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Girls & Women

Women undergo horrifying "leg lengthening" treatment for better marriage prospects

Women and men alike are undergoing dangerous and unregulated “leg lengthening” treatments and for reasons you might not guess -- marriages and careers.

One study in Australia claims men 6 feet or taller make about $1,000 AUD more annually than men under 6 feet.  According to a study from Rice University and North Texas University, 48.9 percent of women prefer men who are taller.  Generally speaking, taller humans are perceived to be more intelligent and powerful.

Many people learn to deal with and dismiss these hurtful social pressures, but in some countries, the pressures become too great and drastic measures are taken.  

In India, for instance, leg lengthening procedures involving broken legs and invasive surgery are becoming more common. 24-year-old Komal recently spoke to the Guardian about her experience.

Her family sold part of their ancestral lands in order to pay for her to gain 8 cm or 3 inches in height.

“I have so much confidence now,” she said. “I was just 4’ 6” [137cm]. People used to make fun of me and I couldn’t get a job. Now my younger sister is doing it, too.”

Komal and her family believe that added height will increase her chances of better marriage and career prospects, so much so that they encouraged her younger sister to try the surgery too.

Leg lengthening is not a new phenomenon. It was started in the 1950s, by a Polish doctor in Siberia for the purpose of correcting bone and leg defects from birth or accidents. However, it’s gaining traction for Indian youth and globally (part of the medical tourism industry, which is worth an estimated $3 billion USD), according to Dr. Sarin who has has treated 300 patients already.

“It is a growing trend in India,” he told the Guardian. “I get around 20 calls a day, with people telling me ‘I want to be tall, I have to be taller.’”

This type of non-essential medical procedure helps to feed harmful stereotypes about a person's appearance and can even endanger a person's life. Dr. Sarin recommends and urges counseling before surgery.

What can really make a difference is creating a world where all gender, heights, and races of people are treated and paid equally amongst one another.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of each of the partners of Global Citizen.