GENDER SELECTION

Browsing through the October issue of India Currents, I was horrified to discover a half-page advertisement offering gender selection to Indian couples. Using a method that is “safe, effective, and confidential,” Suresh R. Nayak, M.D., promises Indian couples a boy or a girl. I’d like to believe that your magazine ran this ad inadvertently, without fully realizing the implications of the services offered.

India’s record in raising the status of the girl child is abysmal, enumerated most shamefully in the country’s declining sex ratio (number of females per 1,000 males). According to the 2001 census, India’s sex ratio has fallen from 945 females per 1,000 males in 1991 to a new low of 927 women per 1,000 males. This figure is one of the lowest in the world; the norm is 1,050 females for every 1,000 males.

It is no secret that India’s declining sex ratio is perhaps attributable to scientific and technological advances. The irony is apparent: these are the very same factors typically associated with lower infant mortality and a longer lifespan. But in India, sophisticated medical technologies intended for genetic screening are routinely exploited as gender-identification devices. Although the 1994 Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technologies Act bans gender identification, enforcement is quite another matter, with not a single conviction to date under the act and with the sex ratio continuing to decline in Punjab, Haryana, and Gujarat, the three states to first introduce the ban.

Due to the absence of a palpable gender bias and due in large part to the religious politics of abortion in America, abortion has not been used as a tool for gender selection, thereby invalidating the use of procedures such as amniocentesis and ultrasounds as sex-determination devices.

The Ericsson method of sperm separation and intra-uterine insemination—the procedure offered in the ad in your magazine—is a whole different matter, however. Couples are able to select the gender of the baby even before conception. It is as simple as that. American couples who do not typically harbor an age-old prejudice of favoring boys over girls might use this method to “gender balance” their family. But what assurances are there that the Indian community—with its unabashed preference for a male child—will not misuse this technology as the latest and cleanest way to select boys over girls? Only future generations of Indian Americans and future statistics will reveal whether girls and boys are valued equally in our community. In the meantime, I believe that it is the social responsibility of a progressive and respectable magazine such as India Currents to not in any way encourage or promote gender selection within our community.

Rajika Bhandari, Oakland, Calif.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

SURESH NAYAK RESPONDS

The fear, that sex selection will distort the natural sex ratio and lead to a severe gender imbalance, is unfounded. For this to happen, at least three conditions have to be met.

First, there must be a considerable demand for preconception sex selection; second, there must be a significant preference for children of a particular sex, and third, the selection method has to be close to a 100 percent effective.

The percentage of couples seeking sex selection in the United States is only a very small fraction of 1 percent of births. Almost all of these couples want a child of the sex they do not have and want it for the last child; they use sex selection for family planning and balancing the sex of their offspring. Very few seek sex selection for their first child and these have predominantly been lesbian couples trying to have a female offspring, using donor semen.

Of the couples who seek sex selection, 20 percent desire a female child.

The present technology only assures a 75-80 percent success rate.

Contrary to popular belief, not all couples seeking sex selection are Asian Americans; 20 percent are other Americans.

Being in the obstetrics-gynecology field, I see a fair number of couples terminating pregnancies of the “undesired sex” after doing ultrasounds and amniocentesis. There would be fewer couples doing that, if these same couples used the Ericsson method of sex selection. I have never wished to contribute to these terminations and for that very reason I do not perform ultrasounds for fetal sex in my office before 24 weeks of gestation.

It is sad that the Indian culture that we love and are so proud of also has men believing that if they don’t have a son to perform their last rites, their soul will never rest in peace. Whose fault is it for making them believe that?

Suresh R. Nayak, M.D., San Jose, Calif.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

BOLD STAND

I have been a reader of India Currents for a long time now. I have been favorably impressed with its format, variety, and content. It has a distinct class about it that makes it quite easily the best among its genre.

I am particularly heartened by the courage you showed in the last two issues while writing about the U.S. elections. You did not walk the safe path and stay in the comfort zone like other journals did. Most of them were equivocal, ran with the hares, hunted with the hounds, willing to strike but afraid to wound, and tried to mean all things to all people. They waffled pitifully. Your bold stand, on the other hand, was a welcome relief.

When candidates for high offices have serious shortcomings and mislead audience through hype, propaganda, and sophistry, it would be a disservice to people if media do not speak up. Your writing showed discernment and balance, and the message was uncompromising, loud, and clear. I congratulate you on your forthrightness.

Such endeavors build hope in this world and help keep freedom alive.

Sekari Vaidy, Sunnyvale, Calif.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

MOVING BACK TO INDIA

I can relate to the Ranjani Nellore’s experience (“India Advantage,” IC, November 2004) in a small way since we have also decided to move back to India after living in the United States for over six years. I have quit my Bay Area job and joined an Indian firm.

I feel that no person is fully prepared for this and no time is the right time. Currently, I am back in the Bay Area to work on a project after which we will return to India. At first, my wife had apprehensions about moving back, but is now happy that we made this decision and is looking forward to our return.

Sriram Ariyalur, via the Internet

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

THE RISE AND FALL OF A SUPERPOWER

President Bush is the latest in a short list of American presidents who have irrevocably changed the course of American history, but with a difference. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt set America on the path which culminated in its becoming a superpower and the leader of the free world. Bush, on the other hand, has set America on a collision course with Islamic nations and civilization, calling it a “War on Terror.”

What Bush has set in motion is clearly irrevocable as even Kerry could not speak up against the so-called War on Terror, but limited himself to attacking American policies in Iraq. I sincerely believe that by his actions Bush has flagged off the process of the decline of American power.

Vinay Agarwal, via the Internet

Share this: