When John Paul II received an honorary doctorate in law by Rome's La Sapienza University on May 17, he raised his voice in defense of the "right of the unborn to come into the world" and the obligation to protect "newborns, especially girls, from the crime of infanticide."
In India, 43 out of every 1,818 newborn girls are eliminated at birth every year, according to data provided by MISNA agency and other missionary and local government sources.
The custom of the dowry is among the principal reasons for this action. A laborer who daily earns the equivalent of half a Euro (close to $.58 in dollars) must give the sum of at least 970 Euros ($1,140 U.S. dollars) for his daughter's marriage.
According to the sources quoted above, newborn girls are buried alive or killed by other methods, such as asphyxiation.
"Infanticide is more prevalent in rural areas. However, access to abortion leads to selective abortions," Bombay missionary, Father Carlo Torriani, explained over Vatican Radio.
The phenomenon has its origin in the fact that "in India a male child is much appreciated because, according to the Hindu religion, it is the first-born son who must carry out the funeral rites, and because the marriage of daughters calls for a dowry, something which is often a great burden for the family," the missionary added.
This is why the abortion of a female fetus is also very frequent, "facilitated recently with the identification of the fetus in the pre-natal period," he said.
In order to put a stop to this situation, the government has called on manufacturers and sellers of ultrasonographic equipment to provide information on the purchasers and places where it is used.
However, to date there is no data on the results of this measure. "Moreover, in the Delhi area it has been detected that the percentage between males and females continues to diminish," Father Torriani said.
In addition, education is being provided, such as in schools and on television, which shows that "girls are useful, that women are necessary for society, in order to form people in respect for the birth of girls."
Catholics in India, who constitute 2% of the population, also contribute to the formation of public opinion in this area.
The only state of India in which there is virtual equivalence between men and women is, in fact, Kerala, "where there is a very high presence of the Catholic and Christian minority," Father Torriani explained.