Sex-selective Abortion: Legal vs Social Justice
A recent news-story reported the developments in the Gambhir case of sex-selective abortion in Ludhiana. As per the report, in July 2008, a team of officials from the Health department raided the premises of Jatinder Ghambhir Hospital on Pakhowal Road in Ludhiana, where a woman was being readied for the abortion of her female fetus. It has been four months since then and the “police are still grappling to gather more evidence against the accused in order to strengthen the case”. [Note: Accused are the husband-wife doctor-owners Mr. & Mrs. Gambhir; it is not clear from the report if the victim too has been accused.]
While the legal arm is still struggling to serve the justice, it seems that the social pressure has certainly made itself felt. Owners of the hospital, Dr. APS Gambhir and Dr. Jatinder Gambhir have changed the name of the hospital from Jatinder Gambhir Hospital to Angat Superspecialty Hospital.
Is this a sign that being identified as a kudimaar carries a threat of social stigma in that society? If we thus interpret it, then it asks for the offenders to be spotlighted more often. Understandably, determining whether an abortion is genuinely sex-selective will not be straightforward and will have to run its course to ensure that legal justice is served. However, social boycott of those businesses (hospitals and ultrasound clinics are businesses) that practice or abet kudimaari will be a good example of free-market retribution.
While I believe that banning sex-selective abortion is not a perfect solution to stop female feticide and that it threatens women’s rights to abortion, I believe that it can give a shot in the arm to other approaches such as education on the issue and empowerment of women.
Note: Jatinder Gambhir hospital has been in news over the last couple of years for other reasons not-so-great. In August 2006, people had packed up the streets outside the hospital protesting the death of a patient due to doctors’ negligence. In another incident, 2 girls were ‘rescued’ from alleged captivation at the hospital where they worked as maids but were not allowed to go outside and did not receive the full wages they were promised.