Embargo: 00.01 am Friday December 13th
selection clinics marketing services to UK Indian communities
campaign to ban sex selection
HGA and AID (1) have discovered that sex selection clinics
in London, Birmingham and Glasgow are advertising in the UK Punjabi press (2).
This is a shameless attempt to exploit for profit traditional Indian sexist
preferences for boys, and reinforces the need for a UK ban on sex selection. HGA
is today launching a campaign to ban sex selection in the UK.
The adverts, which appeared in the Punjabi language
newspaper 'Des Pardes' on October 11th, offer both sperm sorting
and ultrasound scanning for sex determination. In India, sex selection has been
illegal since 1994, because of its dramatic effects on the
ratio of girls to boys (3). It is disgraceful that this unethical and
socially damaging practice remains legal in the UK (4).
HGA has set up a website (www.hgalert.org/whatsnew/) with
further information, which allows visitors to directly respond to the current
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority public consultation on sex
selection, by email. HGA is calling on responsible citizens to make clear to the
HFEA their opposition to sex selection.
HGA's Director, Dr. David King, said: "This shows what
happens if we have no rules to control the free market. There must be an
immediate ban on sex selection for social reasons. We must not allow sexism to
determine who gets born. If we cannot draw this line clearly, we have no hope of
preventing a flood of other 'designer babies', chosen for their looks or
AID India's Director, Dr. Arasu said: "In India, the
poor people in some states used to commit female infanticide to do away with new
born girls. Sadly, another version of the same is being re-enacted in the
UK by families of Indian origin, in a sophisticated way with the aid
of reproductive technologies. Girl children's right to be born live is
nipped in the bud by the misuse of sex-determination and sex-selection
technologies. Despite the economic affluence of the Indian community in UK, it
is a strange that the same hostile attitude against girls is mirrored
For further information contact David King: 020 7704 6100
or Dr. Arasu 0121 554 5854
Notes for editors
1. Human Genetics Alert is an independent, pro-choice,
watchdog group. Alternative India
Development is a secular Indian NGO working on gender equity and equality. It
has been involved in advocacy, campaigns and action against female infanticide
and foeticide and other forms of violence against women for a decade and half.
2. The adverts were placed by the London Gender Clinic, and
affiliates in Glasgow and Birmingham. The adverts are posted on the HGA website
The clinics charge £500 for ultrasound scanning and £2,500
for sperm sorting. They claim 94% accuracy for choosing a boy and 81% for a
to the 2001 Indian Census there are only 927 girls per 1,000 boys in the age
range 0-6. In some regions, the ratio is as low as 800 per
1000. This has declined since
1991, despite being banned in 1994, due to lack of enforcement. Recently, in response to a petition by two Indian
non-governmental organisations, the Supreme Court of India ordered state
governments to take measures to enforce the law. See www.genderhealth.org/pubs/MallikSexSelectionIndiaOct2002.pdf.
4. There are three main techniques of sex selection:
(i) pre-natal testing and termination of pregnancy (ii) pre-implantation genetic
testing of embryos (iii) sperm sorting - selection of sperm carrying X or Y
chromosomes followed by insemination or IVF.
Pre-natal testing and termination is the main problem
in India. In the UK, abortion purely on the grounds of sex would be against the 1967
Abortion Act, but it is possible for parents to ask about the sex of the child
when undergoing ultrasound scanning
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) of embryos is
regulated by the HFEA. They do not
currently allow its use for sex selection, except for avoiding sex-linked
genetic diseases, like Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
Sperm sorting has 'improved' greatly in its accuracy
over the last few years, and is now being offered by companies in the US.
This is what has led the Department of Health to order this consultation.
Sperm sorting is not covered by any legislation in the UK, and HGA has
discovered that clinics are marketing the technique to Indian communities in the
UK. The HFEA is considering
recommending to the government that it should ban or regulate sperm sorting,
which would require legislation. A
further option is to allow the use of the technique to remain unregulated.