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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 March 2006, 07:02 GMT 08:02 UK
India sex selection doctor jailed
A girl during an event against female foeticide in Delhi
Indian cultural tradition favours boys over girls
A doctor in India and his assistant have been sentenced to two years in jail for revealing the sex of a female foetus and then agreeing to abort it.

This is the first time medical professionals have been jailed in such a case.

Under Indian laws, ultrasound tests on a pregnant woman to determine the gender of the foetus are illegal.

It has been estimated that 10m female foetuses may have been terminated in India in the past 20 years.

Dr Anil Sabhani and Kartar Singh were caught in a sting operation in the northern state of Haryana.

Government officials sent in three pregnant women as decoy patients to find out if the clinic would carry out abortions based on sex selection.

Audio and video evidence showed the doctor telling one woman that tests had revealed that she was carrying a "female foetus and it would be taken care of".

The judgement is historical
Dr Vinay Agarwal, Indian Medical Association
A cultural preference for sons over daughters has skewed India's sex ratio.

But convictions are rare due to lax and corrupt officials and the slow judicial system.

The government brought in laws 12 years ago to stop the practice of aborting female foetuses.

'Social evil'

The president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), a grouping of doctors, Dr Vinay Agarwal said the convictions were "historical".

"The medical profession is doing all it can though we have to address this as a social evil. People should be proud to have a girl child," he said.

The northern states of Punjab and Haryana have some of the worst gender ratios in India.

There are about 861 women for every 1,000 men in Haryana, according to the census. The national average is 927 women to 1,000 men.

Foetus in womb
India banned gender selection and selective abortion in 1994
The national average has gone down from 972 in 1901 to just 933 in 2001, according to reports.

Earlier this year researchers in India and Canada said in the Lancet journal that prenatal selection and selective abortion was causing the loss of 500,000 girl births a year.

If this is true, 10m female births may have been lost in India over the past two decades.

Indian doctors, however, disputed the report saying pre-birth gender checks had waned since a Supreme Court crackdown in 2001.

Tradition

Leading campaigners say many of India's fertility clinics continue to offer a seemingly legitimate facade for a multi-billion pound racket and that gender determination is still big business in India.

Experts in India say female foeticide is mostly linked to socio-economic factors.

It is an idea that many say carries over from the time India was a predominantly agrarian society where boys were considered an extra pair of hands on the farm.

The girl child has traditionally been considered inferior and a liability - a bride's dowry can cripple a poor family financially.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why female foeticide is on the rise in India



SEE ALSO:
Religions target female foeticide
12 Nov 05 |  South Asia
Indian girls 'more likely to die'
18 Jul 03 |  South Asia
India targets female foeticide
15 Feb 03 |  South Asia
India's lost girls
04 Feb 03 |  South Asia
Abandoned baby boy reverses trend
19 Mar 03 |  South Asia


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