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Prominent doctor trapped in sex determination sting by the BBC

December 6, 2007

Why would any brilliant and successful professional commit an illegal act, assuming they are of sound mind? Could it be that their brilliance in fact makes it easier to justify the wrong-doing? And does their success and money give them a feeling of invincibility? They actually stop thinking about the harmful effects on society due to a shortage of women

Dr. Mangala Telang, a successful, rich and brilliant Delhi gynaecologist, with an impeccable degree, a Harvard background and attachment with foreign missions, and an adviser on several international medical panels, has been dragged into a sex determination test racket.

She was caught on tape by none other than the BBC, offering services for sex determination. These may be accusations (though the BBC says it has proof) which the doctor has denied (ofcourse) but somehow her denials ring hollow as she is seen on the tape. And the sting operation was carried out meticulously over a period of 3-4 months by the BBC.

Dr. Telang is not an unknown name to me. When I lived in Delhi I had heard about her from several people, all glowing reports about her competence.

Amazingly, Dr. Telang has campaigned against female foeticide, calling it an “evil” crime.

If sophisticated people like Dr. Telang are involved in such scams, what hope can there be for the rest of India? I had written about how government officials, including doctors entrusted with prevention of female foeticide are hand in glove with those who commit the crime, and therefore am not shocked at the revelation that Dr. Telang could be involved, but I am certainly appalled. In a way it makes sense though. It’s known that wealthy and educated people opt for sex selection as well, and naturally they would not want to go to some shady place to conduct these tests.

In the sting operation, a British couple was sent by the BBC Asian Network undercover to five clinics in India. Three of these clinics (Dr Telang’s amongst them) were ready to carry out an illegal scan.

Do people like Telang actually believe they are doing something right…that is allowing the parents a freedom of choice, which they feel is a fundamental right? Or perhaps they are afraid of disappointing patients, many of whom believe that nothing is wrong with aborting female children, and demand such a ‘service’ either for themselves or for their families? Or is this purely a conscience-less commercial activity, to get more money into the coffers? After all, sex-selection is big business in India.

Study about UK mothers and female foeticide
This expose of BBC’s comes along with a study by the BBC about Indian women in the UK aborting unborn daughters:

The Oxford University study suggests 1,500 girls are “missing” from the birth statistics in England and Wales from 1990 to 2005…Female foeticide, as it is known, has been illegal in India since the early 1980s…It is also illegal to offer scans to find out the sex of a baby – but the law is regularly flouted.

Shefaly has written about this on her blog, calling it very aptly “a perverse application of outsourcing to India.” Gargi on her blog wonders why so little fuss is made when 60 million girls go missing when other genocides of the world are talked about with such great horror.

It’s a global phenomenon
Wherever there are first generation Indians there is bound to be sex-selection. It’s not just the Indians in the United Kingdom, but also Indians in Canada who are aborting unborn female children. And I won’t be surprised if this is happening in every country of the world which has first generation Indian migrants. And if these people can get it done openly in India, with connivance of doctors, and without fear of punishment, they’ll do it. India is becoming (has become?) the hub of sex selective abortions.

In fact if anyone in the world wants to do anything illegal, from having sex with small children (post here) to peddling drugs to killing their unborn female children with little fear of getting caught, they will think of India as a probable destination. Call it globalisation of a different kind.

Related Reading: What happens when there aren’t enough women
Sex Selection is big business in India
A one-man army is saving girls in Punjab
India’s sex ratio

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54 Comments leave one →
  1. December 6, 2007 10:09 am

    she is just like any other indian…
    publicly she is a champaign in the crusade against infanticide but in reality she does it with her own bare hands.

  2. December 6, 2007 2:18 pm

    @Ankur Aggarwal:

    True, hypocrisy is all too common, particulary amongst public figures. I think we need more sting operations to expose these kinds of things. Only when these people are shamed will there be any chance of improvement. Now Telang has lost her reputation and I doubt whether any foreign mission will ever recommend her.

  3. December 6, 2007 2:30 pm

    Nita:

    Thanks for the hat tip. The discussion on my blog post is unexpectedly rich and growing…

    I may have mentioned this to you earlier but in 2006, I participated in a BBC World Service radio debate on the millions of missing Indian girl children.

    The dichotomy in our society – between educated principled people who put their money where their mouths are and educated people whose education has made no difference to their life – was stunning. This is a qualitative distinction of course and social studies do not capture this nuance. The class divide also was not very clear cut in this debate. So there are no clear markers to identify if any particular groups are “high risk” for deliberate female foeticide.

    A Professor from Delhi University participated and shared how as a girl child, she was treated lowly compared to her brothers, who had better diets and things bought for them etc. Ironically she are people working ordinary jobs now and she is a Professor. I talked about how in my family of all female-progeny it was so very different.

    In the discussion on my blog, I cite my letter to the Financial Times on the issue which explains, for those seeking logic including me, how the mind of such a parent may work.

    R-Doc says it is a matter of freedom of choice but he personally would not marry such a person because he would not want to test their limits of bigotry.

    I will some more to the discussion in my responses.

    Thanks.

  4. December 6, 2007 3:05 pm

    Nita:

    Quick one.

    You say: “And I won’t be surprised if this is happening in every country of the world which has first generation Indian migrants.”

    Whether these are 1st generation migrants or not is not clear from any reporting.

    So does that not make the statement one of your assumptions? In which case, should that not be identified as such and made explicit?

    I would actually argue to the contrary.

    The 2nd generation daughters-in-law “imported” from the backwaters of Punjab are more likely to feel pressured by their in-laws and husbands, upon whom they rely totally. Most 1st generation migrants in UK and Canada at the moment are dual income, educated professionals, who are financially secure, well-integrated and far away from either party’s parents to get pushed around on a daily basis.

  5. December 6, 2007 4:40 pm

    @Shefaly:

    True, I have assumed they are first generation Indians. But they could well be second generation Indians under pressure from first generations ones! In any case an imported bride would be first generation I think. I guess I am assuming that those indians born and brought up in Britain would be less amenable to feticide. And while most first generation migrants may be educated professionals (in India such people do practice female foeticide) the percentage of those who do practice female foeticide will be greater amongst the first generation migrants as compared to second generation ones. This is my analysis and well I thought it was nothing very contrary!

    p.s I thought it’s quite clear that this is my opinion (female foeticide being more common in first generation migrants), and not a finding of the study, but now the comment section has made it clearer.🙂

  6. December 6, 2007 6:22 pm

    Why is this not clear to so many of you, like Ankur, for example, that, one, sex determination and female feticide are not the same thing, and two, female feticide is a personal choice of the individual to which she has every right? However reprehensible the concept may be to those of us who have no gender bias of this sort.

    People want sex tests, and they want abortions, too. In other words, there is a market for these services. If anyone thinks that when there is a strong market of buyers, there won’t be sellers of those services, they are living in la-la-land.

    It is impossible to eradicate this market, take it from me. I defend this entire thing (and the doctor) on moral and practical grounds. The laws of the land making these acts illegal do not make them right. These laws are plain wrong.

    Unfortunately, the people going for these feticides are also plain wrong. Only that they have a right to be: it is their life, after all! If they try to abort your girl baby, they should be arrested for it. They aren’t, are they? Whose body is it? Whose fetus is it? Who will decide whether that fetus should live or not?

  7. December 6, 2007 6:55 pm

    @ Rambodoc: On that distinction of whose foetus it is etc – which I consider a false distinction because the child does not ask to be conceived or born but parents choose it so and that gives parents immense power over decisions to keep or terminate – I put it rather crudely: Engage brain before engaging genitals. And I do believe some people should never become parents, seeing what they do to their children. In their case perversely, if I were their child, I would prefer my own early termination!

    Also sex determination is both an end-result and a tool for something else. Your argument is not dissimilar to the gun industry’s in the US – we make guns but guns don’t kill, people do…🙂

    @ Nita: I noted your points. Interestingly many 1generation professional migrants in the UK – and I know a few 100 in London – are increasingly choosing not to have children.

    That aside, my argument was about the role of ‘agency’ in the decision to terminate a female foetus.

    The older generations living here is in a time-warp. Mira Syal has written much about it in her books which I recommend (for light reading not as some profound social commentary). Their views are time-warped too.

    The more ‘enlightened’ example I have seen is couples who keep having girls till they have a boy. People my age. _That_ is equally puzzling but mildly more humane than endless terminations of female foetuses… And let’s not even begin to count the burden of emotional and physical distress of all this on the mother. She is not just a baby-manufacturing device and production-line, she is also a woman herself…

  8. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    December 6, 2007 6:57 pm

    Rambodoc wrote:

    //sex determination and female feticide are not the same thing//

    This was my reaction too when the news first broke, and although I do not agree with the rest of what doc has to say (I guess I do live in la-la-land!), on this one point I am one hundred per cent with him. He speaks with more authority than I ever could.

    Vivek

  9. December 6, 2007 6:57 pm

    @ Rambodoc: On that distinction of whose foetus it is etc – which I consider a false distinction because the child does not ask to be conceived or born but parents choose it so and that gives parents immense power over decisions to keep or terminate – I put it rather crudely: Engage brain before engaging genitals. And I do believe some people should never become parents, seeing what they do to their children. In their case perversely, if I were their child, I would prefer my own early termination!

    Also sex determination is both an end-result and a tool for something else. Your argument is not dissimilar to the gun industry’s in the US – we make guns but guns don’t kill, people do…🙂

    @ Nita: I noted your points. Interestingly many 1generation professional migrants in the UK – and I know a few 100 in London – are increasingly choosing not to have children.

    That aside, my argument was about the role of ‘agency’ in the decision to terminate a female foetus.

    The older generations living here is in a time-warp. Mira Syal has written much about it in her books which I recommend (for light reading not as some profound social commentary). Their views are time-warped too.

    The more ‘enlightened’ example I have seen is couples who keep having girls till they have a boy. People my age. _That_ is equally puzzling but mildly more humane than endless terminations of female foetuses… And let’s not even begin to count the burden of emotional and physical distress of all this on the mother. She is not just a baby-manufacturing device and production-line, she is also a woman herself…

  10. December 6, 2007 7:03 pm

    @rambodoc:

    As you yourself have said, freedom should not harm another person. But freedom to abort girl babies will lead to wide-scale repercussions, maybe not to a single individual, but in fact worse because it will impact whole populations. True, far-reaching research hasn’t been carried out on this subject and the impact will vary from country to country but the fact is that the impact will not be a pleasant one. I am not even talking about the moral issues here.
    On the other hand, an abortion of a few week old fetus by an unwed mother is something different because the impact of disallowing it will be an unpleasant one. To me at least this is important as one has to see the impact of the actions.
    Lets assume that female feticide (which follows sex determination) is allowed, what will happen?
    Soon the legitmacy of it will tempt those who are being restrained and soon we will see an increase, all over the world. And to take it to an extreme – it will lead to a war – between men and women. The consequences are far too dreadful to contemplate.

  11. December 6, 2007 7:08 pm

    @Vivek Khadpekar:

    shefaly has already answered this question of rdoc’s but vivek, people don’t conduct sex determination tests out of curiosity!

  12. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    December 6, 2007 9:16 pm

    Nita: You are right in general, especially wrt communities which have a traditionally anti-girl-child bias. But there are families where, even without such bias, the sheer preponderance of offspring of one sex does prompt curiosity about what the next one is going to be.

    Of course with the tendency to have fewer children this point becomes merely academic. But for what proportion of the population (in India especially) is the small family a really viable idea in today’s economic conditions?

    An even worse case than India would be China, if its single-child programme had been an unqualified success. As it is, with or without an anti-girl-child climate, it has turned out to be a demographic disaster, fortunately confined to metropolitan areas.

  13. December 6, 2007 10:35 pm

    Shefaly: there is no question here that we are talking of the unborn fetus, and of the ‘child’. The question of choice, therefore, is moot.
    Nita: all that you postulate are merely postulates. In other words, there are no scientific facts backing up this theory of catastrophe. This argument of availability leading to misuse is a common but mistaken one. To give an example, the availability of alcohol does not lead to its misuse. On the other hand, whenever prohibition has been undertaken, adulteration or ‘moonlighting’ has led to ‘hooch tragedies’ and similar social disasters.
    Lastly, if such disaster is the actual (provable) consequence of free will of a country’s citizens, then that country should deservingly get wiped out. Will do a favor to the rest of the world, actually. Free will, however, cannot be contested.
    Ultimately, in order to defend any of our positions, we must have a moral basis. Without it, we are blind and just shooting in the dark.
    To sum up, the issue may be rephrased as:
    Does a mother have the right to abort her fetus?
    Does a mother have a right to abort her female fetus?
    If the answer to the first is a yes, it is contradictory to say ‘no’ to the second.

  14. December 6, 2007 10:36 pm

    I meant to say in the first line that we are talking NOT of the child, but of the unborn fetus. I missed the word NOT.

  15. December 6, 2007 11:11 pm

    @rambodoc:

    Comparing alcohol availibility to this subject? I do not see the similarity.
    Also these are not ‘mere postulates’ – But a fairly intelligent hypothesis by demographers. I mean the points I have raised In my post on the effects of a shortage of women. Various links in the post will give an idea of that the scenario will not be a pleasant one – for women at least.

    And when you say:
    “Does a mother have the right to abort her fetus?
    Does a mother have a right to abort her female fetus?
    If the answer to the first is a yes, it is contradictory to say ‘no’ to the second.”
    But my argument is not a moral one at all so I do not understand. I personally do not think that every argument has to be argued on moral/immoral grounds. I am talking of impact.

    And when you say:
    “If such disaster is the actual (provable) consequence of free will of a country’s citizens, then that country should deservingly get wiped out. Will do a favor to the rest of the world, actually.”
    I rest my case.🙂

  16. December 7, 2007 12:23 am

    this is very interesting
    i think money rules worldwide – be it black white or dirty

    Ones social standing does not depend upon his deeds or his reputation but solely on money
    the sad part is that most people cur cum to its temptation
    sometimes i think there is no morality left in this country
    but then again there are always a few good men n women

    but im with ram on this one cause banning is no solution
    they banned dowry then again what happened
    this is small fry compared to the kind of kidney and body parts racket that goes on in this country

  17. December 7, 2007 12:27 am

    the fact is that women should wake up
    cause time and again i see women discriminating against women.
    ther are no more men dying in battlefield to continue such practices , plus if this bulshit continues we willl have to change to the islamic reverse dowry system (where women become commodities ) as in the movie saudagar

  18. December 7, 2007 12:47 am

    I read about this on Shefaly’s blog, as you mention. It’s all a matter of educating the parents, and changing this wrong thinking. As far as the “educated” doctor goes, she must be greedy, or warped. On a certain level there must be self-hatred for a woman to have anything to do with terminating a pregnancy based on the sex of the fetus.

  19. marcelinopena permalink
    December 7, 2007 2:35 am

    Wow this is horrible but yet how do you prevent this from happening for the general population?

    I’m really shocked to know that India has this mentality especially now. This patriarchy crap needs to end everywhere and its horrible what its ideology has done to people.

  20. The Reformed Faith Weblog permalink
    December 7, 2007 3:34 am

    I have a question. In India, how are girls viewed as opposed to boys? Does Indian (or Hindu) society value one over the other? If not, then why would this phenomenon persist? And if so, then when will the society at large come to see both boys and girls to be equal in value? And if abortion is always an option for either sex, then why is it such a shocker that it would evolve into a selective procedure? Either way, a baby dies.

    As far as it not being a moral argument, everything but math has practitioners who base how they practice in a specific morality or presuppositional worldview… how can something be illegal (in the case of sex selection) when the random termination is perfectly okay? Termination is termination.

    It’s like having a law that it is perfectly okay to hit someone upside the head with a 2 X 4, but not just women. It has to be random smacking. AND I can hit random people with a 2 X 4, but not a baseboard or a quarter-round.

    If a fetus’ life (as we spell it here in the states) is of no consequence to a parent who wants to terminate the pregnancy, then why is it a consequence if it happens to be for the reasons of sex selection? Why should it matter if the woman doesn’t want a child at all, or just doesn’t want a girl? Either way, what you’re talking about is getting rid of an “unwanted” child. The specific reasons for the child to be “unwanted” shouldn’t make a difference, right?

    Chopping up, salting, cramming a forceps in it’s head, or… whatever the method, by the time a baby is big enough to determine it’s sex, you are killing a child that has a reaction to being killed… and this is being promoted as birth “control”. If a woman has the “right” to push a child out of her body or not, shouldn’t she be the one who determines what sex that child is? After all, isn’t it all about being a woman’s choice and not the killing of a child? Society needs to make up it’s mind whether abortion is about the killing of a child, or about a woman’s choice. If it is a woman’s choice, then it’s nobody’s business what her reasons are, right?

    Asking a doctor to be ethical while still being allowed by law to kill children, yet telling her not to kill children based on their sex, is just silly.

    Abortion is big business. Sex selection is just part of that business. It comes as a side effect. of that industry.

    In the U.S., it is illegal for someone to take a minor child over state lines to get an abortion… but people do it all the time as a consequence of the availability of unscrupulous doctors working for Planned Parenthood who are more concerned with making payments on their Mercedes Benz than whether they are breaking the law.

    Here, it is also against the law for an adult (18 yrs +) to have sex with an underage person. But Planned Parenthood counselors routinely tell underage girls not to reveal the age of the father because then the clinic would be required by law to report it to authorities as a sex crime, which would get the law and parents involved… and they don’t want a parent to know they are performing a medical procedure on their minor child prior to getting paid. Of course, the girl usually doesn’t want anyone to know about it, either. The clinic counts on this, and they also want the money and not to get into trouble.

    Go here to hear taped recordings of this illegal activity that a whopping 91% of 800 PPFA clinics agreed to engage in:

    http://www.PlannedParenthoodExposed.com/

    So, this engagement in illegal activity connected with the abortion industry is not just a sex selection phenomenon, it is, rather, connected with the morality and the ethics of the physicians who practice abortion. If they can harden themselves from the compassion they should be feeling toward the children they are killing, then it is just as easy to harden themselves to the law regarding the killing of children and how it should and shouldn’t be done.

    I recently found out that my own sister works in a Planned Parenthood clinic, so this really does hit close to home for me. On the one hand, I love my sister. But I cannot ever condone or gloss over what she does for a living, day in and day out… pulling little body parts out of young girls and women. To say that something as horrible as this doesn’t effect the way we view any child in society is just fooling ourselves.

  21. December 7, 2007 3:51 am

    If such disaster is the actual (provable) consequence of free will of a country’s citizens, then that country should deservingly get wiped out. Will do a favor to the rest of the world, actually.
    I guess fanaticism is not just the monopoly of religions.

  22. December 7, 2007 5:48 am

    Amit (and Nita),
    If I were to ask you to get wiped out because I believed so, I would have accepted the label of fanatic. I wrote that consciously, but perhaps should have avoided it. In a forum of this sort, this is difficult to explain.
    However, the essential principle is very simple: free will means the freedom to choose one’s actions. One’s actions stem from one’s conscious or subconsciously based premises and values. Actions have consequences. Very simple. They do. You cannot keep doing certain things, and not accept the consequences.
    If your value system is warped, your actions and the consequences thereof will reflect that. Example: If I believe that success in life does not need hard work and that there is a pot of gold coming in the form of a Lotto ticket, I will accumulate lottery tickets, and remain poor. If I try gambling based on those beliefs, I will probably get wiped out. If I change my premises, I could rejuvenate my life and succeed. Value systems (or lack of them) leading a man to penury, extinction, or prosperity. Three examples.
    On a larger, social scale, the same is equally valid. If a country’s citizens are rational and good, they would do as well or as middling as some other. If they are irrational and perverse in their value system, they will reap the consequences.
    I give you the example of Nazi Germany. It was the value system of Germany that led to WWII and the subsequent disasters. Irrationality led to disaster. Actions=consequences.

    Philosophically, this is the principle of natural justice. You deserve what you get. Life is fair. As you sow, so you reap.

    Why does anyone think a country whose citizens kill girl children, abort girl fetuses, fail to provide the basic dignity and respect for women deserves better than its actions? It is, on principle, saying the gambler (in the example above) deserved to get rich even when he put his house and security at stake. It does not happen like that in life, my friend.
    Actions have consequences (like an ill-advised provocative line in my previous comment led to my needing to write a lengthy explanation now). Life is like that. This country, if it keeps going down the path of irrational misogyny, will suffer the consequences, and will have earned it.
    All said, I think you will not understand/accept any or most of this, but this defence stands for good. My defence rests.

  23. December 7, 2007 7:39 am

    Prax, you believe that bans don’t help? You mean to say we would have had lessof a dowry problem if it was not banned?
    and btw both men and women discriminate against women.
    And just because there are other bigger rackets, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t clamp down on this one.

    Rdoc,
    “as you sow, so shall you reap” ofcourse!! but this doesn’t mean that one doesn’t try to stop something bad happening, precisely to stop the reaping! I think people who are going down the wrong path need to be helped, I do not think they ‘deserve’ it.
    Also, you did say that “people going for these feticides are also plain wrong” which means that you are against female feticide. Am I right? Which means you are against ALL abortions going by your statement that :
    “Does a mother have the right to abort her fetus?
    Does a mother have a right to abort her female fetus?
    If the answer to the first is a yes, it is contradictory to say ‘no’ to the second.”

  24. December 7, 2007 8:00 am

    marcelinopena, thanks. Not everyone aborts their girl babies…this phenomena is more common in certain regions of India, although some sort of discrimination against girls does exist all over India, again it’s different with different regions and communities as India is a very diverse country. But if had to make a general statement, yes, people prefer to have boys.

    mariacristina,
    education of the evils is the best, but it will take time. Until then, the law has to help. It will take generations for mindsets to change.

    The Reformed Faith Weblog
    , yes in a way you are right, female feticide amongst Christians in India is rare, more so because they are catholics and abortion itself is something abhorrent to them so there is no question of female feticide. You are also right that in Hindu society women are considered inferior, so much so that when women are disciminiated against, men blame women for it, not understanding that it’s a partiarchal society that is pressurising/brainwashing women.
    However banning abortions is not the right solution for India due to it’s overpopulation and resultant problems. I also feel that mothers need to be able to make a choice whether she should have a baby or not. Many even married women in India suffer because they do not have access to or are ignorant about birth control methods (so it’s not just carelessness which makes them pregnant) and having more than 4 kids ruins their health. And men in our society don’t always support these women. It’s worse for unwed women (their boyfriends will not support the baby) and in our country we don’t have the state to do it either. Plus the stigma of being an unwed mother could destroy a woman mentally. Our society does not accept unwed mothers at all. They will be outcasts, easy prey for the wrong sort of people. So abortions need to be legal in India.
    The only morality I have is that people shouldn’t get hurt, or be miserable. And I believe that people should be helped, they deserve help. That is my religion.
    I too balk at the word abortion, but I do not think it’s morally wrong if it helps to improve the life of a human being and it helps society. Which in turn helps whole families and future generations.
    Any action which harms society or the larger societal interest needs to looked at under the scanner and this will differ from country to country.

  25. December 7, 2007 10:13 am

    Why does anyone think a country whose citizens kill girl children, abort girl fetuses, fail to provide the basic dignity and respect for women deserves better than its actions?

    SOME citizens. That’s the flaw in your reasoning.
    You’re looking at the worst in the society and conflating it to ALL society. There are also people in the SAME society who are working to educate people, remove ignorance and fight this social ill (and please don’t call them coercers based on your Randspeak). I know of one – Swami Agnivesh. I’m sure there are others too. You obviously don’t agree with female foeticide yourself, and you’re a member of the same society. So why discount yourself and people who think like you?

    All said, I think you will not understand/accept any or most of this, but this defence stands for good.
    Well, I do agree with the same philosophy – actions have consequences – though not through Rand’s works. So there’s nothing there to not understand. The difference is in what to do about it.

  26. December 7, 2007 10:22 am

    This country, if it keeps going down the path of irrational misogyny, will suffer the consequences, and will have earned it.

    Pish-posh doc. Please correct me, but it seems to me that you’re almost glad and hoping for this to come true. Does reading Rand make one a defeatist? Or do you hate India and Indians so much?

  27. December 7, 2007 10:25 am

    Doc, you’re a doctor. Tell me, if a patient comes to you and you diagnose it as cancer (let’s assume that cancer was caused because of patient’s bad habits – smoking, diet, something), do you tell the patient that hey, you deserve it, and whatever happens, happens. I can’t do anything and soon you’re gonna die – actions, consequences.

    Or, based on your knowledge, you try to treat him? With compassion.

  28. December 7, 2007 10:44 am

    Nita, I live in Delhi and I have heard a lot about Dr Telang’s competance. I was shocked to hear about her involvement in this sort of a crime. What puzzles me is when you a flourishing practice like hers and a good reputation, what drives you to do all this? What is the mental state of the mother after aborting her child because she is a daughter?

  29. The Reformed Faith Weblog permalink
    December 7, 2007 11:32 am

    Nita: “… Our society does not accept unwed mothers at all. They will be outcasts, easy prey for the wrong sort of people. So abortions need to be legal in India. The only morality I have is that people shouldn’t get hurt, or be miserable. And I believe that people should be helped, they deserve help. That is my religion. I too balk at the word abortion, but I do not think it’s morally wrong if it helps to improve the life of a human being and it helps society. Which in turn helps whole families and future generations.”

    Okay, so what you are saying is that those who deserve help should get help. What exactly do you mean there? I am just wondering if you think that it is a helpful thing to get an abortion… because there are so many scientific studies that have concluded that women who have had abortions are much more likely to have serious health problems as well as serious emotional/mental problems… and many women have died from having a perforated uterus during the “procedure”. Those were the lucky ones – others have become vegetables from complications that caused them to go into comas. Just the other day the latest study came out (which of course the abortion industry is denying to be valid) that still links an increased risk of breast cancer in women who have aborted. I don’t see how all that can help a person.

    In my view, nothing hurts a society worse than allowing the killing the weakest among them. It only perpetuates the degradation of women and lessens the value of human life. It is just another way to discriminate against those deemed inferior and to treat them as subhuman.

    I understand the need for compassion for women in situations which prevent them from being educated and getting the proper health care – indeed I am torn by such a realization. Still, I think of the innocent life which is snuffed out and it breaks my heart. There must be a better way.

    In your culture, the girls who become pregnant outside of marriage are ostracized… and there is a fear that they will be taken advantage of by the “wrong sort of people” I think you said. It would seem that they’d already been taken advantage of by the man who got them pregnant. Are there not laws which provide for a woman to be able to plead for relief from the courts? Does it not take two to make a baby? Why is the man not held accountable?

    There is a story of a woman who was caught by the religious teachers in her country in the act of adultery. She was brought before a well-known teacher for judgement… maybe you know the story.

    The sentence for an adulterer in that place and time was death by stoning. The teacher looked on the people who were all standing there, and all were ready to stone the woman for her sins, and they only waited to see what this teacher said.

    He understood their motives and saw the uncleanness of their own hearts, and he probably noticed that for someone “caught in the act” of something that usually takes two people, she was conspicuously alone… and so he began to write in the dirt. It is not known what was written, but some people say he was writing all the rest of the laws… including those the other onlookers had perhaps broken. Laws that may have required the same punishment for the people who were so ready to exact judgement on the adulterous woman.

    As he wrote, they kept hounding him… until he stood up and said, “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first one to cast a stone at her.” And he bent down to write in the dirt once more… and slowly the people walked away
    until only the teacher and the woman were left.

    The teacher looked at the woman and asked, “Where are the ones who condemned you?”

    “They are not here.” she said.

    “I don’t condemn you either. Now, go and sin no more.” The teacher, Jesus, showed mercy where no mercy was required by the law. But he also held the others to the same standard they held for those they wished to condemn.

    Mercy is always better than sacrifice. To show mercy is to show the grace of God. Mercy changes people’s hearts.

    Jesus did many other things that men of his culture and time just didn’t do, especially when it came to women. He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, even though Samaritans were thought of as an enemy… and the fact that she was a woman – well, men just didn’t talk to any ole’ woman. Especially a Rabbi, which Jesus was called many times in Scripture. He showed mercy on the woman with the issue of blood (which by law made her unclean so that she could not go and worship at the tabernacle for 12 years) and that mercy was shown on the Sabbath, a day when they were not supposed to do work.

    Jesus constantly showed the religious folk how their religion and their accepted traditions were not acceptable in God’s eyes when it overpowered the good and the love and the mercy that he expects of all of us – since he was the one who put it there in the first place. We are created in His image, and his goodness and mercy should shine through us… not be hidden inside a locked room by societies traditions.

    I’m sorry… I’m being terribly sentimental. It’s a weakness of mine, especially when it comes to babies. Abortion is just such a terribly unmerciful act committed on such an innocent child. What that doctor did was just doubly evil, using her own words.

  30. December 7, 2007 11:53 am

    @The Reformed Faith Weblog:

    You said:
    “I understand the need for compassion for women in situations which prevent them from being educated and getting the proper health care – indeed I am torn by such a realization. Still, I think of the innocent life which is snuffed out and it breaks my heart. There must be a better way.”
    I am glad you understand the dilemma. There isn’t any other way. Laws in India are weakly enforced. Abortion is the lesser evil. A woman who wants to avoid a lifetime of shame will abort her baby or kill herself. And I am not exaggerating.
    Besides, married women in many parts of India will die of having too many kids if they cannot abort. Women who have more than 4-5 kids also have health problems as you are aware.
    Contraception is the ideal solution but when a populace is not educated this won’t work. Men in particular are very reluctant to take contraceptive precautions, that is a another point I did not mention earlier. In rural communities and many urban ones as well, contraception is left to the women, even operations to sterilize are left to women. Men are reluctant to use condoms and reluctant to sterilize themselves.

    p.s here in India if a woman gets pregnant outside marriage, she bears the shame, not the man. A man can have affairs and get away with it, but a woman needs to be ‘virtuous’. This mentality hasn’t changed, not in the heartland of India.

  31. December 7, 2007 11:56 am

    @pr3rna:

    That is a question that kept me awake for a while! Telang has everything! I think basically these people have no conscience, what else is one to think? About women who abort their female children, well I have little sympathy for a woman who does it thinking than boys are superior or ‘better.’ But if a woman is doing it under pressure from her in-laws, all my sympathies are with her.

  32. December 7, 2007 3:54 pm

    Nita:
    I am offended by a woman aborting her girl child because she doesn’t want anything other than a son. I find it primitive and a reflection of a very base value system. However, I strongly support her right to do so. No one on earth should have the right to prevent her from going ahead. It is her body, and her life. As citizens, we can help by trying to educate or persuade these people. However, we should not force our ideas on them.

    Amit:
    If people who commit female feticide are only a minority, then why bother and talk of the sex ratio being reversed and all that? Ignore it, and carry on.
    My being an Indian changes nothing as far as identifying the truths are concerned. Your baiting me about ‘hatred’ for Indians is infra-dig and I will not comment on this. I see no fatalism in what I said. I merely outlined what I think can happen to an irrational society, as was obvious by my naming Nazi Germany as an example. Your analogy with cancer fell flat on me. I never said ‘Let India go to Hell’. I said there is no point in trying to force one’s views on other people in society. If that society is persistently irrational, it will perish. History is witness to many societies perishing on account of their follies. The Roman Empire (partly) did in the past, and the Parsi community may do so in the future (by not producing enough children or marrying outside their community). I don’t think the (practical or moral) way out is to force people to produce girl and boy children in equal measure, unless people themselves want to.
    There is no cure for any cancer once it goes beyond a point.
    One more thing, Amit. I don’t take potshots at your beliefs. I don’t (usually) quote Rand. I use logic, analysis and facts to the best of my ability when commenting on an issue. If you address your arguments at these, I think we will debate better. Keep Rand out of this. Thanks.

  33. December 7, 2007 5:29 pm

    Nita, I agree with you completely when you say, “The only morality I have is that people shouldn’t get hurt, or be miserable”.

    I think many people will agree that that should be the basis of morality. Instead of confusing morality with rationality, and even more, confusing happiness with rational morality.

    I find it perfectly ok that we have a law against female foeticide and still allow abortions. An excellent example of flexibility in our law-making keeping people and their good in the centre.

  34. December 7, 2007 8:53 pm

    If people who commit female feticide are only a minority, then why bother and talk of the sex ratio being reversed and all that? Ignore it, and carry on.

    I didn’t say they are a minority. But it’s not the entire society either.

    I said there is no point in trying to force one’s views on other people in society. If that society is persistently irrational, it will perish.

    There’s force and there’s education. If there’s a problem, the only two options/solutions available are not 0 and 1.

    One more thing, Amit. I don’t take potshots at your beliefs. I don’t (usually) quote Rand. I use logic, analysis and facts to the best of my ability when commenting on an issue. If you address your arguments at these, I think we will debate better. Keep Rand out of this.

    Fair enough. I also have a request. When you say things like “I think you will not understand/accept any or most of this” – maybe you don’t realize it, but it is condescending and taking potshots at others. I hope you can give it some thought. And I see that kind of statements and attitude among those who call themselves “objectivists” and are Rand-fans – you often make statements like that, I’ve mentioned it to Mahendra once.
    Also, Rand is dead and gone. If I do take pot-shots at her, other than proving that I’m a dikhead (which I am), rationally it shouldn’t bother anyone, right?🙂

  35. Aditi permalink
    December 8, 2007 12:06 am

    Hi,

    Since this discussion is spiralling around issues such as “choice” and “free will” and “moral vs immoral” I just wanted to add this:

    When parents check out their new born foetus and decide, hey this kid isn’t what we wanted…We wanted a boy, not a girl.
    So – this means that in their minds girls are inferior beings which cannot be allowed into the world. Their life is too much of a burden for blah and blah reason. It’s like killing a kid because you believe it has deformities, if it doesn’t have a hand or leg or penis, it automatically must be terminated.

    This is similar and yet very different from abortion. Abortion is like, oh, I got a kid, but I can’t deal with it, I can’t take care of it, its my body and my life. This is usually an individual decision taken by the woman in secret, whereas foeticide is taken by a lot of people besides the woman, its like an institution now.

    You can always mention ‘demand and supply’ and justify everything in this world: slavery, prostitution, murder, rape…’Humans are basically evil’….everything can by okayed when viewed through nihilistic eyes. But thats not the point. We shouldn’t give up SO easily.
    >_<

  36. prax permalink
    December 8, 2007 12:27 am

    you believe that bans don’t help? ///
    do they really help
    look at this govt – the slightest bit of controversy BAN
    dowry should be allowed and regulated just like inheritance

    and btw both men and women discriminate against women.
    And just because there are other bigger rackets, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t clamp down on this one.

    agreed no arguements

  37. escapefromindia permalink
    December 8, 2007 3:31 am

    According to the 2001 census, female literacy in India is 54.16 % against male literacy of 75.85 %. Most of the working women remain outside the organized sector: A mere 2.3 % women are administrators and managers, and 20.5 % professional and technical workers.

    Nearly 9 out of 10 pregnant women aged between 15 and 49 years suffer from malnutrition and about half of all children (47%) under-five suffer from underweight and 21 % of the populations are undernourished. India alone has more undernourished people (204 million) than all of sub-Saharan Africa combined. Nearly 20 % of women dying in childbirth around the globe are Indians. Six out of every 10 births take place at home and untrained people attend more than half of them. 44 % of the Indian girls were married before they reached the age of 18. It added, 16 % of girls in the age group 15-19 years were already mothers or expecting their first child and that pregnancy is the leading cause of mortality in this age group.

    Women to men ratio were feared to reach 20:80 by the year 2020 as female fetus killing is rampant. Ten million girls have been killed by their parents in India in the past 20 years, either before they were born or immediately after, told Indian Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury to Reuters. According to the 2001 census, the national sex ratio was 933 girls to 1,000 boys, while in the worst-affected northern state of Punjab, it was 798 girls to 1,000 boys. The availability of ultrasound sex-determination tests leads to such mass killings in India.

  38. December 8, 2007 7:18 am

    Aditi:
    The ‘We’ and the ‘you’ in your comment is not clear. The only person who matters here is the woman in whose body there is a fetus. She has, legally and morally, absolute right over it, and can decide to terminate the pregnancy for any reason whatsoever. It matters little what the rest of us think about her motivations. Once we accept that, the rest is easy: what one is willing to do to help the situation or those whose choices are crushed by family pressures, etc. Thanks.

  39. December 8, 2007 7:44 am

    Rdoc,
    I think Aditi has made an important point and one is that when it comes to sex determination and female foticide, the woman herself is not exercising her right over her body. The decision is not hers alone.

    escapefromindia, thanks for your response..

    Prax, I am a little foxed about your statement about regulation dowry. Why should one regulate something that is evil, which is buying and selling of human beings? Why not regulate human trafficking then?
    There are some social problems which have to be eradicated and it may take generations but we have to keep fighting to get rid of it. It is important to recognize dowry as evil.

  40. December 8, 2007 5:36 pm

    the word dowry is very british and evil and demanded
    hunda or dahej is indian and negotiable
    ok thats kinda naive and childish

    but essentially i support stridhan or the entitlement a father gives to his daughter on marriage of his will and i dont consider it evil

    i find banning to not be a solution and that it has never worked and will never work and is better be put down in paper and pen is what im for

    i had a huge arguement with sri at enagar and dont want to go thru the whole arguement again sadly i cant find to that post to link here

  41. December 8, 2007 5:37 pm

    yes aditis arguement is very logical

  42. December 8, 2007 5:46 pm

    @Prax:

    I understand what you are saying Prax. You are saying that if it is given willingly it’s fine…it’s just a gift and frankly no one (not even the govt.) has a quarrel with that. But the dowry law only comes into effect when someone complains, when someone dies, when someone is burnt to death, so people who exchange gifts willingly have nothing to worry about.

  43. December 8, 2007 9:43 pm

    first our legal system suks bigtime
    how many laws r correctly enforced
    then there are people who take dowry kill bride and worse
    they marry again and the brides parents r left hi n dry and heartbroken. plus they have no means to reclaim what was theirs in dowry – worse the dowry or a part of it goes to bribing the authorities and cops
    first make giving dowry an offence punishable by law
    and make examples out of the high n mighty
    the current dowry laws are one sided and in many genuine cases most males suffer as educated and rather vociferous women use them to get out of a bad marriage and get back at their ex spouse.
    the people it is meant to protect are seldom protected
    what about the sentencing for burning a woman either by fire or by acid … remember all those incidents ?
    the system is tardy and needs a cleanup not stricter laws

  44. December 8, 2007 9:51 pm

    @Prax:

    I have been reading of such cases of the dowry law being misused. Our govt. cannot enforce the laws and so they will be incapable of protecting those men who are being wrongly accused because of it!

  45. Jyoti Sapru permalink
    December 10, 2007 12:41 pm

    Hi nita,

    You are right when you say:
    That is a question that kept me awake for a while! Telang has everything! I think basically these people have no conscience, what else is one to think? About women who abort their female children, well I have little sympathy for a woman who does it thinking than boys are superior or ‘better.’ But if a woman is doing it under pressure from her in-laws, all my sympathies are with her”

    I know Telang (her husband was a friend of my father) personally and went to her when I was having my first baby (1995). I was not very happy with her dictatorial manners and the fact that she did not allow my husband in the room I was being examined, as I wanted him to be part of the whole process. That apart.

    I have recently completed my doctoral thesis on the issue of son preference in rural Haryana and been closely associated with women who have aborted female foetuses. Often women are not alone when making such decisions. I often asked myself the question why women and their families strive to have the ideal sex composition of children in their families – one son and one daughter – though in the village that I studied a woman’s worries start when she has two living daughters and no sons. The health worker in the village and the Anganwadi (runs the child care center in the village) tap their networks with doctors in the city and help women sex detect and abort the female foetus.

    Coming back to my question – why one son atleast in every family (seemingly a squeeze on the number of boys too) – “visibly” the patriarchal norms and rituals and the custom of patrivirilocality (living with the husband’s family after marriage), undervaluing female contribution to household income and larger socio-economic concerns – rising unemployment, read more as squeeze on govt. jobs, growing expenses on education for both girls and boys, dowry (demanded both by daughters and the families of prospective grooms – more so), not expecting old age support from daughters, as they live away, etc. “Invisibly” girls are becoming more educated than boys, have better prospects of marriage and provide more old age support to parents, even though they live away, parents are wanting their daughters to work , even before they marry. Thus the daughters that survive foeticide are provided with most of the opportunities that their brothers get and thus do not always die of neglect, if they are born and survive the first 5 years of their life, atleast in Haryana. But the fact remains that Haryana has had a very bad sex ratio for over a century.

    Having said that girls are being treated better, there are still fewer girls and a lot are still dying after birth, which is showing up in the low child (0-6) sex ratios. Despite the Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques Act (PNDT Act), media coverage, academic debates, etc. the problem continues. As some women in the field said – the cost of the Test and subsequent abortion has gone up (from Rs.300 – Rs.3000) and it has become quite risky for women, as often they are being tested by quacks.

    There are also other interesting trends emerging from the recently conducted National Family and Health surveys about a possible turnaround in son preference tendencies. Where couples decide to curtail their family size to two children and not determine the sex of these children.

    Having said that, the sca

  46. December 10, 2007 10:02 pm

    @Jyoti Sapru:

    Thanks for that very detailed and informative comment. It’s added greatly to the post and it’s a lot of food for thought.
    I am not at all surprised that Dr. Telang was a dictatorial type but I am shocked that she did nto allow your husband in the room. This shows her retrograde thinking.

  47. December 10, 2007 11:26 pm

    Nowadays, those test centers are even being setup in small towns and village people are also patronising those centers and it became high profitable business for criminal doctors who abort female babies for money.

  48. December 11, 2007 5:30 am

    Nita:
    I don’t know the doctor, but you might be getting harsh on her. The fact that the main reason for altered sex ratio is a higher mortality for the girl child was something I had mentioned in Mahendra’s blog and yours too (if memory serves me right). Many doctors prefer to examine the female in the absence of other family members, maybe because of the type of chauvinistic husbands they must be seeing more often than the modern ones…. I still don’t see what this doc did that was so bad. She did sex determination, which is illegal, and wrongly so, at least if one goes purely by reason and political-personal rights (at least some people strongly know so). She didn’t kill anyone, did she?

  49. December 11, 2007 5:32 am

    I meant that the illegality of sex determination is ‘wrongly so’.

  50. December 11, 2007 7:27 am

    @rambodoc:

    That’s true and I see your point. But I had a such a wonderfully sensitive doc (btw, my husband was always there, even during the delivery!) that I happen to use him as a benchmark! Probably wrongly so.🙂

  51. escapefromindia permalink
    December 11, 2007 6:53 pm

    The surgical rooms are even discriminated on the basis of cast.

    My Encounter With Dronacharya (English)
    Dr.Ashok Bhoyar Rs.200.00

    http://sammaditthi.net/bookcritic/SUGAWA.asp

  52. December 27, 2007 1:50 pm

    Nita,
    A little late in the discussion, but thought I’d point you to this UNFPA study — which, by the way, I think is one of this best, most exhaustive reports I have read so far on this issue.

    Pardon me if you’ve already read this.

    http://www.unfpa.org/gender/docs/studies/india.pdf

    It’s a little longish (36-odd pages) but totally worth the read. It should answer some sticky questions raised here, such as if and how such discriminatory practices will affect India in the future (and hence a good part of the world population), and why we should be concerned.

    I can go on and on about this subject, but the discussion here is pretty engaging and this study by and large covers all the points being raised here.

    Hope it’s useful.
    SS

  53. December 27, 2007 2:15 pm

    @ SS:

    Thanks for that link and no, I have not read it. It’s very interesting research and I am going to go through that in detail soon.

  54. January 5, 2008 10:03 pm

    Brilliant post Nita.

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