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Indian Supreme Court Takes Action Against Ultrasound Use for Sex Selection

The Indian Supreme Court issued an order on Monday demanding that all governing bodies in Indian states and territories prevent unregistered clinics from advertising prenatal ultrasound testing and fetal sex selection services, according to Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report. The court confirmed that state and territorial governments must stop ignoring unregistered clinics’ repeated violations of misusing ultrasound machines to predetermine the sex of fetuses. The action followed a suit filed by the Center for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes, a local non-profit organization, which stated that unlicensed clinics were in violation of federal law and past court orders when they continue to promote the use of sex selection services. Tests that allow families to determine the sex of a fetus were banned in India in 1994. However, Indian culture has traditionally had a preference for male children over female. Prior to the availability of ultrasound technology, female babies were sometimes killed either by being buried alive or by being abandoned by their families; in fact, CNS News cites a recent survey that estimates that there continue to be 10,000 cases of female infanticide in India a year. In February, the Supreme Court ordered state governments to confiscate ultrasound machines in all unregistered clinics due to the use of the machines for sex selection. Monday’s action requires all regional governments to file “comprehensive affidavits,” with the court featuring in detail their actions against clinics violating federal law, according to Kaiser. In India, a preference for male infants has led to an estimated 5 million abortions every year, reported CNS News. Census data from the last 10 years demonstrate the declining sex ratio, dropping from 972 to 933 women per 1,000 men, according to the New York Times. The world average is 990 women to 1,000 men. Experts agree that cultural shifts are needed to supplement new population policies. “[U]nless we change our customs and thinking patterns, the problem cannot be solved,” said New Delhi physician Dr. Ashok Mittal, according to CNS News.

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Sources:

Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health report 10/9/02, CNS News 8/8/02; New York Times 4/22/01; Feminist Daily News Wire