The world is in 21st century where we would believe that gender equality is now recognised in most democracies even though not completely perfect; right? Wrong! In India, in the state of Madhya Pradesh there are parents who desperate for a son, have resorted to inhuman surgery and changed their daughters’ gender. The children in question are said to be aged between one and five.
India’s National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights has ordered the Madhya Pradesh government to investigate claims that 300 girls have under gone surgeries to become boys in procedures that cost the equivalent $3,200 (£1,992) each. Dr. Brijesh Lahoti who performed the genitoplasty said, “In India, there is no problem in performing these surgeries as only the consent from parents and an affidavit is required.”
Although the surgeries were performed in Indore in Madhya Pradesh, the children operated on were from across the country. The president of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics in Indore, Dr V P Goswami said, “Genitoplasty is possible on a normal baby of both the sexes, but later on these organs will not grow with the hormonal influence and this will lead to their infertility as well as their impotency. This is shocking news and we will be looking into it and taking corrective measures. Parents have to consider the social as well as the psychological impact of such procedures on the child.”
India’s civil society activists have reacted with outrage, saying the practice has made a mockery of women in India and that girls are not safe even after birth. Ranjana Kumari of the Centre for Social Research and a leading campaigner against foeticide said the surgical transformation of girls into boys without their informed consent was a sign of India’s growing “social madness”. Ms Kumari added, “It seems the more educated and wealthier you are, the more there is the killing of girls.
It is not uncommon in India, which has a population of 1.2 billion for families to prefer boys. Yet the lengths to which parents will go to secure a baby boy are disturbing with sex selective abortions, known as foeticides. According to the Centre for Social Research there are now seven million more boys than girls under six years of age in India. A study it conducted in 2009 revealed that a staggering 7,000 female foeticides occurred every day in India. The same study said that over the past 20 years, as many as 10 million girls had been killed by their parents either prior to their birth or immediately after.
Ms Kumari believes the solution lies with the government, “In India we need to emphasize the spiritual wealth a girl brings to a family. We also need to support them with financial subsidies and jobs.” It is clear that till now both the education and public awareness campaigns have failed to shift attitudes on preference for boys over girls.
Photo credit: Joel Dousset