By Dave Andrusko
A fascinating juxtaposition of stories from India. Last Saturday, a newborn baby girl, who had been buried alive by her parents, was miraculous discovered “after a local resident spotted some movement on the earth where she was buried,” the India Times reported.
The news service added that the baby girl’s umbilical cord was still intact when she was discovered in the Jajpur district of Odisha on the Eastern coast. The latest report said her condition was critical.
Technically, revealing the sex of an unborn child has been illegal in India since 1994. (The law, filled with loopholes, was tightened somewhat in 2002.) Yet thousands of unborn babies are aborted because they are females, not males.
Over the same weekend, reporting on WGCL-TV in Atlanta, Huizhong Wu wrote about “activist Varsha Deshpande, founder of Lek Ladki Abhiyan, an organization dedicated to fighting sex-selective abortions.”
Wu began his account with a story of a typical sting. A pregnant volunteer went to a physician in the western Indian state of Maharashtra and told the doctor she wanted to know the sex of her baby. Although that is illegal, Wu wrote
Nevertheless, the doctor offered to tell the woman the sex of her baby for a one-off payment of 12,500 rupees ($190). She agreed and paid for the service, documenting everything on a hidden spy camera.
Last week, a court in Malegaon convicted the doctor and his brother of running a sex-selection clinic and abortion racket. They face three years in jail and a fine, according to police.
According to Deshpande, they have carried out dozens of investigations, resulting in 20 convictions since 2004 .
The brunt of Wu’s story is to document the ominous changes in sex ratios in India and how an estimated five million to seven million sex-selective abortions are carried out in India every year, reports the US-based NGO Invisible Girl Project.
The result is that in 2001 there were about 93 girls for every 100 boys. By 2016, according to the Indian census, there were only 89 girls for every 100 boys.
“This gender gap has resulted in villages where men have no women to marry, because the women are non-existent,” Invisible Girl Project CEO Jill McElya told Wu.
The preferred option for many activists, according to Wu, is raising awareness and putting pressure on the government. Not so with Deshpande who believes the “political will” is lacking to enforce the regulations.
Deshpande has always favored direct action. In the early days, before she received any donations or outside help, she used cheap Walkmans to record audio for evidence.
Concerned tipsters can now call a hotline to share information about a doctor offering sex-selection tests. Members of Deshpande’s team then go along with a pregnant volunteer to collect evidence on how the doctor or nurse is breaking the law.
Under the law practitioners using ultrasound technology are required to register with the government. The law also “prohibits companies from selling ultrasound machines to those not registered and requires local officials to educate the public against sex-selection,” Wu reports. But
“Until the judicial system works like it should and the courts uphold the law, there will be no true systemic change,” McElya said.
Deshpande agrees. “If we start implementing it, then we can stop it within one year,” she said.
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