India's Biking Queens rev up fight against female foeticide

Biking Queens (from left) Durriya Tapia, Yugma Desai, Sarika Mehta and Khyati Desai took a 10-nation, 10,000km ride across Asia to champion the cause of women and help end sex-specific abortions.
Biking Queens (from left) Durriya Tapia, Yugma Desai, Sarika Mehta and Khyati Desai took a 10-nation, 10,000km ride across Asia to champion the cause of women and help end sex-specific abortions. PHOTO: BIKING QUEENS

Every year in India, foetuses are aborted in large numbers once they are found to be female.

This springs from gender discrimination within Indian society, as well as improvements in technology used to determine the sex of a baby in the early stages of pregnancy.

Now, four Indian women motorcyclists are campaigning against female foeticide and raising awareness - by taking a trip around Asia that saw them cover 10 nations and over 10,000km in about 40 days.

In India, the baby female-to-male ratio has been dropping, partly because of female foeticide. In 2001, there were 927 girls to 1,000 boys; in 2011, the figure fell to 919 girls.

Psychologist Sarika Mehta, 40, led the ride, which ended in Singapore after they crossed the Causeway on Tuesday.

With her were interior designer Yugma Desai, 27; travel agent Durriya Tapia, 36; and Ms Khyati Desai, 31, who works in human resources. They belong to Biking Queens, a group founded by Dr Sarika for women interested in social causes.

On the trip, they visited schools and universities as well as non-government organisations in countries such as Bhutan and Thailand. They explained their campaign and spoke about keeping up education against gender bias.

Dr Sarika said: "While the problem of female foeticide is huge in India, we believe it is also a global problem and can happen anywhere."

Upon crossing the Causeway, the women were received by a group of motorcyclists from Singapore. Later, they met a local group of 15 female bikers and visited schools and institutions.

They also met the High Commissioner of India in Singapore, Ms Vijay Thakur Singh, on Wednesday.

Singapore gynaecologists contacted did not think female foeticide was an issue here.

Gynaecologist James Lee at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre said: "I do not think there is a problem with gender-specific abortions here. Most of the abortions are for personal or pragmatic reasons."

Obstetrician and gynaecologist Christopher Ng at GynaeMD Women's and Rejuvenation Clinic has seen such cases with foreigners, but not Singapore couples.

When contacted, the Ministry of Health said it does not collect statistics for abortions by gender.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2016, with the headline 'India's Biking Queens rev up fight against female foeticide'. Print Edition | Subscribe