Following threats of legal action, the internet search giants Microsoft and Google have pulled advertisements for sex determination products and other services illegal in India. Because of cultural traditions, many Indians prefer boys to girls and selectively abort unborn children shown to be female.
Last month India’s Supreme Court had asked the two companies, as well as Yahoo, to respond to a complaint filed by activist Sabu George that the companies were advertising do-it-yourself kits and expensive genetic testing to determine an unborn baby’s gender, Agence France Presse reports. The products have not been proven accurate or safe.
Activists charged that the products hurt efforts to decrease the large-scale abortion of girls.
Their protests were apparently effective.
"Sponsored links in Google have come down considerably. They have disappeared from Microsoft India search," Sabu George told AFP.
Google said in a statement it will “review the petition carefully,” AFP reports.
"In India, we do not allow ads for the promotion of pre-natal gender determination or pre-conception sex selection. We take local laws extremely seriously," the company continued.
Searches for “gender selection” and “sex selection” on Yahoo India yielded no sponsored links as of Thursday afternoon.
Most Indians reportedly prefer sons, who are considered breadwinners, to girls, who are seen as an economic burden because of her marriage dowry and their earnings go to their husbands’ families.
Because of sex selective abortion, there are now 927 females for every 1,000 males in India, compared to the worldwide average of 1,050 females per 1,000 males.
Ultrasound tests, which in India cost as little as five dollars, are a popular method used to determine the sex of an unborn child. India law bans ultrasound tests from being used for that purpose.
"What ultrasound did for female feticide in the 1990s, these new products have the potential to do in the next few decades. We have to be one step ahead of them," Sabu George told AFP.
Steve Mosher, President of the Front Royal, Virginia-based Population Research Institute, spoke with CNA in a Thursday e-mail interview about sex selection in India.
“The laws against sex-selective abortion in India are almost impossible to enforce,” he said. "The preference for sons is extremely strong in India. Many girl children are killed in utero by sex-selective abortion in order that their parents do not have to pay a bride price, as is the Hindu custom.”
Mosher said sex selective abortion is “virtually unknown” in the former Portuguese colony of Goa and in the state of Kerala, areas which Mosher said are “heavily Catholic.” He explained that Kerala is Catholic because of the efforts of St. Francis Xavier.
He added that in Madras, where St. Thomas the Apostle lived, preached, and was martyred, sex selective abortion is also less common.
“The problem is severe in all of the Hindu classes. The more wealthy (and materialistic) Hindus do not want to pay the dowry any more than the very poor can afford to.
“One would think that the example of Indira Gandhi, the former female prime minister, would persuade Indians of the value of women, but discrimination against girls and women remains strong even today.”