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India investigates sex-change surgeries on babies

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India investigates sex-change surgeries on babies

Doctors accused of turning girls into boys at parents' behest

An investigation has been launched in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh after a report in the Hindustan Times in India said that doctors there were performing hundreds of sex-change operations on baby girls at the behest of parents desperate for sons.

The Medical Council of India has called for the formation of a medical board of experts to assess the need for that kind of surgery on a case by case basis, and stringent checks in all cities.

The Hindustan Times reported on Sunday that as many as 300 girls, some as young as one year old, were surgically turned into boys in the city of Indore after their parents paid about £2,000 each for the operations, known as genitoplasty. The low cost of the surgery and the relative ease and discretion of getting the procedure done in Indore attracted parents from big cities such as Delhi and Mumbai to get their girl children surgically "corrected," according to the Hindustan Times.

Women's and children's rights advocates denounced the practice as a "social madness" that made a "mockery of women in India," according to the Telegraph. The author and feminist Taslima Nasreen tweeted: "Shocking! Not only do people kill unborn girls, they turn girls into boys by genitoplasty," the Daily Mail reported.

India's National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights on Monday ordered the Madhya Pradesh government to investigate the claims and present findings within 15 days, according to the Telegraph. The Medical Council of India and the Madhya Pradesh health department have recommended measures to ensure that parents yearning who want for male children don’t exploit such 'corrective’ surgeries with the help of corrupt doctors, the Hindustan Times reported.

Seven experts in the genitoplasty surgery in Indore said that each of them had turned 200 to 300 girls into boys, with only one of the children being older than 14, which is the legal age of consent for a procedure like that, according to the Daily Mail.

Doctors being investigated claimed that only children born with both male and female sexual characteristics were eligible for the procedure. But rights advocates said the parents and doctors were misindentifying the children's conditions to perform the surgery. Genitoplasty creates a penis from female organs, with the child then being injected with male hormones.

Indian society places a high value on producing a son and heir, with daughters often seen as an expensive burden to be married off, according to the Daily Mail. Sex determination tests during pregnancy are illegal in India to try to prevent the common practice of women choosing to abort female fetuses. So, instead, wealthy parents can travel to Indore to have the surgery performed on their young daughters.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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