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Declining ratio of women in India a challenge, church leader says

April 5, 2011

BANGALORE, India

Responding to a recent prediction that gender prejudice and sex-selective abortion in India will result in 20 percent more men than women by 2030, a prominent church woman leader says the church should address these issues.

There are 929 women for every 1000 men, according to the 2001 national census, which also reported that among Christians in some parts of the country, there are more women than men.

“Christians cannot be complacent about our better sex ratio and ignore the steady decline in the ratio of women in the larger society,” the Rev. Nirmala Vasantkumar, president of the Women’s Fellowship of the Church of South India (CSI), told ENInews on March 18.

Vasantkumar was reacting to a study published March 14 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Led by Dr. Therese Hesketh and members of the UCL Center for International Health and Development in London, it said that easy access to sex-selective abortions has led to serious imbalances in the male/female population of China, India and South Korea.

In India, the preference for boys is rooted in the Hindu belief that one cannot attain “moksha” (liberation) unless he has a son to perform his last rites. Families are often expected to provide expensive gifts, or dowries, when their daughters marry. Worried about the burden of a dowry, couples often abort a second pregnancy if the fetus is a girl.

Pratibha Devisingh Patil, the first female president of India, also expressed concern on March 17 over the report. If it continues, it will have “a negative impact on the society,” cautioned Patil, who is Hindu, in an address at a university convention.

The federal government had earlier estimated that 10 million female fetuses have been aborted over the past two decades, despite a ban on sex determination tests. “The situation is very bad. We need to make use of our schools and colleges to change the deep-rooted gender bias,” said Vasantkumar.

Education is the biggest activity of the Indian Christians who account for 2.3 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people. Three-fourths of the nearly 20 million students on the rolls of 30,000 Christian educational institutions are non-Christians.

Though Christians have a higher female-to-male ratio, Vasantkumar said “it is time for churches to take up the challenge to fight the (gender) prejudice in the larger society.”

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