KERALA, India, October 1, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Religious leaders in the Indian state of Kerala are fighting a bill proposed by the government that would crack down on families with more than two offspring, as well as ban religious leaders from encouraging families to have more children.
The draft bill includes fines of up to 10,000 rupees ($203 USD) or three months’ jail time for parents that have more than two children. A third child will not be be eligible for services from the government.
Kerala Women’s Code Bill, which purports to support the welfare of mothers and children, encourages access to “free and healthy” abortion at government facilities, in the words of local reports, and access to “free and medically safe” contraceptives.
In addition, the Times of India reports that the bill would also bar religious leaders from encouraging parents to welcome more children.
“No person or institution shall use religion, region, sect, cast, cult or other ulterior inducements for the bearing of more children,” states the report, as quoted by the Times.
The bill, drafted by a committee headed by former Supreme Court Justice V. R. Krishna, has been condemned by various religious groups in the region.
Muslim league state president Panakkad Sayid Hyderali Shihab Thangal said that the Women’s Code Bill would lead to the killing of even more female infants in the womb, a widespread problem in India thanks to cultural preferences.
“It violates the basic right of individuals. The Women’s Code Bill is promoting abortion in the name of population control,” he said. “By promoting abortion the Women’s Code Bill leads to the widespread abortion of girls in Kerala.”
“Every individual in India has the right to live according to his religion, culture, and family.”
Kerala’s Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) has also strongly denounced the bill, calling the punishments a violation of “human rights and religious belief.” “Any law or Government has no right to interfere with this decision,” they said.
They also denounced the Bill’s recommendation for providing divorce outside of the courts, saying that it was “against Indian culture.” KCBC is in the process of sending letters to Chief Ministers urging them to reject the Bill for the welfare of the people.
KCBC spokesman Father Stephen Alathara said on Wednesday that the draft was an attempt to “undermine family values and divide society along communal lines.”
“We have been promoting life and encouraging people to have big families,” he said.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that there is “unwarranted” resentment against the draft law. “The Government will make a decision only after consulting with all groups. We have taken note of the protests against the draft,” he said.
Located on the Malabar coast of southwest India, Kerala’s 33.4 million people account for 3.5 percent of India’s total population of 1.21 billion. Kerala, considered the most developed state in India, also has the lowest rate of population growth.
An Indian state has never before recommended legal action against large families.