Chennai YouTuber reveals unborn baby’s gender after prenatal test in Dubai, faces legal action

Posting a video of his pregnant wife undergoing the prenatal sex determination test at a Dubai hospital, Irfan said that the test was legal in several countries, but not in India.

BySumit Jha

Published May 26, 2024 | 7:00 AMUpdatedMay 26, 2024 | 7:00 AM

Chennai YouTuber reveals unborn baby’s gender after prenatal test in Dubai, faces legal action

Mohamed Irfan, a well-known YouTuber and food vlogger from Chennai, found himself in the midst of controversy after revealing the gender of his unborn child in a video.

In a series of now-deleted videos, Irfan shared that he had travelled to Dubai with his wife, where she underwent a prenatal sex determination test.

In India, this practice is banned under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.

The Tamil Nadu Health Department on Tuesday, 21 May issued a notice to Irfan for violating the PC-PNDT Act, by revealing the sex of his unborn child in videos posted on his YouTube channel.

Also, the department has asked the YouTuber to remove the videos about the prenatal sex determination test and subsequent disclosure.

Also Read: Contempt, lecture on sexual morality: Why unmarried women dread a visit to the gynaecologist

Controversial gender reveal video

Irfan had posted a video of his pregnant wife undergoing the prenatal sex determination test at a hospital in Dubai, on his channel “Irfan’s View.”

Posting the video, he said that it was legal in several countries, including Dubai to conduct this test, but not in India,where it was banned.

“When I was born in 1993, my mother knew my gender. It was not a big issue then. It was stopped because many mad people were discriminating against the female gender,” he said in the video.

“The YouTuber Irfan revealed to the audience during a family function that he found out the gender of his unborn child (girl) after a scan during his visit to Dubai,” the health department statement said.

The video posted on 19 May on his channel was watched and shared by many viewers all over the world.

“Ascertaining and announcing the gender of a child in India is prohibited under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) ACT 1994. Such an action will lead to a decline of the female birth rate besides leading to crimes against women,” the health department said.

A memo has been issued to Irfan for violating the provisions of the said Act. Also, a letter was sent to the Cyber Crime Division asking them to immediately remove the video uploaded by Irfan from social media, it said.

The government warned of stringent legal action against persons, scan centers, and hospitals who indulge in prenatal tests.

Following the backlash, the YouTuber removed the controversial video.

Also Read: Women train drivers, who suffered miscarriages, plead for maternity rights 

‘Sets a harmful precedent’

“The PC-PNDT Act is very strict. Over the years, it has been rigorously enforced, and there have been changes in diagnostic practices. It is so strict that you can’t have pictures of gods or goddesses in the room, or calendars that signify gender,” Managing Director at Bengaluru-based Gunasheela Fertility Centre Dr. Devika Gunasheela told South First.

“Even making any gender-specific comments during the scan session is prohibited,” said Dr Devika.

Furthermore, she said that husbands are not allowed to be present during the scanning. Many times, husbands get disappointed and argue that they want to see the scan and be with their wives, but the rules do not permit this, she noted.

“This case has set a harmful precedent. He is an influencer, followed by lakhs of people, and by disseminating this information, it will reach even more people. This unprecedented act undermines the PC-PNDT Act, which has been crucial in stopping female foeticide in the country,” said Dr Devika.

She pointed out that in India, women are under tremendous pressure to have a male child.

“They cry in my clinic, and I have to tell them that I can’t help them in choosing the gender; I can only help in delivering a healthy baby,” Dr Devika added.

Also Read: Why are children at risk for adult-onset diseases?

Legal implications

The purpose of the PC-PNDT Act is to prevent people from finding out the sex of the foetus to avoid sex-selective abortions.

If people can go to another country to have the test done and then reveal the results, it defeats the purpose of the Act. In this case, it’s not just about getting the test done and keeping it undisclosed; it’s about the public declaration and promotion.

“By publicly revealing the gender, the individual has violated Section 5(2). Even if the test was done abroad, communicating the gender through a video that reaches a large audience is still a violation,” said Advocate Maitreyi Hegde to South First.

“The notice sent to Irfan indicates that action will be taken because he promoted and disclosed the gender to a wide audience, which could encourage others to do the same,” said Hegde.

Section 5(2) of the PN-PCDT Act states: No person including the person conducting pre-natal diagnostic procedures shall communicate to the pregnant woman concerned or her relatives or any other person the sex of the foetus by words, signs or in any other manner.

Section 22 of the Act also deals with Prohibition of advertisement regarding pre-natal determination of sex and outlines the punishment for contravention.

“This means even advertisements or promotions about such services, whether done within India or abroad via the internet, are prohibited. Irfan’s actions in this regard amounts to an offence under this section,” said Hegde.

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‘A clear violation of law’

She added that Irfan’s actions could lead to legal consequences, including up to three years of imprisonment and a fine. In general, did the YouTuber inadvertently suggest to a larger audience that this law can be circumvented?

“It seems that he did not conduct proper research. If he had, he would have realised that he didn’t bend the law—he outright violated it,” said Hegde.

She added that bending the law would involve going abroad, getting the test done, and only sharing the information with a close circle in private conversations.

“This might still be technically unpunishable, because facilities, labs, or hospitals outside of India do not fall under the jurisdiction of the PC-PNDT Act. So, hospitals in places like Malaysia, Dubai, or the US are not subject to this Act and can legally perform these tests,” Hegde noted.

“However, by publicly sharing the information through the media and with the general public, he clearly violated the law. If he had kept the information private and not published it, he might have been seen as bending the law. But by promoting and sharing it widely, he has unmistakably broken it,” she added.

Also Read: Why men are at higher risk of diabetes and its complications than women?

Trend of reverse reproductive tourism

Indians are traveling abroad, particularly to countries like Dubai, Thailand, and Singapore, to undergo sex determination tests during pregnancy.

This practice, known as reverse reproductive tourism, involves seeking services in foreign countries where sex determination is allowed, unlike in India, where it is prohibited under the PCPNDT Act.

“Couples, especially from affluent backgrounds, are opting to fly abroad for gender determination tests. If necessary, for medical termination of pregnancy, as these tests are legally permitted in certain foreign destinations,” said a gynaecologist based in Telangana.

Gynecologists added that the cost of undergoing such procedures abroad is comparable to or even lower than the expenses incurred for illegal procedures in India, making it a more attractive option for those who can afford it.

“Despite efforts to curb this trend, the lack of legal control over activities conducted abroad poses a significant challenge in addressing the issue of prenatal gender determination and selective abortions among Indian couples,” said the gynaecologist.

The precedent of going abroad aligns with the goal of family balancing and the affluent families plan accordingly.

Also Read: Men with disabilities spend more on healthcare than women

‘The act of family balancing’

“Family balancing is the practice of selecting the sex of a child through assisted reproductive technologies like IVF and preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) to achieve a desired gender composition within a family,” said the gynaecologist.

She added that the main reasons couples pursue family balancing include having children of both genders or ensuring they have at least one child of a particular sex to “complete” their family.

Additionally, some families practice it to avoid passing on sex-linked genetic disorders to their children, she noted.

“The process typically involves undergoing IVF to create multiple embryos, performing preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) on the embryos to determine their sex, and then selecting and transferring embryos of the desired sex into the uterus for implantation,” the gynaecologist added.

“The PCPNDT act applies to both doctors and patients. Sex determination is however legal in Dubai and most other foreign countries. If he had kept quiet, he wouldn’t have been in trouble – after all , while in Dubai he didn’t violate the UAE law. The system is angry with him, probably because he has inadvertently exposed an affordable “workaround” for the PCPNDT act. In short he has beaten the system and bragged about it,” said Dr Karthik Balachandran on X.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)