NEW DELHI (AP) — In India, where aborted female fetuses have contributed to a nationwide gender imbalance, it’s illegal for doctors to reveal the sex of an unborn child. But with boys still often far more valued than girls, a lucrative business thrives underground.
That is what brought police officers and health officials to a forest outside the Indian capital earlier this week, where they arrested a doctor and two associates running a mobile sex-determination clinic out of a small, white sedan.
After receiving a tip about the doctor’s business, the authorities sent a pregnant woman to him as a decoy. He agreed to reveal the sex of her fetus for 30,000 rupees, or $460 — about 15 times the cost of a legal prenatal ultrasound. She was told to meet a go-between in a small town north of New Delhi. That man took her money and drove her to a nearby forest, where the doctor was waiting.
The police, who were following them, made the arrest just as the doctor was about to begin the exam inside his car, with the ultrasound powered by a portable generator he’d brought with him.
Police arrested the doctor and two associates and seized the machine, said Adarsh Sharma, a health official in Haryana, a state just next to New Delhi.
The doctor had been testing for gender since 2015, Sharma said. The men face up to three years in jail if they are convicted.
India banned sex determination tests in 1994, as the gender balance became increasingly skewed. India has 940 girls born for every 1,000 boys, according to the 2011 census.
Most parents in India celebrate the birth of a son, considered to be their family pride. The birth of a daughter can be a time of embarrassment and even mourning as parents, especially the poor, look toward the immense debts they’ll need to take on to pay for marriage dowries.
Studies have long shown that Indian girls are less educated than boys, have poorer nutrition and get less medical attention. Many women — including educated, wealthy women — say they face intense pressure, most often from mothers-in-law, to have sons.