“Invest Rs.500 now and save Rs.50, 000 later” are advertisements still seen in Indian cities for gender biased sex-selection and elimination. Writer, Patralekha Chatterjee catches up with Mitu Khurana who had made legal history by prosecuting her doctor husband for illegally making her go through a sex-determination test but her fight is far from over.
I have been writing about gender biased sex selection and sex selective elimination for years. I filed my first report on the subject in 1988. It was about a notorious doctor couple in Amritsar who openly ran an anti-natal sex determination clinic. “Invest Rs.500 now and save Rs.50, 000 later”, they advertised. The blatant message that elimination of a female foetus could save parents the expenditure on dowry earned them huge notoriety, also customers. The doctors viewed their work as ‘social service.’
“We are saving the mothers and the unwanted daughters,” the wife told me without the slightest trace of remorse. I remember my visit to their clinic. It was a week-day evening. A row of young women were waiting patiently outside their chamber. Many were newly married. All looked tense, distraught. I remember one woman in an advanced stage of pregnancy. She was all too aware of the risks of an abortion in her state but the fear of what would happen to her if she gave birth to a baby girl came through as she whispered.
That distressing image has stayed with me.
Over the years, I have filed more reports — interviews with intrepid activists fighting to get culprits punished, with doctors who were willing to critique their own community and so on.
India has changed. But the deep-seated cultural preference for sons remains as strong as ever. Earlier it was seen as an obsession confined to some parts of the country – the north and the west. Today, the diabolic coming together of prejudice and misuse of technology has spread the problem across the country.
Sex selective elimination of a foetus is easy.
The data is all too well-known. The child sex ratio, which shows the number of girls per 1000 boys between the ages 0-6, plummeted to 918 for India in 2011 from 927 in 2001, according to the latest Census data.