Bollywood star in baby sex selection controversy
STRDEL / AFP / GettyImages
Indian Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan (left) poses with his wife Gauri.
Highlights of history
Department of Health investigates reports of Bollywood star and wife expecting boy
Sex testing banned in India due to traditional preference for sons
Law-breaking doctors and parents risk jail, expert says
Sex testing is also banned in China and South Korea
A Bollywood star faces a storm of controversy over the gender of her unborn child.
India’s Ministry of Health has launched an investigation into reports that actor Shah Rukh Khan and his wife are expecting a boy through a surrogate mother.
Testing for sex is banned in India and elsewhere in Asia, due to a traditional preference for sons.
Dr Jignesh Thakkar from Indian Association of Radiology and Imaging told CNN that India’s health ministry investigated the case at the association’s request.
“We wanted to know how this was disclosed, because this is confidential information that only a doctor and not even a patient will know,” said Thakkar, the association’s coordinator for the law on pre-natal diagnostic techniques. -conceptional that prohibits the selection of sex. .
“Action must be taken against doctors and patients who violate this law. Celebrities or the rich and famous can’t get away with this. ”
Khan – who has a 16-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter – has yet to comment on the matter.
Thakkar said doctors who disclosed the sex of an unborn child could face three years in prison and suspension of their medical license for five years, while parents could face up to five years in prison.
India banned sex detection in 1996 as it tried to prevent abortions of girls but, according to Rob Brooks of the University of New South Wales in Australia, the move has had little impact on the country’s biased sex ratio.
Sex testing is also illegal in China, another country where sex ratios are heavily biased in favor of men, but the ban has done little to correct the country’s sex ratio, which in 2011 was 117 men for every 100 women. The global average is between 103 to 107 men per 100 women.
“It’s not particularly effective because there are always unscrupulous doctors,” he said.
“And the ultrasound is a very important diagnostic technology, so people will look for the ultrasound for other reasons and sometimes you can’t help but notice the gender of the child.”
Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Afghanistan, Taiwan and South Korea also have unbalanced gender ratios, Brooks added.
Brooks said that in India the preference for sons has historically been confined to the upper castes, but as its economy has grown and sex selection technology has become more widely available, the middle class has embraced the practice.
In China, preference is amplified by the country’s one-child policy, and campaigns to emphasize gender equality are undermined by provisions that allow families in rural areas to have a second child. if the first is a girl.
“The rich want to have a male heir to inherit the family fortune, while the rural dwellers want a strong workforce and the farmers believe that boys can do more to help the family,” Zhang Zhongtang, expert in family planning from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told the World time in March.
Brooks said the ban on abortion for sex selection is only a small part of the steps needed to change attitudes, with needed improvements in women’s property rights and better retirement benefits. to reduce parents’ dependence on their children as well as a reform of dowry and dowry systems.
But change is possible. Through legal reforms and a “Love Your Daughter” public awareness campaign that highlighted the dangers of distorted sex ratios, South Korea has succeeded in reducing its sex ratio at birth by 116 per 100 men. women to 107 in 2007.