Moral Low Ground

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Upwardly Aspiring Indian Parents Forcing Young Daughters to have Sex Change Operations

Indian surgeons are performing sex change operations on little girls as young as one year old as upwardly aspiring parents desperate to have sons sometimes resort to desperate measures to have what nature denied them.

According to the Telegraph and the Huffington Post, gender bias is alive and as well as ever in India, despite rising levels of education and affluence in recent years. In fact, it is the rising fortunes of many Indians that allows them to afford the operations, which can cost more than $3,000.

Still more desirable… (Photo: McKay Savage)

“The figures are getting worse,” Ranjana Kumari of the Centre for Social Research, an anti-female feticide advocacy group, told the Telegraph. “In 2001, there were 886 girls born to every 1,000 boys in Delhi. Today there are only 866. The more educated and rich you are, the more there is killing of girls. People don’t want to share their property or invest in girls’ education or pay dowries. It’s the greedy middle classes running after money. It is just so shocking and an outright violation of children’s rights.”

Indeed, the daughter’s family is traditionally responsible for providing a fancy wedding and a costly dowry, and then the young woman leaves her family to take care of her husband’s kin. It’s been this way for centuries in India and despite modernization, Indians have retained their ancient traditions– both the good ones and the bad. Boys are still considered far more “valuable” than girls, with predictably dire results for many unwanted girls.

In one state, Madhya Pradesh, the government is investigating allegations that up to 300 girls was forcibly turned into boys in Indore.

Female feticide, or aborting unborn baby girls, is far more common than are forced sex change operations in India. Still, the frequency of such operations is growing and when combined with gender-based abortions, the result is a country with seven million more boys than girls under the age of six. This is less than the disparity in neighboring China, but it still does not bode well for India’s future.

Let’s forget the societal implications for a moment and take a closer look at the personal trauma caused to children by forced sex changes. The procedure itself, known as genitoplasty, is only recommended for children whose internal organs do not match their external genitalia. When performed unnecessarily, as is almost always the case in India, the operation can result in long-term physical and psychological damage to the recipient. The “boys” can reject their sexual re-assignment, and infertility and impotence abound in adulthood.

“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 impotence,” Dr. V.P. Goswami, president of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics, told the Telegraph. “Parents have to consider the social as well as the psychological impact of such procedures on the child.”

According to the Hindustan Times, the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Madhya Pradesh health department are recommending steps that would prevent parents from paying doctors to perform sex change operations on girls, some of whom are as young as one year old. The MCI has proposed a board of medical experts that would decide on a case-by-case basis whether such surgeries are indeed necessary, which they almost always are not.

Ultimately, the only thing that will change the alarming rise in female feticide and forced sex changes is a fundamental shift in collective thinking in this extremely traditional nation of 1.15 billion upwardly aspiring souls. And that, as any Indian will tell you, will prove much more difficult than changing the sex of a little baby girl.

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