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  Life   Health  16 Apr 2017  Mandatory sex determination

Mandatory sex determination

Published : Apr 16, 2017, 12:09 am IST
Updated : Apr 16, 2017, 12:09 am IST

We get celebrities to give their take on a current issue each week and lend their perspective to a much-discussed topic.

Picture for representational purposes (Photo: YouTube)
 Picture for representational purposes (Photo: YouTube)

In an attempt to stop female foeticide and increase the female sex ratio across Maharashtra, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has recommended that the state government makes prenatal sex determination compulsory for all women. The PAC has also said that regular monitoring of pregnant women, who have conceived female child, will also be done to prevent female foeticide. This isn’t the first time a recommendation like this has been made. Last year in February, Women and Child Development minister Maneka Gandhi suggested mandatory sex-determination tests and tracking of women carrying female foetuses. While this recommendation has garnered backlash, it also violates the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act and the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act — acts that are fundamental rights of women.  

We talk to feminists, social and health activists to seek their reaction on the probable implementation of this idea, the danger it will pose to women and if they think there are better ways to monitor sex ratios and female foeticide.

‘The threats to the female foetus exist in the minds of people’
Shashi Deshpande, Award winning Indian author

I don’t know how they’re going to do it — it’s completely impractical! The threats to the female foetus exist in the minds of people, including parents in society because they don’t want a girl child. So, unless we move away from that kind of thought, the threat will remain. And these threats keep coming from different directions. It just doesn’t make sense at all. Now that they know the sex of the baby, they could so easily just abort the child. How are you going to keep a constant check? Are you going to keep a spy? It’s like controlling a woman and I just don’t see how it would help.

‘No woman is going to be benefited by this move’
Dr Sabu M. George, Member of National Inspection and Monitoring Committee of the PCPNDT Act

This attempt is against the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act. If the government isn’t capable of monitoring a few number of pre-natal diagnostic clinics, then how are they going to check on over three billion pregnancies? Sex selection was introduced in India as a method of population growth control. By allowing this the government’s main aim is to control population and help doctors who are a black mark on the entire medical profession. No woman is going to be benefited by this move. Instead, women will go through severe physiological impact on them.

‘India is not ready for pre-natal sex determination’
Varija Bajaj, fashion designer and social activist

India is still not ready for pre-natal sex determination. Having a child is mostly not a woman’s decision (in India), but the whole family is involved and has a strong opinion about the same. Indians have their ways to get things around. If they don’t want a female child they will have a fool proof planning to dupe to monitoring authorities. I completely oppose pre-natal sex determination both in the safety of the woman and the unborn child. And this stands true for all classes. It has nothing to do with the financial background of the woman or the family.   

‘Allowing people to take prenatal sex determination will increase the problem’
Dr Shobha Raghuveera, Consultant Gynecologist

Allowing people to take prenatal sex determination will increase the problem and not solve it. Government should not go ahead with the implementation. The only way we can guarantee increase in female sex ratio is to continue with the ongoing practice of not doing a prenatal test with a much stricter law. If we can stop female infanticide, only then the ratio will increase and not the other way round.  

‘This takes away the autonomy women have on their bodies’
Flavia Agnes, legal scholar, feminist activist and director of Majlis Bombay

This takes away the autonomy women have on their bodies and puts them under unnecessary surveillance. The woman’s body is reduced to being properties of the state. The way this recommendation sounds is that they aren’t bothered about the health of the woman at all — instead they only care only womb. What bothers me is that how are they really going to monitor this and carry out all this surveillance? And to be fair, Maharashtra has shown enough development in terms of sex ratio. Do we really need this sort of a move?

‘There must be complete transparency in the procedure’
Dr Deepa Ganesh, Consultant Cosmetic Gynecologist

In one way, I think that it is a good move. Because female foeticide is still a sad reality in many parts of the country. But there must be complete transparency in the procedure. The officials have to let both the parents and their whole family know about the sex of the baby, and that they will be monitored throughout. If they skip check-ups they can be inquired, or if at all they abort the foetus, an investigation can be done to find out which doctor or quack carried out the abortion. This will definitely be a step towards preventing foeticide and also increase the female sex ratio. Additionally, they must make the sex determination scan only after 20 weeks of pregnancy — that way, it will be harmful for the mother to carry out an abortion, and the doctors will also hesitate to do it. Although, in the longer run, only education, more empowerment for girls would change the mindset of the people towards the issue.

Tags: sex ratio, public accounts committee, sex determination