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A garbha sanskar event organized in Kolkata got challenged in the High Court by doctors over its claims to create super babies. This is a most welcome development in a country fast drowning in superstition.

There is a trend these days to sell superstition in the name of science. As though faith is not enough to do the absurd, there are claims of scientific evidence backing absurdities. But they use a very basic model of fooling people. I've started calling it the "Emperor's new clothes" business model in honor of the Emperor. If you can claim that some nonsense is backed by science confidently enough, few people take the time to examine it, and instead have blind faith in the claim (ironic, no?).

The latest such confidence trick to make news is when "Garbha Sanskar" program of Arogya Bharti ran into trouble in Kolkata when their event was challenged in court based on the claims they had made. While the court did not find enough evidence to ban the programme alotgether (because it does little more than mumbo jumbo to begin with), it specified that specialists could lecture but not treat anyone there (no problem, no one is treated there) and attendees couldn't be charged. Note, the "Garbha Sanskar" programme is basically a collection of ritualized superstitions that claim to create "super babies" - their basic claim is that while genetic engineering is done "in vitro" garbha sanskar is the "in vivo" method already given to mankind through vedic knowledge.

When I tell this to you like this, it is easy to see the absurdity of it. If vedic knowldge didn't give superbabies in so many thousands of years, the chance of a superman flying out of your loins within a few months is negligible. But when you are surrounded by the gullible hopeful in a room where the authority figure tells you this, it sounds like some secret key to the universe is handed exclusively into your hands. And no one pauses to ask why of all the people in the world, fate would choose such a lazy custodian who did little more than pay Rs. 500 to deserve such a potent miracle. Because our conceit enjoys hearing that we are special. And we don't mind playing a few dozen harmless games to enjoy the illusion for longer.

Here are some quotes from various garbh sanksar claims, teachings and so on.

Garbh sanskar can produce genius babies.

This is usually accompanied by some tall anecdotal "evidence" of what is possible "if you do it correctly" - so if you have an ordinary adorable baby waving arms wildly and blinking unfocused eyes on birth, you must have missed adding the superhero cape somehow.

60% of the brain development is complete in the womb (or some variation of it)

60% of a chicken's formation is completed in the egg. This doesn't mean you pay 60% of the price of an adult chicken for an egg, right?

But this is actually a very popular line to convince parents that they need to act urgently if they want a super baby. But here is the thing. 60% of brain development doesn't mean 60% of lifetime intelligence. These are biological processes and the foetus in the womb does all the "learning" it needs to do by figuring out how to move limbs and so on. It doesn't need to understand language since the most important sounds around it are generated by biological processes. It may recognize the mother's voice as it vibrates through her own body as well, but it doesn't understand meaning. Nor is the brain developed enough to link sounds together and make sense of them - even newborns don't figure it out for quite a few months after birth. That is simply how the brain creates connections and develops more complex functionality. the 60% is about the brain's ability to function and not intelligence.

Looking at art or listening to music is no more likely to make your child the next art world celebrity than driving all through pregnancy is likely to make him a driver or eating several meals a day during pregnancy is going to make him prone to overeating (or able to eat at birth). This is nonsense and I have met several garbh sanskar children and found them no more or less remarkable than other children - their parents are another story.

 

Will add more of the absurd claims here when I get time, but frankly it isn't rocket science. It is pure mythology applied to life and if you have the slightest ability for critical thinking, seeing through this rubbish is a breeze.

Basically what happens here is an authority figure makes claims of religious mythology being backed by science without providing robust evidence. But because we are conditioned to not question "scientific proof", we decide to believe it - this is the opposite of science. When you cannot verify something, it is called "unverified" not "probably they are right and let me obey to be safe". There is no such thing as science that cannot be questioned.

The Emperor's New Clothes business model is an old brainwashing tactic and it is refreshing to see doctors challenge it in courts instead of merely allowing it to proliferate stupidity in the guise of "harmless belief".

"I believe this is happening because our youth are being badly influenced by cinema and television. I think that girls should be married at the age of 16, so that they have their husbands for their sexual needs, and they don't need to go elsewhere. This way rapes will not occur,"

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Our gender ratio is now 912 female kids to every 1000 male. Female foeticide is a bitch. No pun intended. Sex abortions are illegal in India. I am totally against them, though my views about making a law of it are not kind.

However, has there been any research to rule out other factors? Say, the possibility of medical/changing genetics related factors?

Female foeticide is essentially a private crime, so its difficult to know if someone does it. It may possibly be rampant in rural India, though I did not see such desire personally, not that anyone will discuss it with me....

However, in the last four years, among my friends in the city, there are twice as many boys born as girls - often within a year of marriage or 3 years of previous child - not enough time to kill a female pregnancy and do it again. Many of us are ones who actually had a girl preference, and extremely unlikely to kill an unborn girl baby. Loads of people on my facebook friends list itself. I know I wanted a girl till I fell in love at first sight with my scrawny wailer and decided not to ask for a refund. Changed my mind on a dime, I did, but till then, I wanted a girl.

Of course, I understand that I am not the measure of what all want. I am only pointing out that there are more boys even among those with a girl preference, or those who are neutral. Small sample, yes.

India's overall gender ratio is 940 females to 1000 males - improved from 933 females to 1000 males.

We have 158.8 million kids under 6 years of age, which is about five million less than the previous census. Apparently, either abortion or birth control has been busy, considering that our overall population has increased by more than 181 million during that same time. They are 13.1 of the population while in 2001 they were 15.9. So it isn't as if only girl children are decreasing, children as a whole are decreasing with girls at a higher percentage at 3.80 than boys at 2.42. We are talking millions of kids here. If they are being killed, it would be a massive scandal.

Not a process of denial, but it is a massive scale of sex abortions we are talking about. Even if parents kept it quiet, clinics would have made headlines one way or the other, if nothing, then through reputation as places where people could still avail of such "facilities".

The other thing here is medical and sociological factors. The numbers being attributed to gendericide are taken from statistics for age group 0-6. A three year old girl dying of neglect skews this ratio in the same way as an unborn female pregnancy terminated. Are there other factors like malnutrition or abuse involved, where a girl child is likely to be taken less care of?

Joel Dousset examines some of these factors in a chilling article We are a Nation of Daughter killers - Affirms India's 2011 Census. Bringing up data relevant to negligent homicide where girls under 5 are 40% more likely to die of neglect or deprivation than boys within households [2007 UNICEF Report], homicidal violence where these girls are 21% more likely to die from violence in their own homes [2011 joint report by Indian Council of Medical Research and the Harvard School of Public Health] and premediated muder in the form of baby girls dying 4-5 times more than boys from diseases like pneumonia or diarrhea [Study by the Registrar General of India published in the Lancet], he shows that it is not only about terminated pregnancies.

He brings in a chilling quote from Gita Aravamudan's book Disappearing Daughters that is a slap of horror on our society.

“[To avoid arrest] families adopt more torturous methods of killing [infant girls]…Female infanticide I found had become more ‘scientific.’ Inducing pneumonia was the modern method. The infant was wrapped in a wet towel or dipped in cold water as soon as it was born or when it came back home from hospital. if, after a couple of hours, it was still alive it was taken to a doctor who would diagnose pneumonia and prescribe medicine, which the parents promptly threw away. when the child finally died, the parents had a medical certificate to prove pneumonia.  Sometimes the infant was fed a drop of alcohol to create diarrhea: another ‘certifiable disease.’ (pg.22)

[Updated - 1st April 2011 - READ the article]

Another anomaly that comes to mind is that in many other aspects, the conditions for women are much improved. It doesn't make sense that a society where conditions for women are improving kills its female babies on such a stupendous scale. Surely we haven't started killing MORE girls after doing it was banned?

  • The literacy has overall improved from 9.21% from 64.83% in 2001 to 74.04% in 2011. The female literacty levels have improved by 11.79% from 53.67% in 2001 to 65.46% in 2011 compared with an increase in male literacy by 6.88% from 75.26% in 2001 to 82.14% in 2011 - almost at twice the speed. Most of this increase is inevitably kids.

Also, are we being complacent in blaming this on choice alone and not looking at other possible factors? There are many illnesses that are gender specific, or gender biased. Is this also a health crisis?

I cannot help think that in the process of creating laws and micromanaging people's procreation tendencies, there have been things we have missed. Be them factors that could explain such imbalance or creating introspection and reflection around the sanctity of life rather than banning certain kinds of killing. Either abortion is considered illegal, or abortion of any sex is considered legal. Then, talks of equality make people find out more.

Right now, the fight for gender equality in children is among pregnant women and their doctors/techinicians. This can't be right. This can't be the only threat resulting in such a drastic difference. Anything that is a danger to a child below six has an impact on this ratio. While female foeticide is responsible for quite a few of these, I think that we have found one target to blame all our problems on and are living in blissful indifference - the problem is taken care of. There are laws. The cops will take care of it. This law has done more harm than good, by absolving the nation of any guilt and transfering the responsibility to one segment of its population.

Somewhere, this willingness to ignore is also a residual unimportance for females in our minds. Why are we not investigating this further? In my eyes, its simple. If the cops are shutting down such clinics where they find them, and the problem continues, we MUST look at all reasons females die more than males. Be it researching hospital birth records to see if there are patterns, medical records where an illness might manifest more in girls enough to be a problem, social initiatives to promite dignity.... we can't just sit on our hands and say.... oh, the government will do something about it. You've got kids. You've been a kid. You live around kids. Its your problem too.

I have always said that as long as our "solutions" are based on problems, they will never fix anything. Ask Einstein. You cannot fix caste by creating reservations on the basis of caste, and you can't prevent gender discrimination by creating laws based on gender. The issue is not in the mechanism of the killing, but in the desire to kill.

It appears that this census agrees. There were laws. Every hospital and healthcare testing facility has large, visible posters disclaiming that they will not determine gender. Pregnant women can't have tests done without signing disclaimers, etc. And this is even before anyone asks for it. Yet, these are the numbers we have.