Friday, February 06, 2009

The Proverbial Male Child

At the beginning of this year, San Jose Mercury news had an interesting article that caught my eye. The article talked about how Asian immigrants in California are using medical technology to the fullest extent possible to satisfy an age old desire of having a male offspring instead of a female offspring.

As we know from movies like Karuthamma and in parts of rural South India, especially villages in and around Theni etc. there is still the practise of killing a female newborn or even a woman aborting her fetus if she has already had several female offsprings etc. But, it is indeed surprising to know that Asian immigrants (includes Chinese and Indian) here in California are stretching medical technology to new boundaries that provide prospective parents with the promise of a son. Of course, female infanticide almost never happens here, but according to the article there are some couples who have manipulated the natural odds of having a son or a daughter.

Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, medical director of the Fertility Institutes of Los Angeles who was interviewed for the article, says that his office uses what is known as PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) a technique where fertilized embryos whose sex is identified after a few cell divisions is then implanted. He claims that a majority of his clients are ethnic couples of the Chinese and Indian community who are willing to pay upto $20,000 for every attempt to have a boy.

Click graph to see enlarged image

Source: Jason Abrevaya, University of Texas, California Dept. of Public Health

The article then delvs into how having a son has become such an important aspect for Asian immigrants. Apparently, the preference for a male offspring in China goes back to some 2,000 years ago with economic and social roots, tradition etc. Amongst Indians, there is a strong belief that only a son can perform a father's last rites and is expected to financially and physically support his parents in their old age (though that is rapidly changing now in India, but still is an unspoken expectation). Also, some South Asian couples opened up saying that having a boy is a "status symbol" for several Indian women, even if they lived in the US, as they felt more acceptance with their in-laws. And, this thinking has now extended to many Asian immigrants even in the US. The worry is that as PGD becomes more affordable, more people are going to use it to ensure that they have a son. An analysis done by a University of Texas economist estimates that between 1991 and 2004 there were 2,000 "missing girl babies" among Chinese and Indian couples living in US- girls never born because their parents chose to have sons instead.

Can you imagine how much of a problem that would pose in the future?

A survey done indicated that most Asians weren't too concerned about the first child, but the bias towards a son became more pronounced for a second baby, especially if they knew it was a girl.

But, as long as there are immigrant couples who have set thoughts stuck in their heads based on cultural factors, there is going to be a huge business opportunity for doctors like Steinberg and others who have understood this and are willing to provide the services to bring more male babies into this world.

Happy Friday...


Cham said...

I missed you A :(
Can we blame the techn or Asian People mentality !
Last year, when my neigh came to know the sex of the baby was girl, they were down for more than a week stating they want a boy and In laws insisted one that/They were neither happy too. They didn't know about this techno improv I guess ! It is very sad to know that even educated people are still backward and still continuing in foreign land :(

Uma said...

Good to see you back! We missed you! How are you? I was also on a little break but now I am back too.

yaadayaada said...

Hmm.. All the friends surrounding me have girls.. Guess these girls will offset those selective procedure boys!! :-)

Jayashree said...

The situation really hasn't changed much in India either. People still feel that to have a "complete" family, you must have a girl and a boy.

Aparna said...

To think I so wanted a girl! Those doing this gender selection are just missing out on something good :) Not that boys are bad!
I think I am so numb with such news that all I can say is such people will exist and people like us also will exist! Just hope people like us have more gals :)

Maureen said...

It might interest you to know that by far, the majority of U.S. couples who use this technology to choose their baby's sex, are hoping for a girl.

It's hard for me to see what huge problem is going to be caused by Asians living in America using this technology to have a boy, if they already have one or two daughters.

Only a very small fraction are going to be able to afford this procedure (which, I'm sorry to say, is NOT getting cheaper, contrary to your comment) and of those few who can, half would have had the desired gender anyway.

A-kay said...

I missed you, Mitr. The way you write more often than not, sets me thinking. Also, you bring to our notice things that we might otherwise miss. Thanks! Just like you I had disappeared too and trying to get back :)

Anirudh Nandan V said...

Don’t worry… let it happen!! A day would come when there will be few Asian girls and these Chinese and Indian guys will have no other option other than marrying a white or black girl…that will result in a truly cosmopolitan America :)
What I am saying is like a conspiracy theory!!

Usha said...

How very sad...all the education these people must have had does not seem to be helping very much is it?

mitr_bayarea said...

Cham- Thanks....yes, its true how some people's thoughts are wired differently.

Uma- Thanks, all is well and hope to cath up on some of your recipes now.

Yaadayaada- Haha...

Jayashree- Truthful remark!

Aparna- Yeah, guess there are all types of preferencial folks out there.

Maureen- Thanks for visiting- oh really, that was is an interesting piece of info. The article did mention about the cost of the procedures becoming cheaper if more people start using it.

A-kay- Thanks and great tos ee you back, as well.

Anirudh- family, indeed.

Usha- no, sometimes these advances in medicine are far too stretching.