The Balancing Act | The problem with gender selection

Should gender selection become the norm, a balancing act will become almost impossible (Photo: Colourbox)

One of the things I unabashedly admire about Denmark is the high level of gender equality. Little boys and girls are treated with equal love and affection by their parents and given equal opportunities to grow and flourish. You also see it in the way men and women have equal parenting responsibility.

And it’s not just about the role of men in parenting; it is also about the role women play in society. Women are encouraged to get back to the world of targets, deadlines, meetings and breaking the glass ceiling, just as men are encouraged to dunk themselves into the world of nappies, poo, playtime and school. Both males and females are valued equally. But this seems to be under threat.

Playing God on genders
In a recent survey conducted by YouGov for Søndagsavisen, in which 1,004 Danes participated, 11 percent of the respondents said gender selection through treatments at clinics should be made legal in Denmark. Some 6 percent said they would use gender selection if they had the opportunity.

In the past four months alone, 250 Danes have travelled to a fertility clinic in Cyprus to begin their gender selection treatment for a baby of their choice. The numbers, by themselves, may be small, but they are symbolic of a serious issue in the making.

Worrying trending issues

What stops Denmark from transforming into a nation that prizes boys over girls? Or things might go the other way where the trend is in favour of girls. Either scenario is worrying.
Sure, one can make reasonable arguments in favour of why some parents should have that choice. For instance, a couple with three boys would like their fourth child to be a girl or vice-versa.
But then what is to stop another couple from saying they don’t want to go through the whole process of having four children and leaving the choice of gender to nature?

Perhaps their argument will be: “We want just one child and it should be a girl.” What happens when this trickle of individual choices slowly transforms into an unhealthy trend in favour of one gender?

Some will kill for it

As you read this, perhaps some of you are thinking: “Surely these are implausible scenarios! Gender selection is illegal in Denmark and there is no way that is going to change. Babies will be welcomed irrespective of their gender.” 

I wish I could believe that whole-heartedly. My personal experience of seeing the long-standing preference for a male child in my home country, India, makes it hard for me to believe that the law alone is enough.

For example, in India, not only is gender selection prohibited, it is also illegal to find out the gender of an unborn child. Until the child is born, parents do not know if they are having a boy or a girl. Yet that hasn’t stopped people with regressive attitudes from visiting illegal clinics and the accompanying female infanticide.

And perhaps it all started when someone decided, a long time ago, that it was reasonable (with their arsenal of socio-economic justification) for couples to prefer one gender over another when it came to having a child.