Opinion Brief

India's 'shocking' child sex-change epidemic

Parents in the world's largest democracy are reportedly paying surgeons $3,200 to turn their young daughters into young sons. What's behind this "social madness"?

India is known for preferring sons over daughters, most famously (and troublingly) through the demographics-distorting practice of gender-based selective abortion. Now, hundreds of daughters age 1 to 5 are reportedly being "converted" into boys through a sex-change procedure known as genitoplasty, which involves fashioning a penis out of female sex organs, then pumping the child full of male hormones. This "shocking, unprecedented trend, catering to the fetish for a son," is drawing parents from all over the nation to the central Indian city of Indore, the Hindustan Times reports. Ranjana Kumari, a top campaigner against aborting girls, blames "social madness" and greed. "People don't want to share their property or invest in girls' education or pay dowries," she says. "It's the greedy middle classes running after money." But there's no excuse for forcing your child to have a sex change... right?

Right. This is beyond awful: India obviously takes its gender preference seriously: It has 7 million more boys than girls under age 6, says Meredith Carroll at Babble. But really, "it’s beyond reprehensible to subject babies to something this serious because of financial reasons or social status." And whether a parent aborts the girl or turns her into a mental and physical wreck of a boy, it's "beyond warped" that any willing parent wouldn't just love their child, "whichever flavor comes their way."
"Extreme gender preference: Indian baby girls..."

OK, but the money factor isn't insignificant: As awful as these "corrupt doctors" are for re-gendering the girls, it's arguably better than the "not uncommon" blight of female infanticide, says the International Business Times. And when you compare the $3,200 it costs to turn your daughter into a son (of sorts) to the dowries of up to $100,000 that parents have to cough up for their daughter's wedding, "it is not surprising to see girls' parents" opt for the sex-change.
"Indian daughters transform into sons to avoid dowry"

There must be a better explanation: The "claim that this is all the fault of the 'greedy middle classes running after money' sounds dubious," says Margaret Hartmann at Jezebel. And there's a grey area for intersex children born with male and female sex organs. But if this "shocking" report is true, and parents really are forcing healthy girls to become sterile boys, that's "an extreme and very disturbing sign of what happens when women are undervalued."
"In India, parents push surgical attempts to turn girls into boys"

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