December 17, 2011

Plan to relax ban on sex determination tests draws sharp reactions

The Planning Commission’s proposal for relaxing ban on sex determination tests has evoked sharp reactions favouring and disapproving it. The proposal envisages relaxing rules for sex determination of the foetus but giving incentives to stakeholders and mothers, if it is a girl child, to ensure safe delivery.

The National Commission on protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson, Shantha Sinha, fully agrees that the government should ensure the safety of the foetuses through its network of anganwadi workers, anuxiliary nurse midwives, and accredited social health activists (ASHAs).

The question of adoption is to be interpreted as taking charge of the health of a woman, tracking every pregnancy from the time of conception to the time the child is at least two years old whether boy or girl child. The Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC&PNDT) Act alone is not sufficient to combat foeticide.

However, the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) has strongly condemned the Planning Commission’s proposal to promote the “adoption” of unwanted female foetuses in a bid to stem the continuous decline in child sex ratios.

It should be noted that the ban on sex selection was achieved after a long struggle by women’s and health rights organisations, in the face of stiff opposition from certain sections of the medical profession who have utilised existing son preference to earn huge amounts of money by indulging in sex selective practices, a statement issued by the president Shyamali Gupta and general secretary Sudha Sundararaman said.

The Planning Commission’s regressive move, made in the name of “flexibility and choice” tantamounts to accepting the argument that sex selection is a matter of “freedom of choice”, which has already been struck down by the courts while upholding the PC&PNDT Act. However, both the 2001 and the 2011 Census reports have clearly shown that the implementation of the Act has been tardy.

It is most unfortunate that the Planning Commission is actually proposing to undermine existing legal safeguards, by making this preposterous proposal that will only encourage the virtual abandonment of a large number of girl children. It is well known that conditions of most orphanages and remand homes are insecure and deplorable, and innumerable cases of physical and sexual abuse, trafficking, etc. have come to light. The solution is not to “incentivise” the adoption of female foetuses, but to encourage the birth of girls with a slew of economic and social measures that will help to root out the discrimination faced by them.

We demand that the proposal should be immediately withdrawn. The AIDWA plans to petition the Planning Commission and the Ministries of Health and Family Welfare, HRD, Panchayati Raj and Information& Broadcasting in this regard.

The Human Rescue Team (a live knowledge network for human rescue from institutions from India and abroad) on Saturday said it was “legally opposing” the proposal of relaxed sex determination of foetus as it violated the medical ethics and reasonably endangered the girl child.

In a petition filed with the National Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Women, National Commission on Protection of Child Rights and the Prime Minister’s Office, the team said it found the idea erroneous. “We are also afraid that an arbitrary relaxation in sex determination tests and attached incentives may cause a tremendous increase in female foeticides and even run the risk of projecting girls as a money earning mechanism that may be an uncalled burden on national economy.”

Link: Original Article

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