India ~ Wednesday 03 February 2016
Civil society opposes legalising sex determination
Union Minister Maneka Gandhi had said that sex determination should be made mandatory as a solution to female foeticide
By Kundan Pandey
PC-PNDT Act prohitbits determination of sex of foetus. (ThinkStock Photos)
Union Woman and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi’s suggestion to make sex determination mandatory has been opposed by the civil society.
Gandhi, on Monday, had said that the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) Act should be amended to make sex determination compulsory during pregnancy. Subsequently, keeping track of the pregnancies and checking if the female babies are born or not will help counter female foeticide, she added. The Act currently prohibits sex selection before or after conception and misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for determination of sex of foetus.
In a statement, non-profits working in health sector, said that it is extremely distressing that the union minister should make a statement in contravention of the PC-PNDT Act (1994, revised 2003) which states disclosure of the sex of the foetus as the prime offence. The Act talks of strict penalties against diagnostic facilities and practitioners who do not comply with the legal requirements. The minister, on the other hand, expresses reluctance to “keep arresting” ultrasound owners and involved medical personnel who make profits from sex determination tests, the statement added.
Civil society groups have also expressed astonishment at such a proposal emerging from the Ministry for Women and Child Development, as it will severely hamper women’s rights to bodily autonomy and their access to essential maternal healthcare, such as safe and legal abortion services or post-abortion care. Women in need of ultrasound or safe abortion, for reasons other than sex selection, would find themselves being denied these services.
“The Minister must be aware that unsafe abortions significantly contribute to maternal deaths in India, and such rules will only increase these deaths. We need to move towards greater empowerment and autonomy for all our citizens and a fulfilment of their human rights, and not move back into an era where vigilant behaviour was encouraged and our bodies and lives were not in our control,” the statement said.
The group recommended that society should look deeper for reasons that compel families to opt for male children, and consider daughters a burden.
The statement was endorsed by AIDWA, All India Peoples Science Network, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, CommonHealth, Healthwatch Forum UP, Human Rights Law Network, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights, Right to Food Campaign, Adivasi Adhikar Samiti, Chhattisgarh, The Ant, Chirang Assam, CREA New Delhi, Forum Against Sex Selection, IPAS Development Foundation, LOCOST Vadodara, Nirantar New Delhi, Prayas Rajasthan, Public Health Resource Network, SAHAJ Vadodara, Sahayog Lucknow, Sama New Delhi and many others.
Thursday February 4, 2016
Coming to grips with female foeticide
Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi’s clarifications over her remarks on the existing ban on sex-selective abortions should put the focus back on the real issues. There are three aspects to the proposal that she put forth at a conference in Jaipur: establish the sex of the foetus when a pregnancy is detected; tell the mother about it and register the fact in public records; and ensure that deliveries happen only in institutions and not at home. This twin strategy of tracking sex-determined foetuses and requiring institutional deliveries is expected to ensure that female babies are not aborted, or killed at birth. While this idea might seem persuasive, like many technological fixes it betrays a worrying lack of awareness of social realities. The very attempt to record the status of the foetus involves the obvious risk of exposing women to undue psychological and social pressure to abort female foetuses. Two, such an intrusion by the state into a woman’s personal-biological space is unwelcome, even Orwellian. That such suggestions are being floated no matter how quickly they are withdrawn in the face of criticism is an indication of India’s persisting inability to address the problem of female foeticide, and the continuum of social ills that this practice reflects.
At the moment, there are few incentives for medical technicians, apart from public interest, to withhold information from families on the gender of the foetus. And when such violations have come to light, prosecution has been indifferent. Maharashtra is believed to have come down severely on errant doctors and clinics, which is significant given the likely impact the State’s large population could have on child sex ratios. The record of Punjab and Haryana, with a high prevalence of sex-selective abortions, also points to a modicum of enforcement. But there is a long way to go. After all, where traditional cultural norms dictate a strong preference for boys, recourse to medical technologies could well reinforce socially detrimental personal choices. Clearly, the emphasis ought to be on the reversal of India’s adverse sex ratio among children in the 0-6 year age group. On a national average, the number of girls for every 1,000 boys in this segment of the population dipped to 918 in the 2011 decennial population Census, with more disturbing regional variations. The corresponding figures were 927 and 933 in 1991 and 2001, respectively. Notably, Ms. Gandhi’s six-time constituency of Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh has seen a sharp drop in the child sex ratio in the 2001-2011 inter-Census period. At 940, the figure was above the national average in 2001, but declined dramatically to 912 in the last Census. Pilibhit could easily set an example for the whole country, if only by a scrupulous compliance with the spirit of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, under which any disclosure of the foetal status is a punishable offence.
Thursday February 4 2016
Maneka's radical idea
Pregnancies cannot, and should not, be tracked
Before Union minister Maneka Gandhi chooses to voice one more radical idea to improve the child sex ratio, she should get a few facts right. With poor health infrastructure, especially in rural India, institutional deliveries are not available to all. Two, women are not cattle, their pregnancies cannot be tracked. On Monday, the minister suggested that instead of withholding the gender of the foetus under the PCPNDT Act and penalising the ultrasound lab owners and doctors for any violation of the law, foetus sex determination should be made compulsory, the gender of the child registered, and the birth be tracked by mandating institutional delivery.
It reeks of Sanjay Gandhi-ism. Can institutional deliveries be above board; they have not even reduced infant mortality significantly. The hon'ble minister should know babies are born in the fields, on pavements and in homes in India. Moreover, a mandatory registration of pregnancy violates a woman's dignity and privacy. It also treats all pregnant women as potential killers of their female foetus. The suggestion is also ill-timed as most indicators have begun to show a partial improvement in the gender ratio, after years of hard work in implementing the PCPNDT Act.
In a country as vast and corrupt as ours, the Minister's suggestion, if put into practice, would be counter-productive. By making sex-determination compulsory, 'diagnostic centres' would mushroom to do the job. Since they would be legal, they could exploit the situation. The minister should rather pay attention to the general welfare of the girl child, her education, health, security and eradication of dowry. For a government that pretends to swear by a mantra of "minimum governance" the minister's suggestion smacks of Stalinism. agency and could be a model that needs studying.
Tuesday February 2, 2016
Foetus registration is not feasible: activists
By R. Sujatha
Union Minister Maneka Gandhi had on Monday said that some stakeholders believed that such registration would help to check female foeticide. (Reuters)
Chennai: Activists against sex-selective abortion say the Union Minister Maneka Gandhi’s reference to an “alternative point of view” that every pregnancy should be registered and the parents informed of the gender of the foetus is unfeasible.
The Minister had on Monday said that some stakeholders believed that such registration would help to check female foeticide.
The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act currently prevents scan centres from revealing the gender of the foetus. Though very few violators have been punished so far, activists say registering the foetus is not the answer.
They point out that despite a robust birth and death registration Act abortions have not fallen drastically.
Scientifically too the suggestion cannot work as gender of the foetus can be determined with some certainty only in the 18th to 20th week of pregnancy and an abortion that is done beyond 20 weeks could harm the woman, they add.
M. Jeeva, convenor of Campaign Against Sex Selective Abortion says the village health nurses (VHN) attached to primary health centres, who are empowered to record all pregnancies do not do so.
“A VHN covers a population of 40,000 to 50,000. If 10 women get pregnant then the logical end is that their birth/death should be known. But not all data on abortions are recorded,” he says.
Three years ago the National Rural Health Mission devised a solution by making it mandatory for every pregnant woman to register at the scan centre.
She would have to bring the form with her during every scan. But the process was abandoned within six months.
S. Elango, former director of Public Health and president of Tamil Nadu chapter of Indian Public Health Association says the element of surprise to the parent is recognition of Nature.
“A foetus registered as boy could turn out to be a girl at birth. Also, how will the government take forward the concept? Who will register the pregnancies, where will they be registered and will there be an age limit on pregnancies,” he asked.
According to him, the best option is to strengthen the PCPNDT Act.
Saturday February 6, 2016
IMA supports making pre-natal sex determination compulsory
New Delhi, (PTI)
The Indian Medical Association(IMA) today came out in support of Union Minister Maneka Gandhi's suggestion to make pre-natal sex determination compulsory to check female foeticide.
The IMA said the recent statement by the Union Women and Child Development Minister indicates that a 20-year old ban on foetal sex determination may be lifted.
"She referred to a point of view put forth by stakeholders before the Ministry that if each pregnancy could be registered and the sex of the foetus could be made known to the parents and if the same happens to be a female, the delivery should be tracked and recorded.
"However, there is no formal proposal being considered by the Ministry on this issue at this stage and this is a suggestion that needs to be debated. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) supports this viewpoint," the doctor's body said in a statement today.
The minister's suggestion that pre-natal sex determination test be made compulsory to check female foeticide evoked sharp reaction from the activists and the netizens.
India is among the countries with the worst child sex ratio in the world. The 2011 Census showed that the child sex ratio has dipped from 927 girls in 2001 to 919 girls in 2011. Child sex ratio is the number of girls per 1,000 boys between the age 0-6 year.
"The data proves that India has an abysmal record when it comes to reining in the cases of female foeticide. Latest Census numbers also cast a shadow on the adequacy of measures which are helping in educating people to not prefer sons over daughters," said National President of IMA, Dr S S Agarwal.
Reports said that with 919 girls per 1000 boys, child sex ratio in India has reached its lowest levels since 1961.
"Since the PC-PNDT Act, the sex ratio in the country has not changed. The government should form working group of Ministry of Health, Women and Child Development Ministry, IMA, FOGSI and Indian Radiological and Imaging Association (IRIA). These bodies should deliberate together on this and work out implementation of the guidelines," Dr KK Aggarwal, Secretary General of IMA, said.
Tuesday February 2, 2016
Sex determination test must to check female foeticide: Maneka
Move can prove counter-productive: Cong
Union Minister Maneka Gandhi. Tribune file photo
Jaipur: Union Minister Maneka Gandhi has suggested that sex determination test should be made compulsory to track women pregnant with a girl child as a measure to check female foeticide.
"In my personal view, the woman should be compulsorily told that whether it is a boy or girl child whom she is going to give birth. It should be registered to be able to check whether they have given the births or not," the minister for Women and Child Development said.
"I am just putting out this idea. It is being discussed though there is no conclusion yet," she said at the All India Regional Editors Conference here.
It is a different way to look at this problem (female foeticide), which could be solved with this idea, she said.
"We cannot keep catching people doing (illegal) ultrasound," she said, adding that arrest of such people was not a permanent solution.
Congress not in tune with Maneka's suggestion to control female foeticide
Meanwhile, the Congress on Tuesday said Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister Maneka Gandhi's suggestion of sex determination tests to be made compulsory to check the rising cases of female foeticide could prove to be counter-productive.
“In this country today, women are unsafe, girl child is unsafe and if by sex determination the information is registered whether the female foeticide can be stopped, this is her idea or imagination. Whether it will be counter-productive, whether it will have positive effect is something to be seen,” said Congress leader PC Chacko.
He asserted that sex determination and making it known to the mother and to the family members may lead to even bigger problems.
“I don't know whether the minister has made the statement in a confidence. I am not very sure whether it's a well thought-out formula. This can be counter-productive as well,” he said. PT