Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi on Monday proposed that expecting mothers should be told the gender of the child, which is currently barred by law to curb rampant female foeticide or illegal abortion of millions of unborn girls.
The minister said revealing a child’s gender during routine sonography or ultra-sound examination could end the scourge of female foeticide which remains a common practice in large parts of India, where a preference for sons runs deep.
The would-be mother and her unborn child must be registered, monitored and tracked till the baby is born, Gandhi said and revealed that the proposal has been sent to the government too.
The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act bans medics from revealing the sex of a foetus.
“Instead of penalising sonographers, this will be better way to end female foeticide. How many people can we keep penalising or arresting?” she asked, speaking at the two-day All India Regional Editors Conference in Jaipur.
In a traditionally male-dominated society, sons are viewed as assets or breadwinners while girls are often seen as a liability.
“Girls are being killed, destroyed and removed only in developed states. So it has nothing to do with development or underdevelopment,” she said.
The minister’s proposal has drawn flak from activists, saying it could prove counterproductive.
“It may be the minister’s personal view because a suggestion like this is certainly against the law of the land. It’s criminal. If you inform the women about the unborn child’s gender, it may be OK for the educated and informed class of women,” said Ranjana Kumari, the president of Women’s Power Connect, a pan-India organisation.
“But for a large number of women living in rural areas, who adhere to the cultural and social norms that favours a male child, it can prove counterproductive. She won’t get an abortion done in her own village but go somewhere else.”
Kumari said it was ironical that a minister was proposing such ideas when the government has launched schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao to save the girl child.
Minister Gandhi has revealed that the NDA government’s Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme helped improve the child sex ratio, which is as skewed as 780 girls for 1,000 boys in some districts.
“We chose 100 districts with the worst ratio and implemented the scheme there. A year on, the programme is showing good signs.”