Blot of Pre-Natal Testing is Ever Present
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24 April 2010
By Pratibha Masand
When Indian lawmakers worked out the Pre–Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act, the idea was to check the misuse of medical technology.
Social activists feel that modern–day techniques, such as ultrasound, are being misused to selectively detect and abort female foetuses. The consistently skewed child sex ratio, they feel, indicates that technology and doctors are aiding sex selection.
“In the natural birth process, the male foetus has a slightly better chance of surviving than the female foetus. But it is very slight. The decline in number of girls definitely suggests that either the girls do not survive after birth, or they are not allowed to be born at all,” said Sonia Gill, of the All India Democratic Women’s Association.
According to Dr Arokya Swamy, of the International Institute of Population Sciences,“950 females born per 1,000 males is acceptable. Even 930 is the lowest possible threshold. Any number below this should be marked red.”
Social activists state that it is the duty of the BMC to keep a check on private clinics and doctors.“According to the Pre–Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act, every hospital or clinic that does a sonography has to register itself and the machines. Also, everytime a sonography is done for whatever reason, it should be registered and the pregnant woman made to give all her details. In this way, if the woman undergoes an abortion, she can be traced. But even with the laws, sex determination is quite rampant,” said A L Sharda, of Population First.
Meanwhile, Dr G T Ambe, BMC executive health officer, said he does not believe that sex determination is rampant.“Our public hospitals are neither allowed to determine sex nor to abort a child on the basis of sex. If we know of a private clinic doing sex determination, we take action against them. Otherwise, our medical freternity is so overworked that there is no time to go through the records and registrations regularly,” he said.
Dr Rekha Daver, of the J J Group of Hospitals, said,“The big hospitals do not do it. It is the private clinics that one has to be careful of. These clinics charge a big sum of money. Society has to start thinking liberally. But the doctors too, who are ethical and educated, should counsel parents against the practice.”
Punishment For Illegal Sex Determination
According to the Pre–Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act, if a person misuses any technique for the purpose of prenatal sex determination leading to female foeticide, he or she shall be punished with three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10,000. A subsequent conviction would result in five years imprisonment and a Rs 50,000 fine.