months’ salary for an illegal ultrasound and abortion rather than years’ worth of income on expensive dowries.

The skewed male-female ratio in India reflects a trend of having smaller families.

Couples are choosing to have only one child and deciding to only have a boy. India follows the beliefs of other Asian nations in favoring boys to carry on work and family names and because girls must have expensive dowries upon their marriage.

In December 2006, a new report by UNICEF indicated 7,000 fewer female babies are born every day because parents can determine the sex of their unborn baby and kill her before birth. In 80 percent of India’s districts, a higher percentage of boys are born now than a decade ago.

The report cites the increased availability of cheap ultrasound technology as playing a role despite attempts by the India government to crack down on its use.

UNICEF says the resulting gender imbalance from sex selection abortions is particularly prevalent in the wealthier regions of the nation where access to the ultrasound technology is easier.

UNICEF based the findings on Indian census data and they follow a report in early 2006 from the British medical journal Lancet, which estimated that 10 million baby girls have probably been aborted in the last 20 years.