Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gender determination tourism

"You have 3 adorable kids and you are telling me that you have spent tens of thousands to have another baby" I have asked. My English, or their English was poor, since I misunderstood them. "No, she said. We spent it to have a baby boy!" They were unsuccessful and disappointed. Many in the west will have hard time to understand this preference for boys in Asia, as being an Asian I even cannot understand it, especially when I hear from young people. Actually, since it is not easy for a young person to openly admit his preference for boys, you do not hear it so much. But it is there. Singaporeans, as well as other Asians have a preference for son due to deep cultural conditioning.

There is now a growing tourism built around this social force which makes countries like Thailand make good money over it. The procedure is called "Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis" (PGD). A single cell is taken fro an embryo and DNA is analyzed. They do this three days after fertilization, when the embryo is consist of only 8-10 cells. The idea is to only place the embryos with desired genetic characteristics to the woman's uterus. Designed to help couples with genetic problems in their family past, it is now widely used by couples who want to have a baby boy!

PGD can cost a lot. Air tickets, hotel, procedure itself can combine to $10,000 in Thailand but it seems like many couples, especially couples from India where sex determination tests are restricted do not care to pay the price. You may protest the couples using PGD for sex determination but this procedure is indeed more human and healthy compared to its alternative used by many poorer Indians: abortion.

According to Chaina Daily,a center in Bangkok reports to receive around 3 Indian couples per month seeking for PGD from cities like Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Kalkota:

"About 80-90 per cent of Indians choose a boy while couples from West and Australia go for boy or girl in the same ratio" says a Bangkok doctor in an interview with The Times of India.

Male children are favored in India since ancient times since they carry the family name and expected to look after mom and dad when they are old.      

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