Christian women activists have expressed anger at what they say is an alarming crisis due to female feticide in India, after two dumps of illegally aborted female foetuses were found in the world's second most populous nation this week - writes Anto Akkara.
"This is a dangerous situation and, if it continues, there will be the extinction of female children," lamented T. Sabitha Swaraj, president of the All India Council of Christian Women, which is part of the National Council of Churches in India.
Swaraj made her statement on 26 July after the discovery of 40 skulls from female foetuses in Nayagarh near Bhubaneshwar, the capital of eastern Orissa state.
In another development, the Times of India reported on the same day that villagers had spotted 24 female foetuses on the Krishnavati riverbed in northern Haryana state.
"This is not a new development. Feticide has been going on for years and those engaging in it seem to have become bolder now," Swaraj told Ecumenical News International from her base in Hyderabad.
Jyotsna Patro, a Church of North India woman leader and Indian delegate to the Asian Church Women's Conference, told ENI from Beramapur in Orissa, "The callousness in allowing female feticide is worsening. Parents have no qualms about aborting female foetuses."
Patro, who is a former president of the CNI Women's Fellowship, said, "No amount of legislation is going to improve the situation unless the deep-rooted prejudice against the girl child is changed." She added, "Unless the parents want this to stop, it cannot happen."
In December, the Indian government acknowledged the gravity of female feticide when Renuka Chowdhury, the minister for women and child development, admitted that more than 10 million girls had been killed over the last 20 years due to female feticide and infanticide.
"Who has killed these girl children? Their own parents," Chowdhury told a seminar in Delhi.
Due to the widespread preference for sons that is rooted in both social prejudices as well as the dowry burden incurred in marrying off daughters, many parents abort a foetus once it is identified as female.
Though Indian law bans sex determination tests, many doctors not only find out the sex of a foetus but even abort female foetuses who are several months old, and often charge exorbitant fees for doing so. This unscrupulous business practice is said to contribute to the skewed statistic in many places of north India, where less than 800 girls are born for every 1000 boys.
According to Hindu tradition, a father cannot attain "moksha" (salvation) unless he has a son to perform the father's last rites. This religious sanction renders the girl child unwanted, and is said to have encouraged the dowry system that reduces a daughter to an economic liability for the family.
As far as Christianity in India is concerned, women church leaders have said that some Christians are also guilty of female feticide.
[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]