Relatives forcing a pregnant woman to undergo a sonography to find out the sex of the foetus will now face arrest, the State Supervisory Board under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques (PCPNDT) Act decided on Thursday.
“Anybody including the pregnant woman can complain against people seeking sex determination and will receive a reward of Rs25,000,” said Suresh Shetty, state health minister. Complaints against persons seeking sex determination can be filed online on www.savethebabygirl.com or on the toll-free helpline 1800-233-4475.
The PCPNDT Act provides that any person, including relatives, found guilty of seeking sex selection can be imprisoned for a maximum of three years and fined up to Rs50,000. However, till now the state’s crackdown against female foeticide was focused on errant doctors.
“Doctors have been made soft targets. When there is demand for sex selection, there will be supply. The relatives should be scared to come and ask us for the sex of the child,” said Dr PK Shah, president of Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI).
“Practices such as female foeticide must be stopped. Apart from legal action against doctors in these cases, relatives of the woman including the husband and in-laws forcing the woman to undergo sex determination should also be held liable,” Shetty said.
In December 2011, the husband of a pregnant woman, who underwent sex-selective abortion in Kolhapur district, was sentenced to three years in jail.
Ban on portable sonography machines affecting clinics
Mumbai: About five months ago, a 12-year-old was brought to Lavkush Nursing Home in Mulund with severe abdominal pain. The child had internal bleeding and needed a sonography to detect the source of the bleeding. However, the sonologist attached to the hospital could not get his portable sonography machine from his clinic to the hospital, said Dr Manoj Sangoi, who runs the hospital.
Last November, the Bombay high court upheld a circular issued by the civic body banning the use of portable ultrasound sonography machines. The civic body’s move is aimed at curbing illegal determination of the sex of a foetus. However, the move has affected smaller hospitals and clinics, which relied on consultant radiologists bringing their portable machines.
In the Mulund case, doctors spent half-an-hour to stabilise the child before taking him to the sonologist’s clinic. The child died a few hours later.
“I run a paediatric hospital where the question of conducting sonography does not arise. Why should these rules be applicable to us?” Dr Sangoi said.
Doctors said portable sonography machines are indispensable in emergency cases.
Paediatric cardiologists use a specialised portable ultrasound machine to detect heart defects in children. “In a majority of cases, children are on ventilator or oxygen support and shifting them is not easy. A portable device is handy is such cases,” said Dr Sana Merchant, paediatric cardiologist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund. However, activists support the ban. “Portable sonography machines were rampantly misused. There had to be some regulation on them,” said AL Sharda, programme director.