Indian religious leaders to oppose female foeticide

NEW DELHI - Indian religious leaders will come together this weekend to call for an end to the alarming rise in female foeticide and infanticide in the country.

About a dozen prominent seers from all faiths in the country will participate in the national religious leaders convention for the abolition of female foeticide and infanticide in New Delhi, organisers said on Friday.

"People from all faiths and across the society need to be made aware of the ill effects of this practice," Vibha Parthasarathy, chairman of India's National Commission of Women, told a news conference ahead of the weekend convention.

"The role of religious leaders is critical to tackle this issue," she said.

The convention is being organised jointly by the National Commission of Women, the Indian Medical Association and UNICEF.

India's patriarchal society has traditional preferred sons to daughters and the preference continues to be strong in the country's rural and semi-urban areas.

Statistics from the 2001 census showed that the country of 1.027 billion people had only 933 females for every 1,000 males, down from 972 in 1901.

The number of girls up to the age of six dipped to 927 per 1,000 boys in 2001 from 945 in 1991, the statistics showed.

A January report in the Indian Medical Association's "Family Medicine India" journal said that the association estimated about five million female foeticides were carried out in the country every year.

Experts blame this trend on the blatant abuse of medical technology such as ultrasound imaging to determine the sex of the unborn baby and abort female foetuses.

Neglect of girls in early life also leads to their death at a young age, they say.

Parthasarathy said people needed to be educated about the social dangers of an imbalance in male-female population ratio and the need to end gender biases.

"This is not only about mourning the loss of the aborted girls but also about ensuring the right of life for the unborn," Parthasarathy said.

07:06 06-22-01

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