An Indian Catholic Church official believes participants in sex-selective abortions should be charged with murder.

The backing by Holy Spirit Missionary Sister Helen Saldanha, secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India Office for Women, comes as momentum builds to end female feticide, a practice that finds families terminating a pregnancy because the child they are expecting is a girl.

Although the practice of sex-selective abortions is illegal under Indian law, there is no provision for criminal prosecution. Recent census statistics indicate that the practice appears to be widespread.

The national ratio of girls to boys younger than 6 years old has dropped from 927 for every 1,000 boys in 2001 to 914 for every 1,000 boys in 2011. In some states, the ratio dropped to 800 girls for every 1,000 boys.

“The advances in medical technology are being used to prevent the birth of millions of unwanted girl children,” Sister Helen said.

Sex selection is accepted across Indian society even though laws make it illegal.

The preference for boys is rooted in Hindu culture. The practice is said to have led to the dowry system that has led to the consideration that female children are a financial liability for a family. The failure to meet dowry demands results in the deaths of thousands of young women annually.