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What is Gender-Biased Sex Selection?
Gender-biased sex selection (GBSS) is the misuse of medical technologies to determine the sex of a foetus in order to ensure a male child, a practice that is illegal in India according to PCPNDT Act. It includes practices such as selecting embryos after IVF and separating sperm to conceive a son or misusing ultrasounds to illegally determine the sex of a foetus and then abort it, if it is a female.
GBSS is driven by a powerful cultural preference for sons and a devaluing of women and girls. Since prevalent norms deign that sons alone inherit property, care for ageing parents, conduct funeral rites, and carry on the family name, there is an obvious preference for a male heir. While sons constitute a profitable investment, daughters are seen as “paraya dhan” (someone else’s wealth) who require dowry only to leave their families once married. A major concern is assuring a daughter’s “safety” and protecting her honor in an environment, where crimes against women are rising, sexual harassment is rife, and mobility of women is severely restricted. People therefore resort to any means, including gender-biased sex selection, to avoid having a daughter. In short, Girls Are Not Valued.
Are Mothers Solely Responsible for Gender-Biased Sex Selection?
Breakthrough’s research has revealed that the prevalence of GBSS is a result of overt and covert pressures from family, community and even medical practitioners. In most situations, women have little or no say over their womb and are compelled to produce a son. Women are shackled by the fear of violence and rejection at the hands of their husbands and in-laws. Their need to feel desired and valued was found to be intrinsically tied to the ability to produce a son. Women are therefore coerced to undergo sex determination tests by their family or under the duress of the community and do not have a say in gender-biased sex selection.