India’s widening gender gap is being blamed on illegal sex determination practices in the country. The abortion of female fetuses is rife, AFP reports.

Twelve Indian doctors were suspended on Monday for allegedly conducting pre-natal ‘sex tests’. Archana Johri, an official of the Rajasthan Medical Council watchdog, told AFP, “Five of the doctors were found guilty of sex determination practices while the remaining seven violated other provisions of the Pre-Conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques Act.” Johri was referring to a 1996 law designed to prohibit the use of ultrasound for prenatal sex tests.

According to AFP, India’s population consists of 7.1 million fewer girls than boys in the under-six age group. This underlines the grave pressure Indian women face to produce male heirs. Boys are seen as breadwinners of the family while girls represent a ‘burden’ as they require dowries to be married off. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the practice of aborting female fetuses as a “national shame”. Association Secretary D.R. Rai told AFP, “It is a deplorable practice and we condemn it”.