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Determination of sex in India has been a much discussed issue. Government of India has taken many measures to prevent the foetal sex determination and sex selective abortion, which has today grown into INR 1,000 Cr industry.

In the lieu, the online petition that started almost two months back by an organization working for gender equality, Girls Count, has resulted in a fruitful outcome. The petition was filed against the listing of books that promoted sex selection on India’s biggest online marketplace, Flipkart. It garnered close to 12,000 signatures by various gender right activists and organizations. After the alleged petition the homegrown marketplace has removed all such listings from its website.

Flipkart’s spokesperson was reported saying, “All our sellers are expected to adhere to certain guidelines if they sell with us. We take strict action against sellers who attract negative feedback about their service or are found to be engaged in selling products that are fake, in violation of copyright or any other applicable laws of the land.”

Preventing Sex Determination: Flipkart not the only one

India is witnessing a loss of around 6 lakhs girls every year in a bid to practice sex determination. The Indian law is taking measures to prohibit all forms of advertisements or material that promote sex selection.

Earlier in the month of March Supreme Court had directed the search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft to strictly comply with Indian laws and block advertisements on sex determination of a foetus. The court had come down heavily on various states for their failure to stop female foeticide, resulting in a skewed sex ratio in the country.

There have been two regulations to prevent the alarming gender imbalance. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP) that prohibits abortion except only in certain qualified situations and the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques to prohibit sex selection of a foetus. Besides, with the advent of internet authorities are also dealing with online advertising and etailing. Activists are not only confined to search engines but also, scrutinizing the books available online that deals with sex selection.

Starting the League

The organization started an online petition that argued:

“Flipkart, Amazon.in, Junglee, Naaptol, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo should be held accountable for advertising and selling publications on sex selection online, promoting daughter dislike, and making profits by breaching the law of the country.”

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On a quick search over the book listings on website, Girl Count found books like Gender Selection: Learn How to Conceive a Boy or Girl and Can You Choose Your Baby’s Gender. The books’ content stated the right diet to conceive desired gender and advice on the “right” sexual position that could “influence” the gender of the baby.

Besides, the description on the website claimed that the methods in the book had been used by “thousands of couples” to select their preferred gender in the baby. It has been listed under the category, health and fitness, which suggests that doctors are prescribing ways for sex selection. It also included one book by an Indian author amongst the several.

A cursory search also listed that at least four such books, with prices ranging from Rs50 to INR 1,500 have been listed in various other sites like Snapdeal and Amazon.

The petition also claims that the websites are earning revenue from keyword searches such as “sex selection kits”,  which should be prompted as illegal in India.

Banning Adult Products

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Its not only the books that are under radar, but there has been certain other products on these marketplaces that has raised the eyebrows of society activists.

Awhile ago, Snapdeal was dragged to court for selling sextoys online. The marketplace was also raided by the the food and drug administration (FDA), just last week for selling prescription drugs. Its not just Snapdeal violating the rules but other ecommerce websites are also under the same umbrella. While browsing through Amazon and Shopclues, it was found that Vigora was listed on their websites for sale.

Ecommerce marketplaces have added Sexual Wellness to sell sex toys, kits, edible lingerie, lubricants and condoms, etc, online. According to the law products such as anal lubes and massagers violate Section 377, and Sections 292, 292 A, 293 and 294 which prohibit obscenity in public. Its not just Snapdeal but the other ecommerce player, Ohmysecret, which had to shut its shop, was accused for the same.

Banning books

Though the petition gained success but the other side of the story cannot be neglected. Apar Gupta, a lawyer from New Delhi commented on the issue saying “Censorship is not the answer. Books should not and cannot be prohibited. Filtering of books based on search terms and not their content could be counter productive.”

It is easy to argue that books should or should not be prohibited. However, people seek books and website only as a source of information and banning them online is not the solution to the problem, as these books can be easily bought offline. Moreover, on  the other side the online marketplaces does not seem to strict with the sellers guidelines to comply with the law selling products online.

The development was first reported by Scroll.

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