02/04/2015, 00.00
NEPAL - INDIA

Female foeticides and selective abortions drop in Nepal

by Christopher Sharma
The Indian Supreme Court bans Internet giants from carrying pre-natal sex selection ads. As a first consequence, under the influence of its big neighbour, the number of selective abortions in Nepal has dropped. Doctors working at clinics on the border have confirmed the decline by as much as 50 per cent. Every day, some 50,000 people cross the border for health-related visits, treatments and medical drugs.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The decision by the Indian Supreme Court to ban prenatal sex selection advertising has already had important consequences in India, as well as in neighbouring Nepal.

A significant drop in female foeticides has been recorded in the two Asian countries, a practice that had become a major issue of concern because of the resulting gender imbalance in favour of males that it had created.

The judges targeted Internet giants Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft's Bing, which were forced to remove advertising and content that promoted sex selection testing.

The doctors who work in clinics along the Nepal-India border - more than 1,800 km in the south, east and west of Nepal - confirm that the number of patients seeking sex selection operations or abortions has declined.

"After the removal of advertising that promoted abortion from search engines, customers dropped by 50 per cent," said Rajesh Kumar, owner of the Modern Medicine Clinic in Sunwal, a border town in Indian territory.

Previously, at least five pregnant women came every week for a selective abortion, he said. In the last week, "only three visited us" and "all local clinics have registered a drop in operations".

Dr S Gupta, a doctor in a clinic located between the towns of Rupaidiha (India) and Nepalgunj (Nepal), noted a "significant decline" in the number of "customers" who "come to us for sex selection or abortions".

For Professor Mita Singh, the drop in selective abortions can be attributed "to the decision of the judges" of the Supreme Court of India, but also to the "growing awareness" of the importance and role of girls and women in society. In the past, "males were favoured over females" in the Hindu family, but today this "is gradually decreasing."

Selective abortion is illegal in both India and Nepal but became widespread over time because families' preference for boys.

In India, after banning ads promoting sex selection, the Supreme Court is set to provide additional guidelines in its upcoming session, on 11 February.

In Nepal abortion has been legal since 2002 for cases in which the health of the mother or child is at risk, in cases of rape or if the woman is not of sound mind. Selective and forced abortions are illegal.

Since 2006, at least one woman in ten has had an abortion or has used abortion or contraceptive pills. As a result, the country's fertility rate has dropped from 4.1 to 3.3 between 2001 and 2006.

Thousands of Nepalis and Indians travel to border clinics for specialised visits or to purchase drugs. According to unofficial sources, at least 50,000 people cross the border every day between Nepal and India for health reasons.

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