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Doc lands in jail for carrying sex test

This is the first case of a doctor being sentenced to jail for sex determination of a foetus. Will this reduce female foeticide?

india Updated: Mar 29, 2006 20:56 IST

Two medical professionals were sentenced to jail for revealing the gender of a foetus, a practice that has led to the selective abortion of millions of females, an official said on Wednesday.

"The court has sentenced a doctor and his assistant to two years in jail for carrying out the sex-determination test.

The medics then revealed the result to the pregnant woman," Rekha Mishra, a medical official told a news agency.

Mishra was part of the team that sent decoys in 2001 to the doctor and filmed the process in northern Haryana state, where selective abortion has led to a shortage of females.

Mishra said that although there have been convictions in foeticide-related cases in the past, those found guilty have only been fined and not jailed.

Under Indian law, ultrasound tests on a pregnant woman done specifically to determine the gender of the foetus are illegal.

But convictions are rare due to corrupt officials and slow judicial processes.

Doctors can easily evade the law by not registering the tests, which is also an offence but difficult to prove.

Experts say the practice has resulted in the selective abortion of millions of female foetuses because of a traditional Indian preference for sons, leading to a heavily skewed sex ratio.

A controversial study published in January in British medical journal The Lancet put the number of missing girl children in Indian at 10 million in the past 20 years.

Indian experts, however, say the real number of foeticides is about half that many.

According to government figures, the number of women for every thousand men has gone down from 972 in 1901 to just 933 in 2001.

In developed countries, the ratio is in favour of women because they live longer than men.

Indian experts welcomed the conviction.

"The judgement is very significant. It shows that the law works," said activist Sabu George, adding that the conviction would act as a deterrent for other doctors.

First Published: Mar 29, 2006 11:46 IST