Last week, Maneka Gandhi, Minister for Women and Child Development received flak for her suggestion to make pre-natal sex determination compulsory to check female foeticide. She believes that sex determination test might halt the dipping male-female ratio in India. That was an “alternative” step that could curb female foeticide, the minister said. But Gandhi faced huge criticism from the Opposition.
It’s tragic that in spite of all the measures taken by governments from past and the present, the sex ratio in India is worse than ever. The number of girls per 1,000 boys dipped from 945 in 1991, to 918 in 2011. The PC-PNDT Act of 1994, and its amendment in 2003, could not do much to change the skewed male-female ratio.
I feel such a procedure would mean an infringement on a woman’s right to her body, and it will also create resentment about her pregnancy. Some people expressed that labs and medicals who were offering consultations to pregnant women, were already documenting the development of foetus. So another round of registration would mean no harm.
That’s a great fallacy to say the least. The overseeing of foetal development for the well-being of a mother and her baby is a prerogative. And such a measure is voluntary. When a foetus is registered with the government, and is under constant gaze of the government, it doesn’t take a genius to understand the plight of the pregnant woman.
Imagine Maneka’s suggested idea turning into a policy. A pregnant woman will have to register the foetus, get to know the sex of her child, and willy-nilly, offer her uterus, which will become a property of the government. What if the family has no gender preferences for their child, and want to keep the sex of their baby a surprise? And supposedly, a registered female foetus needs to be aborted for pregnancy complicacies, will the ailing pregnant woman go to the court or the police to attain the “abort” certificate?
Pregnancy and birthing are made a pleasant and comfortable experience by the developed nations. This is the reason why they have low infant mortality. I agree that the socio-economic condition in India is quite different. But yet another policy, no matter how “alternative”, will only give rise to corruption.
While the rich will travel to South Asian countries on pretext of a holiday and get an unwanted female foetus aborted, the poor will get mired in endless red tape just to avoid getting criminalized in case there is an accidental abortion.
Sensitising the masses more about the repercussions of a diving sex ratio is the only way out. Also, it’s time the 20-year-old ban on foetal sex determination is lifted. It’s not been able to arrest female foeticide. In their desire to produce a male heir, Indian families can stoop real low. They subject the woman to quacks or unsafe homemade potions to get rid of an unwanted baby girl. To stop this trend from getting endemic, a big change in the patriarchal mindset is required, not policies of policing.