Sex Selection is big business in India
Sex selection is estimated to be worth about 100 million dollars in India, although all of it is underground and a large part of it operates through mobile sex-selection clinics. Advertisements like ‘Pay Rs 5000 today and save Rs 5 lakhs tomorrow,’ are placed in select newspapers and magazines and ‘package deals’ are being offered. Of the total amount, clinics promise to return more than half, in case the result is a boy! Naturally, if it is a girl, there isn’t a refund.
Are the doctors turning businessmen?
Well there are those who feel that doctors want to make money and the law be damned. The lack of persecution of doctors is making things worse. Apparently, although more than 300 doctors have been prosecuted for disclosing the sex of a fetus to parents (which is illegal, PCPNDT Act 2003) , only four have been convicted (2006 figures).
While I am sure that this has something to do with it, a study by the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics at Pune has revealed something far more worrying.
Untrained people are manning clinics!
The study reveals that the highest number of sex selection centers in western Maharashtra are owned by untrained people! This is where sex ratios are very low. Additionally, as many as 25 percent of these untrained personnel use mobile scanning machines! The conclusion is obvious…but how many such clinics with untrained personnel actually exist?
Well, the report says more than 25 percent, but it is estimated that the figure is higher. I suspect that it is nearer 35-40 per cent of all the sex determination centers. And as these centres do not keep proper records, or actually fudge records, there is no way to find out how many scans they actually do. As many as 15 percent of these centers were found to have no records at all! As for supervision, which is mandatory under the PCPNDT Act (The Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act 1994), half of all centers are not regularly supervised! Looks like this law is a joke.
Also, some owners of these ‘clinics’ refused to provide all the information to researchers. Also, some clinics were not to be found at the addresses specified. Many of these so-called trained personnel manning the clinics did not bother to visit hospitals, even though they were registered as operators. The researchers feel that this is so because these people are untrained and hide away at their clinics. Well, it is easy to fudge papers to show that a person is trained, specially as no one’s looking or checking!
Another interesting find was that a large number of sex selection clinics are owned by those who have specialised in the Indian systems of medicine (ayurveda, unani, siddha and homoeopathy: AYUSH). Even more disturbing, these AYUSH doctors’ clinics are usually found outside municipal corporation limits and it is believed that they operate mostly in smaller towns and interior areas of the districts of western Maharashtra. I am not very familiar with these systems of medicine and I wonder if anyone knows why they need sonography machines.
Sex selection is a thriving business
Entrepreneurial and enterprising as we as a nation are, there are many who are cashing in on the huge demand for sex selection…and the government appears helpless! As cultural attitudes (preference for boys) isn’t going to change in a hurry, there is no hope unless the government’s attitude changes.
Government initiatives are weak
Many programmes to curb sex selection are aimed at educating people and creating awareness that this is a social evil…so why isn’t it working?? Because educated people are doing it, fully aware of the ‘evil’, which they see as a necessary evil!
The rich and educated are guilty
It has been known for some time that it is the more affluent section of society who practice the most female foeticide. In fact studies in the past two years in several states have shown that the richer the district, the higher the density of sonography centers, and the poorer the sex ratio. And yes, this means that it’s more of the educated people who are guilty, rather than the illiterate.
Nothing illustrates this better than the Indian community killing their unborn daughters in Canada. In fact, ads appear in Indian newspapers there, offering sex selection. These people come back to India and get it done.
Affluence + Development = more sex selection
The same Gokhale Institute study has thrown up a clear link between the number of sonography centers and the decrease in sex ratios in Maharashtra. The average sex ratio for districts with more than 100 sonography centers was found to be 901 and for districts with less than 100 sonography centers it was 937.
Contradictory reports on the number of missing girls
1. The government says 1.3 million girls are missing.
2. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen puts at 32 million.
3. The British medical journal says there are 10 million missing girls in the last 20 years, with half a million being aborted every year.
4. The Indian Medical Association, says only 250,000 females are aborted per year.
Well, whatever the truth, the future looks grim. We are developing our physical infrastructure, but the hand of the law remains weak. While trying to change cultural attitudes is wonderful, we have to realise that these are not going to change in a hurry, and by the time they do, too much damage will have been done. The only way is to start treating these people as criminals – shame them and those who run the sex selection centers by throwing them into jail.
Images of the ads have been linked to the originals.
Thanks to Vivek Khadpekar for sending me the Gokhale Institute study