The arrest of seven people, including five doctors, in Kanpur, caught performing pre-natal sex-determination tests once again reminds us of the pervasive presence of such ignoble practitioners of the noble profession who besmirch the reputation of the medical fraternity. Female foeticide continues to plague India, as rates of pre-natal female mortality refuse to come down. Sex-determination tests or amniocenteses have long been made illegal in this country, but the skewed social attitudes remain biased against girl children, not just in the villages, where familial and dynastic affiliations tend to be feudal anyway, but also in the small towns and cities, which, although don’t shy away from welcoming new shopping malls or multiplexes in their consummately urbanising localities, still baulk at welcoming a girl child in their families.
India continues to have an abysmal sex-ratio as the preference for sons and a patrilineal system of inheritance compound the problems brought about by advancements in medical technology. The sex ratio has gone from 104.0 males per 100 females in 1981, to 109.4 in 2011. North Indian states like Punjab and Haryana have even worse sex ratios, contributing the major chunk of the 500,000 girls lost annually through sex-selective abortions. Medical miscreants charging money for performing illegal sex-determination tests, and aborting the foetus in case it’s female, in fact adversely affect the complicated abortion debate, a practice, which albeit legal in India, still remains mired in social stigma. Both female foeticide and anti-abortion brigades are the two sides of the same coin: the wide-scale patriarchal bias against women’s right to life and reproductive health.