KERALA, India, October 11, 2011 (LiferSiteNews.com) – The Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) has announced that it will organize a day to recognize and celebrate large families, in response to a recently proposed state bill that would penalize families with more that two children.
“We are planning a very big get together of large Catholic families in Kerala on November 14 in Kochi,” said KCBC spokesman, Sabu Jose Chekkontheyil.
“The main aim of the event is to spread the message of life and that a big family is a happy one,” he said according to a CathNewsIndia report.
Chekkontheyil said that some dioceses had organized events to honor large families in the past, “but this will be the first time that we are organizing an event on this scale to convey the message that a large family is bliss and not a burden.”
“Over 5,000 large families from dioceses across the state and from the three different rites will take part in the event,” Chekkontheyil said.
The Kerala Catholic Bishops Council is an association of three rites of the Church in Kerala – the Latin, the Syro Malabar and the Syro Malankara.
Kerala, located on the Malabar coast of southwest India, is considered the most developed state in the country, but has the lowest rate of population growth.
The draft of the Kerala Women’s Code Bill, produced by the Commission on Rights and Welfare for Women and Children under the direction of former Supreme Court Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer, recommends punitive measures including fines of up to 10,000 rupees ($203 USD) or three months jail time for couples who have more than two children. Couples could subsequently be branded as “legally disqualified” from government services.
The proposed bill also seeks to ban religious leaders from encouraging the faithful to have more children.
The KCBC said that restricting the number of children was a violation of human rights and called the draft bill “anti-democratic and an infringement on the parental rights of the people.”
“It is the right of a couple to decide how many children they need, not the state’s. The Catholic Church cannot accept the recommendations made by the committee headed by Justice Iyer,” KCBC spokesman Fr. Stephen Alathara said when the bill was proposed in September.
The draconian two-child policy may never become law, however, because the Kerala State Law Minister, K.M. Mani, rejected the proposal as both not legally sound and harmful to the country’s biggest asset: its people.
“The recommendation to legally restrict the number of children in a family could not be accepted in a democratic country like India,” Mani said at a Kerala Congress (M) Party function last night, according to CathNewsIndia.
“Ours is not a dictatorial system. We cannot impose small family norm by means of legislation. Self-control is the ideal method for family planning,” Mani said.
Other Indian states have initiated and then dropped coercive two-child policies. Although none had previously considered legal sanctions against large families like the Kerala proposal, laws that barred families with more than two children from receiving housing loans, holding government jobs, or gaining admission to public schools were common.
In 2005 the central states of Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh declared that they would no longer require adherence to the two-child norm for candidates in local elections. In 2006 the northern state of Haryana reversed a child-restriction law that barred people with more than two children from running for political office or serving as politicians.
Haryana state authorities admitted that the two-child limit has had “disastrous” social consequences, with couples aborting third pregnancies, giving children up for adoption or failing to register a child’s birth, and that the policy had “adverse effects” on women, particularly in poor areas.
The Kerala Catholic Bishops Council’s large family celebration will take place at the Pastoral Orientation Centre (POC) in Kochi on November 14th.
Secretariat, Pastoral Orientation Centre
P.B. No. 2251, Palarivattom, Kochi – 682 025, Kerala, India
Phone: +91 484 – 2805722, 2805815
Fax: +91 484 – 2806214
Email: [email protected], [email protected]