Some Indian parents are said to be using sex reassignment surgery to turn their healthy daughters into sons because society prizes male children.
According to the respected Hindustan Times newspaper the “shocking, unprecedented trend, catering to the fetish for a son, is unfolding at conservative Indore’s well-known clinics and hospitals on children who are one to five years old”.
India’s ratio of male to female births has long been a concern. Sons are considered a blessing and daughters a burden, as girls must be married off with a large dowry.
While sex determination tests during pregnancy are illegal, campaigners against female foeticide say parents have sought other ways to ensure they have sons.
According to the newspaper, “hundreds” of wealthy families are flocking to a city named Indore to pay just $2,000 for doctors to perform genitoplasties – the creation of a penis – on baby girls.
Children are also being given hormone treatment, it is claimed.
While the treatment can be legitimately used in cases of ambiguous genitalia – or in cases of adult transgender patients – critics say there is no system to monitor whether the children being operated on actually need the surgery.
Ranjana Kumari, of the Centre for Social Research and one of India’s leading campaigners against female foeticide, said the surgeries were a sign of India’s growing “madness”.
“The figures are getting worse. In 2001 there were 886 girls born to every 1,000 boys in Delhi. Today there are only 866. The more educated and rich you are, the more there is killing of girls,” she said.
“People don’t want to share their property or invest in girls’ education or pay dowries. It’s the greedy middle classes running after money. It is just so shocking and an outright violation of children’s rights.”