Patil Sworn Vows To Empower Women, Reduce Sex-Selective Abortion, Infant Mortality

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Pratibha Patil, who was sworn in as India's first female president onWednesday, said she would fight for women's rights and called for anend to sex-selective abortion and infant mortality, AFP/Middle East Times reports (Roche, AFP/Middle East Times, 7/25). According to the AP/Guardian, Patil was appointed to the "largely ceremonial post" by Sonia Gandhi, leader of the governing Congress Party (Rabinowitz, AP/Guardian, 7/25).

According to a UNICEF report released in December 2006, about 7,000 fewer girls than expected areborn daily in India, and about 10 million fewer girls than expectedwere born in the past 20 years. The most recent Indian census figuresfound that the gender ratio decreased from 947 girls per 1,000 boys to927 girls per 1,000 boys from 1991 to 2001.


The country in1994 approved the Prenatal Determination Act, which bans the use oftechnologies, such as ultrasounds and sonograms, for the purpose ofsex-selective abortion. The law also bans advertisements for prenatalsex determination, as well as the practice of preconception sexselection. Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhuryearlier this month announced that the Indian government is planning tocreate a national registry of all pregnancies and abortions performedin the country in an effort to curb sex-selective abortion and infantmortality.

The government would like to have public and privatehealth centers, hospitals and maternity homes in the country to recordpregnancies and abortions. The government also aims to increase thenumber of health workers who will locate and provide care to pregnantwomen in rural areas (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 7/16).

India"must banish malnutrition, social evils, infant mortality and femalefeticide," Patil said Wednesday. She added, "Empowerment of women isparticularly important to me, as I believe this leads to theempowerment of the nation" (AP/Guardian, 7/25). According to AFP/Middle East Times,the prime minister holds executive power under the Indian Constitution,but the president is involved in forming national and state governments(AFP/Middle East Times, 7/25).

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