By Hilary White

NEW DELHI, April 28, 2008 ( – While refraining from extending his condemnation to the practice of abortion in general, the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, has added his voice to those of the cabinet in objecting to the widespread practice of female infanticide and abortion.

He called the practice a “national shame” today and said there needs to be stricter enforcement of laws prohibiting the use of techniques to determine the sex of a child for abortion.

“No nation, no society, no community can hold its head high and claim to be part of the civilized world if it condones the practice of discriminating against one half of humanity represented by women,” Mr. Singh said.

Singh was speaking at the opening of a national conference dedicated to “saving the girl child,” which was attended by politicians, doctors and advocates. He called sex-selective abortion, “inhuman, uncivilized and reprehensible.”

Last week, the Indian government declared it would be “cracking down” on sex selective abortion, a practice officially outlawed in 1994. Indian health minister, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, said that fines and jail sentences need to be increased against doctors offering ultrasounds for purpose of sex-selection. But critics said the problem is that existing laws are not being enforced. Under the existing act doctors can be suspended, fined 50,000 rupees (£625 or $1250 Cn.) or given a three month jail term. But in the time since the law was put in place, only one conviction has been obtained.

Meanwhile sex-selective abortion continues openly under the eyes of police and prosecutors alike. Conservative estimates say that as many as 7000 unborn baby girls are killed by sex-selective abortion in India every day. Approximately 900,000 girls are “lost” every year through a combination of abortion and infanticide.

The result has been a severe tipping of the demographic scales in favour of males. Two years ago, official statistics showed drastic declines since 1991 in the number of girls born compared to the number of boys. In the most prosperous states and districts of India, as many as 50-100 fewer girls per 1,000 boys were recorded than elsewhere. The national average, at 927, is well below the normal worldwide average of 1,050 girls to every 1,000 boys.

In the northern districts of the country, including the Punjab and Haryana states, fewer than 800 girls are born to every 1000 boys.  Northern Punjab is one of the worst, with just 798 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of six.

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Indian Gov’t to “Crack Down” on Sex-Selection Abortion but Current Laws Un-enforced