Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Gender tests fuel killing of India's unborn girls

By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The widespread use of illegal tests to determine the sex of an unborn child is fuelling a rise in female foeticide cases in India, social activists and officials said on Tuesday.

Sex determination tests through techniques such as ultrasonography and amniocentesis are banned in India, but female foetuses are still commonly killed in some regions where a preference for sons runs deep.

As a result, the government says around 10 million girls have been killed by their parents -- either before or immediately after birth -- over the past 20 years.

"Sex selection has been the main culprit for the declining female child ratio in the country," Pravir Krishna, a senior official from the ministry of health, said at a meeting on the role of sex selection tests in the killing of female foetuses.

"Technology has given us a lot of benefits, but this is one aspect of technology which has given us a serious problem."

Last month, police discovered 30 polythene bags stuffed with the body parts of female foetuses and newly born babies in a abandoned well near a clinic in eastern India, sparking protests.

In most parts of the country, many people see boys as breadwinners who will look after their parents when they grow up but view daughters as liabilities for whom they will have to pay huge dowries to get married off.

Since technology for monitoring the health of a foetus started in India in the 1980s, many clinics and hospitals have misused it to determine the gender of unborn children, at the request of couples.