The Delhi government plans to crack down on female foeticide after it discovered that a couple aborted a foetus over 13-weeks old in a local hospital and buried it on the outskirts of the city last month despite a 1994 ban on pre-natal gender tests.
The incident revealed that parents who wanted sons were still surreptitiously having sex determination tests and aborting female foetuses at unregistered hospitals in the Capital, often with the help of touts and midwives, more than 20 years after the government imposed a nation-wide ban.
As the 'Selfie with Daughter' campaign grows, the government has decided to install pink complaint boxes across the city to ensure people can report such incidents anonymously, as the health department fears many cases are not reported because people are afraid of being caught in legal red tape, sources said.
“The incident took place on May 23 and it was found that the couple wanted a male child as they have an 11-month-old girl,” said a senior Delhi government official. “The husband told the police that he met a tout at the hospital who took them to a diagnostic centre where the sex determination test was done and an abortion carried out by a midwife.”
Police lodged an FIR against the couple and the unregistered hospital in north-west Delhi after an examination in a government hospital confirmed the abortion by the woman who was admitted on the pretext of diarrhoea and vomiting.
The government banned tests for determining the sex of an unborn child in 1994, but it remains a common practice in some parts of the country.
A May 2011 study in British medical journal, The Lancet, found that up to 12 million Indian girls were aborted over the last three decades, resulting in a skewed child sex ratio of 914 girls to every 1,000 boys in 2011, versus 962 in 1981.
At 871 girls for 1000 boys, the figure for Delhi is worse than the national average -- a fact the government appears mindful of.
“The campaign against foeticide needs to be made more meaningful by involving religious and spiritual leaders. It is not only about creating fear of the law but making people morally responsible,” said a senior Delhi government official after the issue came up at a meeting of the state advisory committee on June 8.
Doctors say pre-natal gender tests are conducted in unregistered clinics.
“Not all clinics are at fault,” said a doctor in the department of radio diagnosis at AIIMS. “The problem is usually with unregistered clinics that conduct ultrasound tests and it is difficult to track those. We have strict laws that are being implemented by the government.”