Internet gender selection ads attacked in India


by Rumbold
19th August, 2008 at 8:29 pm    

Internet companies have come under pressure from India’s Supreme Court to justify carrying advertisements for gender selection products:

“India bans tests that allow people to know the gender of unborn children – a law designed to tackle widespread abortion of female foetuses. ‘These companies are making a lot of money by doing highly targeted and selective advertising of these products,’ said Sabu George, an activist leading the campaign…

‘The court has issued a notice to Google, Microsoft and Yahoo asking them to reply to our petition,’ said Sanjay Parikh, a lawyer who lodged the complaint. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says India loses 7,000 girls every day through abortion. Campaigners say the courts have intervened in the past to block newspaper advertisements of sex selection tests. Mr Parikh said the petition had been submitted along with letters from the government in which it agrees that the Internet advertisements are illegal.”

Gender selection is illegal in India under the 1994 ‘Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection)’ Act. Whilst I agree with the aims of the activists, and it is likely that the activists will succeed, to what extent should ISPs be held responsible for all their content? In India they usually are considered to be responsible.

Update: Galloise Blonde points out a good article on India’s gender bias.


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Filed in: 'Honour'-based violence,India,South Asia,Technology






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  1. So Much For Subtlety — on 19th August, 2008 at 8:56 pm  

    I am sorry but why do you support the activists? Abortion is usually a legal activity. Some might even say that it is a Woman’s Right. Free speech is also kind of important to a lot of people. If India’s laws conflict with both principles, then perhaps something is wrong with the law and activists ought to aim to change that. The only case that can be made here is that by making abortion legal, it allows people to act in their own interests which are not necessarily those of the State. Does the State have priority over the wishes of individuals? You can see the obvious objection. It is also probably unenforcable and so making a mockery of the legal system. How do you determine intent but allow ultrasounds?

  2. Rumbold — on 19th August, 2008 at 9:14 pm  

    So Much For Subtlety:

    I am a strong supporter of free speech, which was why I was wondering about whether it is fair to blame the ISPs for this.

    As for freedom of the individual, it depends on what rights you assign to the foetus, and at what state you assign those rights. I understand that trying to regulate such things are problematic, as if you think that women should be allowed to have abortions (as I do), then it is difficult to then turn round and say that a woman can have an abortion, but not for gender reasons. However, on the opposite side, millions of female foetuses are aborted because of their gender, which helps to solidify the notion of a patriarchy in which men’s lives are considered more valuable then women’s.

    On the question of ultrasound, I thought that it wass illegal for the mother to be told the sex of her child.

  3. Laban — on 19th August, 2008 at 11:41 pm  

    I think I’ve got it. Aborting children is fine, as long as it’s done in a gender-neutral way.

  4. Laban — on 19th August, 2008 at 11:42 pm  

    … or to put it another way, if India just killed more boy babies to even up the score, there’d be nothing to worry about. Perhaps someone should start a campaign.

  5. MixTogether — on 20th August, 2008 at 12:22 am  

    This is just the tip of the selection iceberg. Anyone who has used Shaadi.com will have noticed caste, skin tone and even astrological selection criteria (know if YOU are a manglik?). Family life can be a picky business.

    I know it’s only speculative at this point, but remember that any response to this question will also inform a debate on the same issue if scientists ever discover a reliable way to screen for homosexuality. It might not ever happen, of course…

  6. Elaine — on 20th August, 2008 at 8:35 am  

    It seems to me that the law in India could do a lot to change the status of women (and hence girls). According to the paper, the 70 year old woman who had twins recently only wanted a boy because only boys can inherit property (tho’ apparently there’s not much property left there to inherit…). If this is true, surely the solution is obvious. The same applies to dowries.
    Apart from that, I agree that it is impossible to ban gender specific abortion and since abortion is legal, adverts relating to it are legal and it is not ISP’s job to change society.

  7. Galloise Blonde — on 20th August, 2008 at 8:51 am  

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