The state government of Mumbai is planning an incentive program to improve its birth rate.
Now this is not just about encouraging couples to have more children in general, with incentives like they’ve used (with limited success) in places like Italy.
This incentive program is aimed at encouraging citizens not to abort—and not to abandon—their baby girls in particular.
The state government is formulating a scheme for cash incentives to citizens to combat female infanticide. Under the scheme, planned by the state ministry of women and child development, families with girl children will be given incentives on fulfilling certain conditions, including school enrollment and delay in marriage of the child till she turns 18.
The child sex ratio has been declining in the state. From 934 girls per 1,000 boys in 1991, the ratio dropped to 922 in 2001 as per census reports. Senior department officials said the ratio was skewed even for developed parts of the state like Mumbai and Pune.
According to the officials, modern sex selection technology, coupled with a traditional preference for boys, was the main reason for the worrying ratio.
I’m not sure if this bit of news is encouraging or discouraging.
Encouraging is the fact that some groups recognize the grave injustice of babies being killed for the “crime” of being female and are attempting to address the problem. But discouraging is the fact that some people might need financial incentives in order to choose not to kill their daughters.
Of course there’s more at play here than we Americans can readily understand. Female babies aren’t just socially rejected in India, they are culturally a very real financial liability, especially for poor families. When we recognize the fact that culture and tradition require a poor family to pay large sums of money (often a lifetime of savings) in a dowry in order to marry off its female offspring, the overwhelming preference for male children becomes more understandable.
Government programs that offer financial incentives for having and keeping baby girls might help change some hearts and minds, but I can’t help but come away from a news stories like these feeling just a little bit sickened and sad. Mothers and fathers should not need a cash incentive to love and cherish their baby daughters.
Pro-Life Prayer to Mary
O Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mother of us all, we turn to you today as the one who said “Yes” to Life. “You will conceive and bear a Son,” the angel told you. Despite the surprise and the uncertainty about how this could be, you said yes. “Be it done unto me according to your word.”
Mary, we pray today for all mothers who are afraid to be mothers. We pray for those who feel threatened and overwhelmed by their pregnancy. Intercede for them, that God may give them the grace to say yes and the courage to go on. May they have the grace to reject the false solution of abortion. May they say with you, “Be it done unto me according to your word.” May they experience the help of Christian people, and know the peace that comes from doing God’s will. Amen.