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Witness – Mitu’s Story

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The ‘genocide’ of India’s daughters

We ask if the patriarchal mindset that runs across castes and class can be changed to prevent foeticide and infanticide.

Supreme Court judges in India have summoned the health secretaries in seven states over a worrying fall in the number of young girls in India.

They are demanding details about clinics flouting the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act – to determine the sex of unborn babies – with potentially fatal consequences.

The judges are blaming what they call rampant foeticide and infanticide, and they say the mindset of parents and society need to change.

The UN children’s charity UNICEF says the culture of favouring males in India is costing the lives of millions of young girls.

The agency says more than 2,000 illegal abortions are being carried out every single day, and it is dramatically altering the balance of the population.

It warns: “Decades of sex determination tests and female foeticide that has acquired proportions are finally catching up with states in India. This is only the tip if the demographic and social problems confronting India in the coming years.”

Speaking in April 2011, Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, called for a crusade against the widespread practice of foeticide and infanticide.

“The people [district medical officers] who are supposed to be enforcing the [Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act] they themselves have the same patriarchal mindset and they don’t feel that it’s wrong to kill a girl child in the desire for a boy, naturally they won’t go and prosecute anybody. Add to it corruption [within the medical profession].”

– Mitu Khurana, a pediatrician and a women’s rights activist

“The falling child sex ratio is an indictment of our social values. Our girls and women have done us proud in classrooms, in boardrooms and on the sports field. It is a national shame for us that despite this, female foeticide and infanticide continues.”

The 1991 Indian census showed there were 945 girls for every 1,000 boys, aged up to six. Ten years later, it dipped even further to just 914 girls for every 1,000 boys.

But that is just the average. The figures are far worse in some states.

The 2011 census found there were 830 girls for every 1,000 boys in the northern state of Haryana. It was 846 in neighbouring Punjab state. And in the national capital territory of Delhi the figure was 866.

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I agree that it’s the mindset of the people that must change. Banning sex determination ultrasounds will in all likelihood increase the incidence of female infanticide. However, doctors who continue to perform them need to be charged.

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By Elizabeth Vargas

Six months ago, I traveled to India to see firsthand what the prime minister of that country calls a national shame. It is the systematic, widespread, shocking elimination of India’s baby girls. Some 50,000 female fetuses are aborted every month in India. Baby girls are often killed at birth, either thrown into rivers, or left to die in garbage dumps. Its estimated that one million girls in India “disappear” every year.

I traveled first to Delhi, where I met a woman who is a member of the privileged, educated class. Her name is Mitu and she is a pediatrician, married to a doctor. When she became pregnant, she said her husband’s family pressured her to have an illegal ultrasound to see if her twins were girls or boys.

There are clinics everywhere in India, offering ultrasounds. We walked down street after street and saw signs everywhere advertising ultrasound services. There are even technicians who pack portable ultrasounds and travel to villages offering their services. The dirty little secret is that many couples use the ultrasound to find out the sex of their baby. If they find it’s a girl, hundreds of thousands of mothers-to-be abort the fetus. 50,000 girl fetuses are aborted every month in India. It is a staggering number. And it has created whole villages where there are hardly any women. We went to one such village in the province of Haryana. Everywhere we looked, we saw boys, young men, old men, but very, very few women. It was unsettling, especially because we knew this was not some freak of nature, but a result of the deliberate extermination of girls.

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“Mitu Khurana’s fight to have her baby girls, is nothing short of historic”.

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U.S. clinic offers British parents the opportunity to choose the sex of their child

British couples are being offered the chance to choose the sex of their child in a U.S. clinic.

The controversial practice – known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) – is banned in this country, except in cases where it could signal genetic disease.

Fifty per cent of the embryos currently being tested in Dr Jeffrey Steinberg’s New York clinic are said to belong to Britons while another four will undergo testing next month.

The American laws on sex selection changed in 2001 leading to medical centres offering ‘family balancing services’.

The cost of the service and travel expenses can total £20,000.

Dr Steinberg, who opened his clinic in January, told The Times: ‘Britain is far more conservative than it used to be. They were the innovators but now they’ve got handcuffs on.

‘From a business standpoint, it’s the best thing going. From a medical standpoint, it’s a travesty.’

Pro-life supporters have criticised the practice, where ‘undesirable’ embryos are destroyed.

According to The Telegraph, the Pope has highlighted an ‘obsessive search for the perfect child’ and warned that a ‘new mentality is creeping in that tends to justify a different consideration of life and personal dignity’.

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