Today in New Delhi, India
Dec 13, 2018-Thursday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

Missing girls

The skewed sex ratio in India has come into the limelight once again with the publication of a study reported in the Lancet.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2006 02:15 IST

The skewed sex ratio in India has come into the limelight once again with the publication of a study reported in the Lancet. The research team, based in Canada, has used data from an ongoing Government of India survey of 6 million people to conclude that in 20 years, 10 million female foetuses have been aborted in India. The imbalance is particularly acute in north India where the ratio has declined to less than 900 girls per 1,000 boys. The report reiterated the misuse of ultrasound diagnostics as key to aborting the female foetus. Reasons for the practice is society’s continued preference for boys that continues to outweigh the acceptance of the girl child as an equal asset. The statistics are not new, neither is the conclusion. What, however, is of import is the absence of any difference made whatsoever by the female foeticide law, in existence for over 10 years now.

The Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act was first put in place in 1994 and amended in 2002 to make sex determination of assisted pregnancies also illegal. A three-year imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50,000 for the person who seeks sex determination is the punishment while the doctor stands to lose his/her registration as a medical practitioner. But since the problem lies in the collusion of the doctor and persons seeking sex determination results, there is little chance of complaints ever being registered. Ultrasound diagnostics are meant to be used to detect genetic abnormalities or other disorders. The decision to share information on the foetus’s gender solely rests with the medical practitioner. In the absence of professional ethics practised by the medical fraternity, dismissive of laws, there is little hope that there will be any drastic improvement in the status of the female foetus in the near future. Also, lack of education cannot be blamed for this malpractice as the practice is more rampant in ‘educated’ families, demographically speaking that is, than among illiterates. This is not surprising since it is the ‘educated’ who have access to ultrasound techniques and the means to bypass the law.

While changing community attitudes is important, the problem is too important to await society’s enlightenment. There is need for the government to act with greater vigour to implement the act, with the focus on the medical fraternity. While cracking down on rogue practitioners is one aspect of the situation, another is the need to engage the medical community on the need to uphold the Hippocratic oath and engage in ethical conduct in the exercise of their profession.

First Published: Jan 11, 2006 02:15 IST