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ImageBoy or girl? Now you can choose" reads the blasphemous punchline of one of Thailand's many fertility centres that offer gender selection treatments. From sex tourism, Thai capital Bangkok has moved on to cater to a new breed of tourists - married couples!

Reveals Dr Wiwat Quangkananurug, medical director of Safe Fertility Center, Bangkok, "We get around three Indian couples every month from major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. About 80-90 per cent choose a boy while couples from the West and Australia go for a boy or girl in the same ratio." With more affordable rates than the US, Thailand today has become a favoured destination for couples opting for sex selection.

Remarks Dr Abha Majumdar, head, centre of IVF & human reproduction, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi, "Since sex selection in any method is illegal in India, a PGD (Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis) from Thailand or Jordan is turning out to be a perfect way around the law. It is shocking the number of queries we get from families for such treatments."

Clearly, it is only the affluent class that can spare 9,000 US dollars for a PGD treatment. So much for a baby boy! Recently, when badminton ace Saina Nehwal admitted in an interview that her grandmother refused to see her till a month after her birth because she was a girl child, she stirred the gender debate once again. But Saina considers herself lucky to have a supportive mother in Usha Rani, former badminton player.

Parental pressure and the need for an heir, particularly in big businesses, could be the driving factors for selecting a Ychromosome! "When I was pregnant, my father- in - law used to call me daily and remind me that he was eagerly awaiting his grandson," says actress-turned-author Suchitra Krishnamoorthi, who was married to filmmaker Shekhar Kapur for eight years. But Suchitra always wanted a daughter, and is more than content to have one. Says she, "Unless women start valuing themselves, mindsets will not change."

Kreeanne Rabadi, regional director (west) for CRY, attributes this invincible ambition for a boy child to our age-old belief systems. Says she, "We need to work on an attitudinal shift. Modern couples going for such fancy therapies mar our efforts to make women confident."

Talk about changing mindsets, popular telesoap Balika Vadhu comes to mind. Producer Sunjoy Waddhwa believes that such extreme characters Dadisa exist in real life. He says, "There is a progressive story to be told, for which it is important to show that we went wrong." On personal front Sunjoy is all for girl child. "I prayed for a daughter and am blessed with one."

Compared to going through multiple pregnancies and rounds of abortions before settling for the desired one, a PGD perhaps comes as a blessing. Dr Anita Kant, head of gynaecology, ASIAN, says, "My antenna goes up every time a couple comes asking for an abortion. It indicates that they have had a test done and are not pleased with the results."

Boy or girl, there shouldn't be any distinction when it comes to completing one's family!

By ANWESHA MITTRA, TNN
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