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Sex determination tests take toll on sex ratio

Regulate the sale of ultrasound machines: that’s the new war cry of activists against the rampant female foeticide and falling sex ratio in the city. A report by Jaya Shroff Bhalla.

delhi Updated: Sep 03, 2008 23:44 IST
Jaya Shroff Bhalla

Regulate the sale of ultrasound machines: that’s the new war cry of activists against the rampant female foeticide and falling sex ratio in the city. Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research, has even appealed to the Health Minister to place checks on the sale of ultrasound machines that are widely used for pre-natal sex determination, despite the ban on the practice.

“I do not understand why the government can’t regulate the sale of ultrasound machines. Just about anyone can buy and install one, and carry out illegal sex determination,” says Kumari, who is also a member of Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (regulation and prevention of misuse) Board.

Despite several laws and Acts prohibiting sex determination, Delhi continues to wrestle with a demographic crisis with numberless instances of people aborting the unborn girl child after undergoing sex determination tests.

According to the Centre for Social Research (CSR), the Capital’s sex ratio, which was 904 girls for every 1,000 boys in 1991 – well below the WHO’s ‘healthy’ minimum of 952 – had fallen to a disturbing 846 by the time of the 2001 census. What’s worse, a CSR survey focused on the western part of the city has found that areas like Narela, Punjabi Bagh and Najafgarh have alarmingly low sex ratios of 828, 842 and 841 respectively.

Researchers fear that the trend observed in the western parts of the city might be more widespread, and it could severely impact the city’s overall sex ratio in the next census, due in 2011.

The researchers have found that while most people in the surveyed areas are aware of the illegal nature of sex determination tests and female foeticide, they choose to turn a blind eye to such activities in their neighbourhood. “In group discussions, we found that a large number of community members were aware of the clinics where these tests and abortions took place, but were unwilling to come forward and complain,” said Dr Mansi Mishra, senior researcher at CSR.

“What is still more worrying is that most of the respondents were not aware of any laws related to sex selection or the illegality of pre-natal sex determination,” said Dr Mishra.