The Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi on Tuesday issued a clarification on her comments on making sex determination tests compulsory to check rising cases of female foeticide saying it was only “point of view” and there is “no formal proposal being considered by the ministry.”
On Monday, Gandhi had said that revealing a child’s gender during routine sonography or ultra-sound examination could end the problem of female foeticide which remains a common practice in large parts of India, where a preference for sons runs deep.
Gandhi had said that the would-be mother and her unborn child must be registered, monitored and tracked till the baby is born, saying that the proposal has been sent to the government too.
“Some of the newspapers have reported that the minister referred to a Cabinet proposal about tracking female foeticide and registering the sex of the foetus. This is factually incorrect. What was discussed by the hon’ble minister was that effective implementation of the PCPNDT Act is one of the ways to check falling child sex ratio,” a statement issued by the ministry said.
The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act bans medics from revealing the sex of a foetus.
“She said that an alternative point of view is that each pregnancy should be registered and the sex of the fetus, wherever requested for, could be made known to the parents and if the same happens to be a female, the delivery should be tracked and recorded. Such a system would help in ensuring that a fetus is not aborted only because it is a female,” it added.
“It is clarified that hon’ble minister referred to this as a point of view which has often been brought up by stakeholders before the ministry. She had specifically stated that this needs further debate and had asked the media persons to give their suggestions. It is further clarified that there is no formal proposal being considered by the ministry on this issue at this stage.”
The minister’s proposal drew flak from activists and the Congress party, 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 favour 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.
“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 a positive effect is something to be seen,” Congress leader PC Chacko had told ANI.